Leading the Way
Walking around camp this first week of Second Session and seeing the new friendships that have developed and the closeness of friends reunited, I can’t believe that less than a week ago First Session campers were packing their bags to prepare to go home. Was it really only 6 days ago that Birya and Tel Chai (BTC) turned the Dining Hall into a commemoration of Boston sports for this year’s First Session Banquet? Planning Banquet is one of many opportunities our campers have to own a project, gaining confidence as they take on leadership roles. They learn how to brainstorm, time manage, order supplies, collaborate on committees, and balance the needs of the entire camp. The best part of the night for me is watching our campers see the results of their hard work during the celebration. BTC campers were so proud of their accomplishments as they stood in front of the camp that final night of First Session.
Following dinner and entertainment, everyone headed down to Elbess for our First Session Slideshow and Shira (song) Session. Although I don’t usually enjoy seeing campers cry, I did smile as I saw the tears of campers saying goodbye to their friends. Those tears meant that they enjoyed camp, that they made connections, that they gained confidence and independence. The more they cried, the more I smiled. Well, until that final song, “Leaving on a jet plane,” and then I started crying too.
Sunday morning was bittersweet as we gave our final goodbye hugs to our First Session campers, and then quickly welcomed families of our Full Season campers into camp for Visiting Day. Families enjoyed time together in camp before heading out to Target and the mall to buy more toothpaste, new shoes and non-camp food. While they were gone, our staff worked hard preparing for Second Session. They moved bunk beds and dressers, made new posters and job wheels and learned about the new campers who would soon be joining our community. Full Season campers returned to camp and boarded buses for a trip night. Bogs went to Roller Kingdom for a fun night of skating and the rest of camp enjoyed a night of bowling.
Monday morning we opened the doors for Second Session and welcomed almost 100 campers into our community. These campers include a camper who took a tour First Session with plans to come to camp in 2017. However, he couldn’t wait, and we were so happy to welcome him a year earlier than his family planned. We spent the morning bonding as bunks before our traditional opening day lunch of grilled cheese and french fries. After lunch and Rest Hour, we wasted no time jumping into Second Session regular programming. Monday night was our Counselor No Talent Show. Although we do have a very talented staff, tonight counselors took the stage to have fun as they introduced themselves to our new campers.
By Tuesday, Second Session was already in full swing and campers were chanting for Color War. “1,2,3,4, we want Color War,” is followed by “1,2,3,4, you want Color War? 5,6,7,8, you will have to wait.” No Color War yet, but as I tell the kids, it will break Second Session. On the tail of First Session Banquet, Kinneret and Tel Yehuda immediately began work on Second Session Banquet. Once again, I get to see our campers take on all types of leadership roles as they brainstormed and voted on a theme and divided themselves into committees. I look forward to watching this group of 9th graders plan this event together and learn community building skills, but I am not looking forward to the event itself, because that means summer 2016 is over. But, we don’t have to think about that just yet.
Tuesday night, our Bogrot participated in a very important activity. Billy Spalding of the Newton Police Department taught our oldest girls tactics for self-defense. This year we were able to bring this important program to camp thanks to a grant from Combined Jewish Philanthropies’ Miriam Foundation. This same night our Oles had a campfire, our Tsofs had a block party and our Bogrim played football.
On Wednesday, Camp Tevya’s Jewish Arts Festival performers traveled to Newbridge on the Common in Dedham. There they met up with Camp Tel Noar and Camp Pembroke, and the 3 Cohen Camps performed for the Newbridge residents, including Annebelle and Arnold Cohen. I was so proud of our performers. The theme of this year’s Jewish Arts Festival is “We believe in the future.” Our performers were truly inspirational. The Jewish Arts Festival will be held this Sunday, July 31 at Camp Pembroke. I can’t wait to tell you all about it next week.
As soon as we got back to camp it was time for the Bogs to leave for their evening trip. Our oldest campers went to our favorite movie theater, Chunky’s, where we saw the movie Ghostbusters. I am sure I was the only one old enough to have seen the original movie in the theatres! While the movie got mixed reviews, everyone loves a night out at Chunky’s. Back at camp the Oles participated in a gaga tournament organized by one of our younger campers and the Tsofs had fun with Bar Mitzvah games.
I was lucky enough to spend yesterday afternoon walking around camp, checking in our new campers as they enjoyed another regular camp day. I watched Bunk 16 play basketball. Only at camp do you see kids cheering as much for their friends when they miss shots as they do when they make shots. Some of these girls did not even know each other a few days ago, and they are so comfortable chanting each other’s names as a show of support. Across from the basketball courts was Bunk 4 playing tennis. Manu, our Head of Tennis, is already training them to win the Tevya Tennis Invies in 2020! After basketball and tennis, I went down to the Point where I was able to relax with a Drawing and Painting class. Their instructor, an art student, was teaching them how to use water colors to paint the trees that surround them. Their pictures were beautiful!
Last night was our weekly Thursday night BBQ, with the wonderful addition of our newly formed Tevya band. The concert on the green definitely added to the warm atmosphere of the evening. After dinner, our Bogs were on the hot seat during Ghost Trials. In this evening activity, campers are accused of doing funny things and then given appropriate consequences to match their crimes. For example, one camper who likes to imitate his counselor’s accent has to use a British accent for the whole day. A very entertaining magician, Mike Bent’s Abrakidabra, performed for our Oles and Tsofs. After the magic show, our older Olim traveled to our campsite for a camping trip. This trip was planned by a camper in Bunk 6. It was another example of how our campers come up with ideas for a program and are given the support and resources to make it happen. The two bunks that make up our older Olim enjoyed making s’mores and telling stories around the campfire before retreating to their tents for the evening. They came back early this morning before the rain, after a very successful camping experience.
This week we received a delivery of two buddy benches, ordered following a request by two of our Olot campers. These eleven-year-old girls came to my office and requested a meeting with me. They shared with me that they thought a buddy bench would help kids make friends during free play. They explained that they never want anyone at camp to feel left out and having a place to seek out friends could help. How could we say no to this? Our older Oles are designing the benches which will represent our inclusive community and the importance of friendship. The benches will include Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote, “The only way to have a friend is to be one.”
As I prepare for the first Shabbat of Second Session, I reflect on this week and realize how many opportunities our campers have to be leaders at camp. I realize that at Tevya everyone finds their own way to be a leader. For some, it is writing a song for Banquet, for others it is coming up with an idea for an event and for others it is by being inclusive of others. Our camp leaders come in all forms and ages. Tonight at services we will be presenting the Aaron and Blanche Gordon award to two of our staff members, Hannah Lacey and Paul Goldfinger. These are two counselors who grew up at camp, having had similar opportunities to be leaders, both in big and small ways, over the course of their time here. They are both amazing counselors and great role models for the next generation of Tevya leaders.