The Power of Camp

  • It was just 3 weeks ago that we welcomed 347 campers into our summer home. In just 2 days, 135 of these campers will leave camp to return to their other home. But let’s not rush it – we still have a Shabbat and a Banquet to celebrate together before we say goodbye to these friends! As I think about all that has been accomplished over the past 3 weeks, I pause and contemplate the power of camp. Our campers have done so much, shared so much, grown so much, in just 3 weeks. Each experience they have shared here has been instrumental in shaping who they are as individuals and who they are as members of a community, as members of our community. Our friends who are leaving will be missed, but before we look ahead, let’s look back at our last week of First Session.

    It has been another exciting week at camp, starting with last Saturday night’s Siagel Social. Siagel Socials are always a highlight, and no matter how many years have passed, the entire camp anticipates Steve’s singing of “Tevya Spirit.” Listening to everyone (from those who were here when Steve wrote the song to those hearing it for the first time) sing together with Steve is truly heartwarming and proof that “Tevya spirit lives on and on.”

    Sunday was a “regular” camp day, with our campers enjoying their regularly scheduled activities. In Arts and Crafts, kids made magazine wallets and pillows, and in Nature they learned how to make a fire and cooked their own pita over the fire they made. It was a beautiful day and the waterfront and tennis courts were abuzz with activity. I loved sitting in on a Shira session, and hearing campers practice a song that they will sing during Shabbat services this weekend.

    Sunday night we hosted a self-defense program for our oldest girls. This annual program sponsored by the Stand Up! Foundation focuses on self-advocacy as well as physical self-defense. It helps the participants grow stronger, both physically and mentally. Through this program, they bond as an age group as they share self-advocacy strategies and learn important life skill, skills that could save their lives. We thank the Stand Up! Foundation for bringing this program to Tevya each year.

    While the Bogrot (9th and 10th grade girls) participated in the self-defense course, other campers were enjoying a variety of activities around camp. The Bogrim (9th-10th grade boys) played a fun game of flag football and the Tsofs (7th-8th grade campers) enjoyed telling stories and playing music around a campfire on the beach. Oles (3rd-6th grade campers) continued to showcase their talent during our first “Oles Got Talent” show.

    Monday was an intense day of basketball, as each of our age groups participated in a tournament. Our Senior campers (9th-10th graders) went to Camp Young Judea, our Juniors (7th-8th graders) went to Camp Tel Noar and Tevya hosted the Junior Junior (3rd-6th grade) tournament. Congratulations to the Senior team who made it to the finals and brought home a second-place trophy!

    On Monday and Tuesday, we welcomed Dan Libenson, our Cornerstone Advisor from the Foundation for Jewish Camp, to Tevya. Cornerstone is a program in which counselors are selected as fellows and participate in a training seminar before the summer begins. The fellows then work to bring back to camp the leadership skills that they have learned to make camp a better place infused with Jewish values. Camp Tevya and our staff has been fortunate to benefit from this program for the past three years. Dan met with our staff who discussed how they have helped to enhance our community. They shared the success of our Tevya 101 pre-orientation for international staff, which they led. This training day helped our international and new staff learn about Tevya traditions, and made integration into the Tevya community so much easier.

    As Dan walked around camp on Tuesday, he observed a Bog Leadership Training program, where our oldest campers participated in an activity on communication. The campers played a game of charades in which they acted out a variety of emotions they had been given on a card. First, they verbalized clues to help their team guess their emotion, then their team had to guess the word while they acted out the emotion silently. The discussion that followed was very impressive and productive as our campers realized the impact that facial expressions and body language have on others reactions to their emotions. A great discussion of how emojis have changed the communication also followed the activity.

    Tuesday was also another game day, with our campers participating in soccer, frisbee and field games with Camp Young Judea. That night, the Bogs had a trip out of camp, and saw the movie Spider-Man: Homecoming at Chunky’s.  With the oldest campers out of camp, the Oles played camp favorites gaga and four square in the HaMigrash (sport court). They concluded their evening with the singing of the Alma Mater as the sun set over the lake. The view was breathtaking. That night the Tsofs broke up into teams and made duct tape boats to race on Lake Potanipo. While we reminded our campers that the fun of this activity is in the process of making the boats, and not necessarily the product, the racing of boats still got a little competitive. Congratulations to all the teams whose boats successfully sailed Lake Potanipo.

    Wednesday morning, we welcomed another special visitor to camp. Theodor Herzl (or at least a counselor dressed up as him) greeted us at the flagpole to begin Israel Day 2017. This event was coordinated by our Israeli delegation and our Onward Israel participants, who transported us through generations of Israel’s history. Groups moved through stations which included the Mediterranean in the 1940s, Jerusalem’s shuk (market place) and Western Wall in the 1980s and Mount Hermon in the 1990s. We ate shakshuka and falafel and had a Rikud dance off to end the day. It was a memorable trip to Israel without ever leaving camp!

    It was the Oles’ and Tsof’s turn for a trip on Wednesday night. Our youngest campers saw Despicable Me 3 at Chunky’s, and our middle age group went to Kimball Farms for miniature golf, bumper boats and ice cream.

    As I walked around yesterday, I could not believe that this was our last full day of First Session programming. I could not believe that last night’s BBQ dinner was the last of this summer for 135 of our friends. As our campers picnicked around the soccer field, the 2nd annual International vs. American staff soccer game had begun. It was a great game, with my favorite part being the handshake line at the end of the game, complete with hugs and laughter. Knowing that our campers were watching this positive ending to the game filled me with pride as our campers saw this positive modeling of sportsmanship and camaraderie. For the second year in a row, the International team won the trophy for the staff soccer game.

    The competitive emotions from the game quickly shifted as the entire camp came together to support and cheer for our talented campers participating in the Night of Tevya Arts. Our campers in The Little Mermaid were fantastic and received a standing ovation from the rest of camp. Campers in the LIDS, Acapella, Jam Band and dance classes also showcased what they learned in this night of talent.

    After a morning of camp activities, we are now preparing for our last Shabbat of first session. Tonight’s service will be led by our Big and Little Brother and Sister pairs. It is one of my favorite services of the summer, as I can see the strong relationships that have developed between these pairs in just 3 weeks. It is another reminder to me of the power of camp, and all that can be accomplished in such a short time.

    Now that we have reflected on the past week, unfortunately it is time to look forward, and get ready to say goodbye to 1/3 of our community. As we say goodbye, we know that we are a stronger community because of campers who were here First Session.  Over the past 3 ½ weeks, we have learned from each other, helped each other, developed strong friendships and come together as a community.

    We look forward to seeing your reunion with your children on Sunday, and we look forward to another great session starting on Monday.


    With Tevya Spirit,

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