Orientation, 80th Reunion, and Welcome to Tevya 2019

  • As we prepare for our first Shabbat of the 2019 season, I reflect on this past week with pride on all we have accomplished.

    It is hard to believe that last week at this time we were only two days into our staff week, a week of training, sharing and bonding.  Watching our staff together now, it is hard to believe that some of them barely knew each other last week. Our theme for staff week was “Be the Light,” and we were all encouraged to be the light for our campers, our friends and our community.

    Last Shabbat we celebrated Camp Tevya’s 80th anniversary and we welcomed almost 400 alumni back to camp, back to their home. The stories I heard from alumni were so inspirational and I literally had tears in my eyes watching the emotional reunions of previous campers and staff. As they walked around camp singing camp songs, enjoying camp activities and sharing memories, it almost felt like time stood still.  A personal highlight for me was the passing of the Torah during Shabbat services.  We had 6 generations of Camp Tevya Directors together, Judy, Shelley, Adina, Matt, myself and Ben, passing years of tradition from one to another. As I passed the Torah to Ben, the entire community felt the symbolism of passing down years of tradition, and the two of us felt the pride of what we have accomplished together and the excitement of the new opportunities ahead for Ben.

    During the day on Saturday, we stopped to remember two camp friends as we dedicated Talia’s Art Studio and the Minn Makes His Way Traverse Wall.  Talia’s Art Studio is a beautiful outdoor area overlooking the lake.  Decorated with Talia’s art work and quotes chosen by her close friends, we know that through this studio Talia will continue to inspire us to take creative risks, to be inclusive and to be our unique selves. David’s Traverse Wall is part of our ropes course and is an addition that encourages personal challenges and provides opportunities to support friends. Having both Talia’s and David’s families here for the dedications was so meaningful as they were able to hear how Talia and David have been, and will continue to be, shining lights in our Tevya community.

    A very special thank you to Barnet Cohen, Jeff Greenstein and their reunion committee for planning such an amazing day.  With the help and support of Ellen Ades, our Alumni Coordinator, this group of people lit the way for generations of alumni to come together and to celebrate our very special place on Lake Potanipo.

    As our alumni departed 03033, our staff continued with orientation.  Our Israeli delegation, together with our Onward Israel participants, led “Hummus Dilemma.”  The staff was broken up into teams and each group was given supplies to make hummus.  As they made and then ate the hummus, they discussed a variety of issues and decisions facing Israel today.  It was a powerful and fun program that brought laughter as each team tried to convince the judges that their hummus was the best.  I did laugh a lot, and by the end of the night I was as full from the hummus as I was enlightened by the deep conversations.

    Sunday was a full day of department training followed by our annual trip night to Roller Kingdom.  When the buses returned to camp after the trip, the staff gathered together and played a matching game to find out their bunk assignment and co-counselors.  Balancing so many factors, our Head Counselors work so hard to match strong teams to specific bunks. The thoughtful process is extremely impressive, and the screams of joy I heard as counselors discovered who would be part of their bunk family for the next 7 weeks matched the screams of joy from alumni that reconnected at the reunion.

    The next two days focused on camper care, with counselors learning about the campers in their bunk as we all anticipated the arrival of our campers with excitement.

    The weather Tuesday night did not allow our staff to gather together around a campfire the night before the campers arrive, but we were able to gather together in El Bess.  We reflected on the week, and one by one turned on our Camp Tevya flashlight that was given to all staff during orientation and shared how we would “Be the Light” this summer.  The thoughts shared were moving and the lit room was beautiful.  Although each of us only had a small light, together, we lit up the whole room.  We were ready to welcome our campers.

    Opening Day drop off was so smooth and we know the beautiful weather helped.  It made me so happy to see the running hugs of campers who were excited to be back at camp with their best friends. It was also great to welcome our new campers, knowing that next year they would be the campers running into the arms of their friends. We gathered for our traditional first lunch of grilled cheese and french fries, followed by an enthusiastic shira session. First session had officially begun!

    Wednesday afternoon was spent with age groups taking tours, doing swim checks and holding bunk talks. Birya and Tel Chai started working on banquet, but we don’t want to think about that yet – even though we know it will be here sooner than we think!  On Wednesday night, our campers were introduced to all of our staff through Department skits.  Only at camp would I get up on a stage and, in Village People style, sing “T-E-V-Y-A” to the tune of “YMCA.”  Yes, camp does bring out the silliness in all of us and I can’t wait to see how our campers expand their areas of comfort this summer.

    As I walked around camp on Thursday, it felt like it was just a continuation of last summer. I observed our campers engaged in so many activities and it felt as if summer 2018 flowed right into summer 2019. Kinneret (girls entering 9th grade) learned about community mindfulness in Tarbut as they participated in a circle sit, depending on each other to be successful and complete the circle.  I got to make slime with our Olim and Olot (campers entering 3rd – 6th grade) in a Mad Science elective, and I was lucky enough to be at the waterfront just as Yavneh (boys entering 3rd and 4th grade) were jumping into canoes, many for their first time. I also helped teach the Couch to 5K elective, and enjoyed the individual time with a few of our oldest campers.

    Thursday night, we broke up into divisions for a variety of bonding activities.  Olim and Olot participated in a Dutch Auction, Tsofot (girls entering 7th and 8th grade) made inspirational bracelets and Tsofim (boys entering 7th and 8th grade) played a variety of land sports.  Bogrim and Bogrot (9th and 10th grade campers) kicked off the summer with a campfire on the shores of Lake Potanipo.


    Every part of camp was filled with happy campers on Friday. There was a group of campers eating the pita bread they made in Nature, a Boot Class camp using our new outdoor fitness equipment and a fishing class fishing from our new fishing docks. On the waterfront our lifeguard class was treading water as part of the prerequisite training, our waterskiing instructors were preparing campers for skiing and our youngest campers were already up and standing on paddleboards.  As I walked through the grove, a young camper proudly displayed the spaceship that he made in our Lego elective and a few picnic tables away, I was shown a magic trick that a camper had just learned. Throughout the day different groups of our drawing and painting elective were painting in Talia’s Art Studio.

    And that brings us to tonight, our first Shabbat of the summer 2019 season. As I get ready for services, I realize that whether I am putting on my staff shirt to greet campers, my neon construction vest to sing in front of 500 people or my blue and white Shabbat clothes, I am part of an amazing community. A community where each of us is encouraged to be the light for others, to take creative risks and expand our area of comfort and to explore our identity as a Jew in today’s world.  And the best part is that we don’t do any of these things alone, we do them together, as a community.

    I am very much looking forward to summer 2019!

    Shabbat Shalom,
    Mindee

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