My two teenagers returned home today from their “second home” at Jewish summer camp. The peace and quiet of the last seven weeks has already been filled with lively stories and highlights of their experiences. My wife and I are taking it all in, with great pride and much pleasure!
This scene has been replicating itself across North America as campers and counselors have been returning home these last few weeks. Besides the wrists full of string bracelets and lanyards, campers and counselors are bringing home different ways to express their Judaism, great friendships, and a sense of community they have found by the lake, walking in the woods or singing in their bunks.
Below the surface of the stories they share, we hear of the moments where they practiced teamwork, communication, and leadership skills. Listen closely and you will hear them tell you about their new found independence, moments of leadership, maturity, a growing sense of responsibility, and confidence.
The power of Jewish camp works in subtle ways to help children develop these skills all within a Jewish context, giving them magical memories to draw from throughout their lives. Transformative indeed!
When campers return home, they are eager to share all that they’ve experienced at camp. We encourage our two campers to share something new they learned at camp – a new Shabbat song or traditional Jewish stories – and teach it to the rest of the family. It is a way for each camper to connect back to family members and keep the joyous Judaism they found over the summer, evolving and growing throughout the school year.
Counselors are no different. After serving as role models to youth and teens all summer long, Jewish camp inspires them to be the best version of themselves and to give back to our homes and our Jewish community. When counselors return, they are eager to share their passion and the leadership skills they have honed over the summer. What better place to share and utilize them than their local Jewish community? I hope that Jewish organizations across North America will utilize their returning counselors in leadership roles and as role models on their campuses and in their communities.
As we start on the piles of laundry and prepare their favorite meals, we are proud of our kids, and even though we may miss the quiet, we are truly happy to have them back full of new perspectives and insights. We all can be truly inspired by the growth and development of future leaders of our Jewish community that happens each summer at camp.