A Week of Celebrating the Courage of our Community

  • Dear Tevya Community,

    I sit at a picnic table on this Friday afternoon, measuring the passing of time by the number of Shabbats that we celebrate as a camp community.  As we prepare for our second Shabbat of the summer, I watch campers run from bunk to bunk to borrow clothes and to help each other get ready for a night of prayer, shira (song) and rikud (dance) under the lights, and of course, good food.  Friday night is my favorite time here at camp, because it is a time to reflect on the past week.  I will be thinking of the inspirational stories I have heard, the friendships that I have seen develop, and the amazing unity of our 2018 camp community. I know as I reflect tonight, my eyes will be wet, my mouth will be smiling, and my heart will be full. I hope this week’s newsletter will show you why. 

    Each week in Tarbut, our Jewish Life and Learning Program, our campers engage in activities that focus on a specific value that is important in our community. Last Shabbat, our Cornerstone Fellows introduced Courage as the value of this week through a jingle that they wrote. “Ma Middah HaShavuah? Ma Middah HaShavuah? What is the value of the week? (Yes, I am singing it as I write it.) Sponsored by the Foundation for Jewish Camp, Cornerstone Fellows from camps around the nation come together in May to share knowledge, develop ideas, and explore what it means to be a Jewish role model. They bring their ideas back to camp and develop programs that have a lasting impact on our camp community. 

    This year’s Fellows chose a program that integrates the Tarbut value of the week into camp life. By recognizing behaviors that embody these values in our community, we can encourage our camp family to embrace and model these values in all areas of camp. Saturday’s D’var Torah discussed the importance of courage. In Balak, a prophet Balaam chose to follow the words of God and bless the Jewish people instead of curse them, as ordered by King Balak. It took courage for Baalam to stand up and do the right thing. We challenged our campers to be courageous and to recognize the courage in others. 

    Of course, our community accepted this challenge, and it didn’t take long to see courageous behaviors at camp as new campers settled into their first overnight camp experience. On Saturday, campers reached out and made new friends, completed their swim tests and danced on the stage for MTV night. Wearing a silly hat and dancing on stage in front of 500 people takes courage!

    Camp was in full swing on Sunday and Monday and I loved walking around camp and seeing everyone so engaged in a variety of activities.  On one side of the dining hall, our Israeli delegation was hosting an Israeli birthday party and on the other side our Jewish Cooking elective was making Israeli salad.  They were so proud of their finished project and I was so happy to get to taste it! Campers enjoyed playing tennis on the newly resurfaced tennis courts. Many of them demonstrated courage as they tried out for the tennis team, despite the fierce competition. 

    In Tarbut, small groups of our younger Tsofim (7th grade boys) demonstrated courage as they planned and presented ideas to enhance camp.  In Shark Tank fashion, they pitched their ideas to the others in their age group.

    After multiple days of very hot weather, I sat down for lunch on Tuesday, and found a petition, signed by 150 campers, left at my seat. The petition asked that we turn the temperature down and make it cooler outside.  It took a lot of courage for these campers to make such a passionate demand, and I could not let them down. After looking at the weather forecast, I confidently told them that I did order cooler weather for camp. However, it was on back order and would not be delivered until Friday.  The Gatorade powder we ordered for the water coolers did arrive, and was provided to campers to help keep them hydrated in the heat. 

    The heat did not keep the smiles off of the faces of our campers. As I walked around camp Tuesday night, I saw all happy campers enjoying their evening activities.  Olim and Olot made gingerbread houses and Tsofim and Tsofot played a game of Hoop Dare It Is.  Kinneret and Tel Yehuda played capture the flag while Birya and Tel Chai continued to work both as a team and as camp leaders to plan the upcoming spirit night. 

    A popular tradition at Camp Tevya is for our oldest and youngest campers to crown their royalty.  Tel Chai (10th grade boys), Birya (10th grade girls), Yavneh (3rd and 4th grade boys) and Dalia (3rd and 4th grade girls) each write a series of songs revealing clues about their chosen royalty.  They walk around the dining hall singing until their song ends and their royalty is revealed.  On Wednesday, Tel Chai chose Sammi Shaffer as their Queen and Birya chose Jack Scheman as their King. Sammi and Jack become a big sister and brother to their group of campers. They are there to provide support, advice, and gifts throughout the summer. Congratulations King Jack and Queen Sammi! 

    Wednesday, 4th of July, was a festive camp day. Campers and staff dressed in red, white, blue, funny hats, and accessories all day. We had a Shira session after lunch, and the spirit in the room was extremely energized as we danced and sang to favorites like, “American Pie,” “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” “America,” and “Sweet Caroline.” That afternoon we addressed the hot weather by altering the schedule adding an afternoon of beach time/free swim and a movie. We continued the 4th of July celebrations with our annual Red, White, and Blue Social followed by the spectacular fireworks show organized by the Town of Brookline, New Hampshire.  We are so fortunate that the town uses Skunk Hollow on Tevya property for the fireworks, and that we have front row seats from our beach.  

    Thursday morning began with me running around camp with the 17 campers who joined the Tevya running club.  The club, made up of mostly new runners, meets every Monday and Thursday morning to run the ½ mile loop around camp before everyone else is awake. I love hearing the personal goals set by campers who are all working on endurance. As I walked back to my cabin, I greeted the 40 campers who were having an early breakfast prior to getting on the bus for the annual Water Carnival at Camp Tel Noar. They were all ready to participate in swimming and boating races, and ready to represent Camp Tevya. A short time later, an additional 40 campers left to participate in the Jr. Jr. Jamboree at Camp Young Judaea. They had fun participating in Newcomb, kickball, GaGa and dodgeball. 

    While these campers were out of camp, our other campers participated in their regular camp activities. As I walked around camp in the afternoon, I paused and thought about the variety of skills our kids learn at camp.  In Outdoor Living, campers were tasked with building a shelter with just sticks, rope, and 1 tarp.  As I watched them work, I realized that they were not just learning how to make a shelter, they were learning how to project plan, how to analyze resources, and how to work together as a team. Ten feet away, another group of campers were learning care taking, empathy and responsibility for other living things as they cared for the bunnies, ducks, and baby chicks in the petting zoo.  

    Thursday night was Camp Tevya Spirit Night, organized by Birya and Tel Chai. Prior to the event, our oldest campers made a timeline, wrote the script for the MCs, decorated El Bess, our indoor gym, and assigned roles for each member of their age group. Standing up in front of the entire camp and teaching a cheer takes courage, and each of these campers did it with incredible enthusiasm and confidence.  I was so proud of them. 

    Well, the delivery of cool weather that was on back order was delivered this morning by TNPC, who left it for us in a box in the dining hall. With the prediction of a bonus delivery of rain, we decided to do a late wake up.  The plan for additional sleep was well received by campers and staff after a very productive and fun week in the heat. 

    Royalty continued today with the crowning of Yavneh’s princess Marnie Adelkopf and Dalia’s prince Seth Wulf.  Our youngest campers were so courageous and proud as they marched around the dining hall singing the songs they wrote to reveal their royals.  

    This week, as I walked around camp, I observed so many acts of courage. And all week, during free play, staff and campers had the opportunity to report acts of courage that they observed from their friends, counselors, and coworkers.  One camper stood up for a friend, another tried waterskiing for the first time, and another got over his homesickness. Staff members showed courage when they relied less on their native language and talked mostly in English and when they led an evening activity for the first time.  Each person nominated was recognized and given a courage bracelet. I am so thankful that our Cornerstone Fellows created this project to enhance our community, as we integrate and celebrate our Tarbut values in all areas of camp.  

    As I prepare for Shabbat, I am already singing the Jingle, “Ma Middah HaShavuah? Ma Middah HaShavuah” What is the value of the coming week? Stay tuned…

    Shabbat Shalom,


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