Summer: A Season of Growth

  • Each year I move into camp about a month before the campers arrive. Although we prepare all year for camp, there is still so much that needs to get done that last month in anticipation of the opening of camp. With a very strong and talented staff it all gets done: grass gets mowed, beds and dressers get moved, docks get assembled, and projects like the new tennis court get completed. Besides the physical changes that camp undergoes, there are also programmatic changes. Staff orientation gets developed, new activity curricula gets created and new camp-wide practices get discussed. As great as camp already is, we are always looking at suggestions to make it better, ideas to help it grow stronger, and ways to improve the experience for everyone here.

    Our first Shabbat evening together was amazing. The services were led by our older Tsofs (8th grade campers) with support from Cantor Scott Harris, our new Head of Jewish Life and Learning, and our Shira team.  Many of these campers had become B’nai Mitzvah since last summer, and it was wonderful to see them, side by side with camp friends, leading our camp community in prayer. As they led with confidence and strength, I could not help but think about how much they have grown over the years. We read the weekly Shabbat letter from our CITs who are traveling in Israel on our Dor L’Dor program. I love that we make this connection to Israel each Shabbat. After services, we enjoyed our Shabbat dinner prepared by our incredible kitchen team and then enjoyed a very spirited Shira (song) session in the Dining Hall. The rain outside created a warmth inside, but unfortunately interfered with our ability to do Rikud (Israeli dance) outside under our new lights.

    Everyone appreciated the later Saturday morning wake up before coming into the dining hall for our traditional Saturday morning coffee cake breakfast. With such a strong Shira team, we added a song to help us transition from breakfast to services. Our community started singing in the dining hall and then slowly followed our guitar players into the Pavilion for services, setting the tone for a spiritual service filled with music. As I spoke to the camp community, I asked them to think about one new thing they were going to try this week, one new friend they were going to make, one new way that they were going to help the Tevya community. I challenged them to set a personal goal of growth for the coming week.

    As I walked around during our first full week of camp, I often found myself thinking about how lucky I am to be able to spend my summers here.  Not only do I get to live on beautiful Lake Potanipo and have my meals prepared for me all summer, but I also get to see children overcome challenges and accomplish personal goals every day. I get to see the look of pride on the faces of campers when they get over their initial feelings of homesickness, when they perform in front of a group and when they self-advocate. I get to see campers get up on a paddleboard for the first time and read from the Torah in front of 500 people. I get to see the pride on their faces when they show me the inspirational rock garden that they made to mark the safe place of Tarbut (Jewish Culture) and when they tell me how they swam across the lake to Skunk Hollow for the first time. I am lucky because I get to spend my summers in an amazing place where children are encouraged to grow and where they are supported along the process.

    Although Tuesday was a regular camp day, you could tell it was a special holiday. The fact that everyone was wearing red, white and blue clothes, necklaces, hats and socks added to the festive feel around camp. Lunch included an enthusiastic patriotic song session in honor of America’s birthday. After a full afternoon of activities, everyone enjoyed our usual Thursday night BBQ on Tuesday because what would the 4th of July be without a BBQ? During the BBQ, Birya (our 10th grade girls) met with Dalia (our 3rd and 4th grade girls) to reveal the Big and Little Sister matches.  Tel Chai (our 10th grade boys) also met with Yavneh (our 3rd and 4th grade boys) to introduce the Big and Little Brother matches. It was so heart-warming to see young kids so excited that they literally jumped into the arms of their “Bigs.” I love the connections that big brothers and sisters make with their “littles.” I also love the fact that I can remember when these “Bigs” were once the “Littles” and are now providing the same guidance and mentoring that they received just a few years ago.

    After dinner, we all went to Elbess (our indoor gym) for our annual Red, White and Blue Social and then headed down to the waterfront for a front row seat of fireworks. Our camp is lucky because the Town of Brookline uses Camp Tevya’s campsite, Skunk Hollow, as the base for the town’s firework display. According to the campers in Paul and Alex (two of our fitness counselors)’s cross country class, this year’s firework finale was the best one ever. While we celebrated America this week, we look forward to honoring the home countries of some of our staff later in the summer.

    For the first time this summer, yellow school buses pulled into Camp Tevya on Wednesday to take our kids to other camps for competitions. Around 45 campers went to Camp Tel Noar for Water Carnival, where they participated in swimming, boating and sailing. According to one of our counselors, “The kids rocked it!” The Jr. Jr. Jamboree was also held on Wednesday. Camp Young Judea hosted our 5th and 6th graders for games of gaga, kickball, newcomb, and dodgeball. While we sent many of our campers out of camp, we also welcomed three new members into our community on Wednesday. Bella, a mother goat, and her two-week old kids, Vanilla and Future, joined the animals in the petting zoo.

    This week was our week of royalty, as Zoe Katz was crowned Tel Chai Queen, Noah Kalman was crowned Birya King, Courtney Flannagan was crowned Yavneh Princess and Max Seidman was crowned Dalia Prince.

    Each year, Birya and Tel Chai (our 10th grade campers) help build team spirit in preparation for our first game day, which was held today with Camp Tel Noar. They introduced the teams and taught camp cheers to the whole camp community. This morning they woke up the whole camp with the cheers they taught last night. Once the whole camp is up, Birya and Tel Chai welcome us into the decorated and spirited Dining Hall for breakfast. For game day, Our Ole softball team, Tsof softball team and Bog volleyball team traveled, while the Ole newcomb team, Tsof volleyball team and Bog softball team played at home. We were able to get most of the games in before the rain with Tsof softball, Bog softball and Bog volleyball winning their games.

    Today was our first rainy day afternoon, and after a much-appreciated extended rest hour, campers are now watching a movie. In just a few minutes, they will be preparing for our second Shabbat. I look forward to the opportunity to reflect on the week and hear about the personal goals that were accomplished. I know that the campers who come to services tonight will be a little more independent and a little more proud, compared to the campers they were last week. Yes, summer is a season of growth.

    Shabbat Shalom,


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