Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Home from camp

Sorry I didn't get to post more from my camp experiences. Needless to say, I was spending a lot of time with the kids (and foolishly took no photos, in part because Harlam has a 'no cellphones' rule that I was already breaking like Chuck Norris breaks ninjas).

It was a fantastic experience. The staff is amazingly professional (especially considering we're talking about mostly 18-21 year olds). As important is the love they clearly have for their kids and for Judaism, as well as for camp itself.

And that's reflected in the kids themselves. These kids are passionate about their Judaism and their camp experience. No one grumbled, no one felt the programming was a waste of time (even among the 14-year olds!). Whether they started out this way or not, every single kid I talked to was enthusiastic about being Jewish and being part of a Jewish community.

My shiurim went very well--well, the first time it went great, and the second time (I repeated the class) so-so, but considering past years where I was sure kids only signed up because a counselor made them, I'll take so-so. Shabbat was, of course, incredible, with the Machon/CITs leading a pretty amazing service. Of course, I got to embarrass myself talking to a CIT (going into senior year of high school) who I didn't recognize, not realizing he was a Shir Ami kid I had worked with for bar mitzvah four years earlier. Hey, the last time I saw him he hadn't hit puberty!

None of this is to say that camp is perfect: there needs to be more leadership and programming training for the staff, the dining hall remains an issue, and the way Jewish values are taught and expressed don't always line up with day-to-day reality at camp (one small example: the youngest kids did an Alex's Lemonade Stand on Shabbat. Great value in terms of tzedakah, but not exactly shabbesdik). the new director, Aaron, went even further to say that some things need real improvement, but it's getting there, and there's a real sense of vision and mission.

So I'm now home, getting over the camp cruds, sore, lightly sunburned (despite SPF 45), and basically ready to go back. Can't wait 'till next year!

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