During this period between celebrating the festival holidays of Passover and Shavuot, we count the Omer – marking seven weeks, day-by-day, from leaving as slaves in Egypt to receiving the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. By counting each of 49 days, we can feel our collective anticipation as we make progress each day, building towards our ultimate destination.
I know many households across North America have also been counting a different set of days…the number of days before the 2022 summer camp season begins. With great anticipation, campers, counselors, professionals all count down the days before leaving for their second homes, where they will unplug, be outdoors, and experience a rich, intentional Jewish environment 24/7 – needed now more than ever. Our first camps open in less than four weeks…very exciting indeed!
As we count down, I can’t help but stop and admire the careful and extensive preparations undertaken by our camp professionals throughout the “off season” to ensure the health and safety of their participants. They have had to develop plans, prepare contingencies, and deal with unimagined complexities. Not easy work under any circumstances, but certainly made even more challenging under the current and ever-changing COVID environment.
I have written in the past about the continued rising mental health crisis affecting all of us. Especially now, during Mental Health Awareness Month, I would like to recognize the enormous efforts being made by camps to meet the MESSH (mental, emotional, spiritual and social health) needs of the entire camp community – including parents back at home.
Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) has been supporting the field in collaborative and innovative ways to better care for all members of their communities. This includes the significant investment by the Marcus Foundation in our Yedid Nefesh initiative – supporting camps to hire and train additional mental health professionals for their camps – and similar investments made by UJA-Federation of NY, and the Los Angeles and San Francisco Jewish Federations/Foundation to support area camps. We have also participated as a founding member of the Jewish community’s Resiliency Roundtable.
Counting our blessings:
We are proud to share that our colleague, Jill Goldstein Smith, was honored with a JPRO Young Professional award for her work in leading and growing FJC’s MESSH work. The award was presented last week in Cleveland at JPro22: Going Places Together convening in partnership with The Jewish Federations of North America.
And we are excited for our second day of learning workshops around mental health and community care on Monday, May 16. Returning counselors, seasonal supervisors, leadership, and mental health professionals will join FJC for all day or pick-and-choose their own schedule from six online workshops.
Even while I count the Omer each day, I also count the days remaining until our treasured camps open for this summer. Especially so this year, I look forward to seeing pictures of all of the smiling and thriving campers and staff, affirming the hard work all year-round of the camp professionals.