Excitement and energy abound. Smiles, laughter, friendship and joy permeate the soul. Jewish camps across North America are opening their gates this month for more than 200,000 youth, teens, and college age counselors who will create connections, develop skills, and strengthen identities. We have entered our season of renewal, as the fruit of the hard work of professionals and lay leaders can be seen in the intentionality of each day at camp.
This past weekend, I experienced the restorative powers of nature and Jewish camp first-hand while attending a wedding at Camp Ramah in Ojai, California. Camp sits on hundreds of majestic acres nestled in the lovely hills of the Ojai Valley. In early December 2017, the Thomas wildfires torched thousands of glorious acres of property abutting the camp. The camp facilities were spared thanks to the heroic efforts of the California firefighters. Prepared to witness the devastation of the wildfires, I was filled with amazement and awe as I hiked up a trail above the camp and found green brush amidst the singed tree branches. Beautiful wildflowers dotted the path while chirping birds accompanied our walk amongst the remnants of ashes. All around me – in a place where nature had been destroyed just six months ago– nature was initiating its own powerful renewal.
At the top of the trail, I looked down at camp to see the final preparations for the “Jewish camp love story” wedding I would attend later that day and where staff training would begin days later. The wedding was also a meaningful demonstration of continuity and renewal. The bride and groom met at camp years ago. The groom’s parents also met at the very same camp and the bride’s parents are long-time leaders in the camp community. On a backdrop of the singed landscape now beginning its rejuvenation, the young couple began their new life together. Buoyed by the place which brought them together, they enter into their Jewish future as a family. With generations of families shaped by camp, and surrounded by the budding countryside, the day’s celebration was filled with unparalleled ruach (spirit) and simcha (joy).
As summer season 2018 begins I am reminded that hopeful stories like these are being told and created across North America as families pack for camp. Jewish love stories, best friendships that span multiple generations, and tales of the resilience inspired at Jewish camp – in nature and in spirit. Jewish camp is the site of magical regeneration, as campers become counselors, and later still camp parents, and return for family camp and year-round community programming with children and grandchildren.
I am humbled that our holy mission – to support camps as they provide transformative, immersive, joyous Jewish experiences – contributes much to this vibrant Jewish landscape.
Join me on a camp visit this summer! See the renewal and magic of Jewish camp summer 2018, for yourself, with Foundation for Jewish Camp.