Friday, June 17, 2011

Spying Around Camp – Parashat Shlach

I spend the first few days of camp walking around, watching and listening. Who seems happy? Who looks a little sad? Which madrichim need a pat on the back or a kind word? After a year of planning, the campers arrive and for a few days, my job as director is to watch, to spy a little bit and see how things are developing. I shuttle from place to place, engaging in quick, touch-base conversations with staff members and longer conversations with campers of all ages. It is hard to believe just how much a person can see and hear about in two days when that is the focus of their job. Here is just a sampling:

A high energy, excellent Shira (song) and Ruach (spirit) in the Chadar Ochel Bet. That is where our Bogrim (entering 9th graders) and Machon (entering 10th graders) eat. Campers and staff members were totally energized and loving it.

I walk into the Atzmayim Lounge where our Tikvah Vocational Program meets. I listen as each of the participants, graduates of our Tikvah program, describe their first day at work in town or in camp. They are very excited about their new responsibilities and are also able to articulate their concerns. They are so appreciative of my being there and I am embarrassed because I feel so blessed to be listening to them.

Tag played three different ways by our newest campers, Aidat HaKochavim who are entering 4th grade. They are happy and excited about whatever they do. They bring a totally new energy to camp. Their staff members look incredibly happy.

I watch as last year’s Machon aidah becomes this summer’s Nivonim, the leaders of the camp, the oldest aidah. Feeling proud, they are also trying to figure out what it means to lead and what responsibilities accompany leadership.

Campers excited to be in the bet midrash doing serious exploration of Jewish texts.

A group of campers and staff members really enjoying camp while still feeling the loss of a beloved school teacher, Mr. Harvey Gross of Chicagoland Jewish High School who died unexpectedly this past weekend. One of the students spoke about Mr. Gross this morning at Tefillot which was followed by a memorial prayer.

Endless games of basketball.

Countless groups of friends walking arm in arm, hand in hand, smiling warmly and broadly.

Laughter, smiles, friendship and fun.

Sometimes, being a spy is fantastic. You get to see so much. The question is what lenses do you wear while you are spying: those of pessimism, of feeling threatened or those of joy and optimism. This was the challenged that faced the m’raglim, the spies sent to check out the land of Israel prior to entering. All but two, Yehoshua bin Nun and Calev ben Yefuneh, saw only the obstacles. They could not see the positive possibilities.

Our campers and staff face the same challenge each summer when camp begins. What possibilities do they see? How will they grow this summer? Will the people that appear to them as giants on the first day of camp become accessible friends and role models? What can they do to enjoy their eight-weeks of camp? All of these questions will be answered this summer, and the answers will unfold before my very eyes.

As I spy around camp my personal binoculars filter everything through four lenses, representing four core values of Camp Ramah in Wisconsin, the essence of what we are about and how we try to accomplish things:

Am I seeing FUN?

Am I seeing friendships being cultivated and communities being built?

Am I seeing Jewish meaning and content coming alive at that moment wherever, it may take place?

Am I seeing the embodiment of excellence in planning and execution?

If the first two days of camp are any indication, my spying leads me to conclude that our future as a camp and as a people is very bright.

Shabbat Shalom.

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