The last of 70,000 campers and 10,000 counselors return home this week from Jewish camp to parents asking questions like, “What was your favorite thing?” “What was the best part of the summer?” “What did you do that was new or different?” The answers are as varied as the kids themselves – some may have soared across camp on a zipline for the first time, others may have read from Torah for the first time, made a new best friend, a counselor may have been swabbed for Gift of Life and learned they are about to save a life. Each summer the staff of FJC crisscrosses North America visiting camps, learning something at each and every one. Like the kids coming home from camp, it is so hard for us to put the intangible – the magic of camp – into words. These are a few of our favorite moments. The ones that make us realize we have some of the coolest jobs in the world.
- Learning of the story of a couple who met at Camp B’nai Brith Montreal in the sixties and wanted to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary there this summer. The husband offered to take her anywhere in the world. She wanted to go back to the ‘scene of the crime’. They renewed their vows on the camp beach, where they first met, in front of the entire camp and then stayed for a cook out!
- Seeing the brand new woodworking program at CBB Montreal. They had a counselor who was interested, gave him a very small budget and now it’s one of the most popular programs in camp. Campers have made some incredible stuff from wood!
- Hearing the campers cheering in Ladino at Sephardic Adventure Camp.
- Seeing the incredible diversity of Jews who attend Be’chol Lashon and experiencing how intentional they are with their ‘global Judaism’ approach to program and teaching so that every Jewish origin is celebrated.
Scott McGrath – Associate Director, New Camp Initiatives
- Seeing the amount of cross-camp programming this summer. From Maccabiah at URJ Camp Kutz with BBYO Kallah, to July 4th in Mississippi with URJ’s Henry S. Jacobs Camp and Camp Darom, and the Matisyahu concert at NJY camps, this summer was all about collaboration and community.
- Learning how some camps rent out their sites after camp (e.g. immediately afterwards and year-round) and bring in SERIOUS additional revenue to fold back into core camp programming and infrastructure.
- Hearing that the Houston Federation provided Houston teens incentive dollars to WORK at Jewish camp.
Seth Cohen – Program Director, One Happy Camper
- Seeing that URJ Newman has a whole upper campus that is a very long hike to get to where all outdoors projects/activities live. What was magical was that the oldest campers live up there for about 4-6 days building up and working on a kibbutz. They are isolated from the rest of camp overlooking gorgeous California Mountains. Amazing!
Melissa Levine – Assistant Program Manager, New Camp Initiatives
- Hearing about Camp Tevya’s Israeli Cash cab. During free play, Israeli staff would decorate the golf cart and drive around picking up campers. They would ask them questions about Israel, and if they got the answers right, they would win candy. It was really fun and creative!
Jillian Weinstein – Events Coordinator
- Experiencing Alexander Gold’s mobile office at Camp Dina and Dora Golding. As a creative solution to running back and forth between two camps, they converted an RV into his office!
Alina Bitel – Program Director, Engagement Initiatives
- Being with NJY Camps, Habonim Dror Na’aleh, URJ Camp Kutz and Young Judaea Camp Tel Yehudah as they all sang “Salaam” at the top of their lungs waiting for the Matisyahu concert. The concert itself was pretty cool, but being with 4 camps (over 1000 campers!), all with very different and distinct Jewish missions, as they all sang the same songs was incredibly moving.
- Sharing evening tefillah at 10,200 feet at Shwayder Camp. Services were led by the youngest boys. Loved seeing the campers get up to stand by the water or take in the view to say their silent prayer.
Allison Cohen – Director, Marketing & Communications
- Stepping into a magical kingdom the afternoon I visited Camp Simcha. Counselors were dressed in head to toe costume and the dining room was converted into the theme of the week: “Game On”. I took part in a crazy dance party they do each day at the end of lunch; the counselors and children danced their butts off and sang at the top of their lungs. Some of the children were on breathing machines, feeding tubes, and in wheel chairs but the counselors made them feel like a million dollars. I had never experienced ruach like this. That was a moment I tucked away and will cherish.
Sarah Weiss – Events Manager
- Watching the “Storming of Formandy” at Pinemere Camp – a re-enactment of Normandy on the camp beach with boys trying to cross the beach without being hit by water balloons.
- Seeing first-hand the beauty and amazing programming taking place at camps in the West.
- Meeting the team and learning about the amazing programming taking place at Bechol Lashon.
Rebecca Kahn – Senior Program Manager, One Happy Camper
- Being at Henry S. Jacobs for an engaging and fun evening prayer service. The tiles that go along the pool tell the story of the book of Genesis through pictures (made by the campers two years ago). Led by the song-leader, kids had to swim to tiles that corresponded with wherever they were in the service.
Rebecca Leibowitz – Senior Program Manager
- Feeling the warmth and inclusiveness at B’nai B’rith Beber Camp’s talent show. Everybody who performed, no matter their talent level, got huge ovations. The FUNNIEST moment was at that talent show where two teenage boys, straight-faced, with blind-folds on performed the following. One is playing a kind of “circus” song on a keyboard and the other is in front of a pile of clothes, shoes, and hats and has to put everything on by the end of the song. Priceless! I laughed really hard.
Abby Knopp – VP, Program & Strategy
Tell us your favorite part of the summer!