Week of Community

  • Friday the 13th 2018 was a Shabbat that we will always remember.  I was sitting with a group of campers when the electricity went out. We quickly learned that a car accident caused a black out in the entire town. While my biggest worry was how we were going to cook dinner for 500 people, the campers I sat with were devastated that they would not be able to wash or blow dry their hair for Shabbat. The entire community came together, and although no one could wash or blow dry their hair, it was still a perfect night. Shabbat services, led by our older Tsofim and Tsofot, were beautiful, and our kitchen staff did an incredible job preparing a Sha-BBQ.  The electricity did come back on just in time for dancing outside under the lights.   

    Our Cornerstone fellows introduced the new value of the week, community, during Shabbat. When we think about community, we think about people. People who care about each other, who support each other, and who challenge each other to grow.  I cannot think of a better value of the week for the Bat Mitzvah that we celebrated on Saturday.  At camp, when a member of our community has spent 13 summers (or 12 for Israeli females) at Tevya, we celebrate! This year we honored Manu Bilderman and Margo Seresky. (We do have 2 other staff members receiving this honor next session)

    Manu has been the Head of Tennis at camp for 12 years.  In Israel, girls celebrate a Bat Mitzvah at 12 years of age, so Manu convinced me that this was her year.  It is hard to say to no to Manu. Manu initially came to camp with her son Shai in order to give him an American camp experience, and it is pretty impressive that Manu continued to travel here, to be with us, year after year even after Shai was no longer a camper.  Manu’s commitment to excellence is the force behind our strong tennis program. She is 100% dedicated to helping every camper become a better tennis player, no matter what level they are. Although each year, she does remind me that she wants to win the tennis tournaments, so I have to find her good tennis players.  As serious and driven as she is on the tennis courts, she is as equally kind and sensitive off the courts.  She has this soft-spoken sense of humor that keeps us laughing, and she is always willing to help anyone.  It is a milestone year for Manu, not only is she becoming a Bat Mitzvah here at camp, she also became a grandmother.

    As a past program director of Camp Tevya, it was hard for me to let go of this job. However, watching Margo ride around camp on her bicycle a few years ago wearing a dinosaur helmet, I knew I had found the perfect person for this role.  She was organized and fun and she liked my index card system for assigning electives!  It is easy for all to see how much Margo loves children and how committed she is to making others happy.  In her role, she listens to so many people, all with different needs and agendas, and is able to multitask while she coordinates all of the front of camp happenings. It is not easy, and Margo always does it with a smile.  She is an amazing team player, who literally jumps through hoops to try to make things work for other people, even if it means putting others before herself.  She has traded her dinosaur helmet in for a beautiful engagement ring, and we are lucky to have her as our Program Director.

    The celebration continued Saturday night with a favorite camp evening activity, a Siagel Social!  Steve Siagel, an ‘80s alumni of Camp Tevya staff, wrote many of the songs that we sing at camp today.  Hearing him sing “Tevya Spirit” surrounded by campers never gets old. 

    Sunday was a beautiful day at camp.  I love giving tours and hearing families comment on how happy our campers look in their activities.  It was great to see campers on their paddleboards in Lake Potanipo and campers shooting off the rockets they made on the Bog field.  I especially enjoyed learning an Israeli version of “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.”  We all laughed as we danced and sand and put our hands on our ktefayim (shoulders), motnayim (hips) and rosh (head). Sunday night, the Olim and Olot enjoyed a bonfire on the beach while the Tsofim and Tsofot had organized free play with sidewalk chalk and four square.  The Bogrim and Bogrot had a great time square dancing.

    I love Monday mornings because I get to start my day with campers in the Tevya running club. Every Monday and Thursday 12 or so dedicated campers meet me before wake up to build their endurance running around camp. As we finished our run and gathered on my porch, a few of the campers saw the weekly value nomination box and asked if they had to wait until free play to nominate someone.  They were so excited to describe situations in which other campers helped strengthen our community.  Starting my morning running with campers was great, but hearing these campers talk about their friends was one of the highlights of my week. 

    Monday was a day of basketball as our Bog basketball team traveled to Camp Young Judaea, our Tsof team traveled to Camp Tel Noar and our Ole team stayed at Tevya for tournaments with other camps. All three teams came in second place. I was so excited to be the pickup person for the Tsof team because I was able to spend a full hour in the van coming home talking with campers. 

    Monday night was time for the Bogs to enjoy a bonfire on the beach, while the Tsofs had a 4-Square tournament.  The Ole event, “Oles Got Talent,” was adorable!

    We were able to enjoy regular camp activities on Tuesday morning before the rainstorm hit us in the afternoon.  In truth, no one minded the extended rest hour and afternoon movie. The weather also provided a great opportunity for bunks to work together on their bunk plaques that will forever hang in their bunks to remember summer 2018. 

    Tuesday evening, we had a special visit from another camp alum. Liz Berman, The Sleepy Baker, taught cake decorating skills to the Olim and Olot. The campers had so much fun creating and eating their masterpieces. Our alumni community is so strong and  we greatly appreciate our alumni like Steve and Liz who continue to give back to the Tevya community. 

    I left our youngest campers and the cupcake party and headed to see our oldest campers who were working on banquet in the Girls Rec Hall.  They were painting murals, making invitations and menus, and practicing their song.  Listening to them sing a song about the camp community, a song that they passionately wrote, was so inspirational. I can’t wait for them to sing it in front of the whole camp on Sunday night. 

    Wednesday was another great day at camp as we prepared for an evening of showcasing the talent of our campers. A Night of Tevya Arts is one of my favorite nights at camp. The evening started with a camp production of “High School Musical,” and continued with performances by Lids, Jam Band, dance classes, A Cappella and our sign language class.  I love the pride that I see on our campers faces after their performances almost as much as the pride on the faces of the staff members who spent the last three weeks working with the performers. It is a great night of talent and of community. 

    Yesterday was truly an amazing day from start to finish.  As we gathered around the flagpole in the morning, the Israeli delegation surprised us by jumping out of the dining room singing and dancing.  As we ate Shashuka, a traditional Israeli breakfast, in the decorated dining hall, they explained the activities of Israel Day. Our community had been divided up into 5 Israeli cities, and each city divided into 6 groups.  Groups from each city spent the morning participating in fun activities as they learned about life in Israel.  The themes of the activities included innovation, children, food, settlement, sports and water. The campers who worked together to make hummus were so proud of themselves and of course I had to try the result of each group! And I could not stop laughing with campers as they raced each other wearing a foam vest, jumped into a swimming pool and ran back carrying the weight of the water.  The winner of each activity received a key.  After a falafel lunch, the entire community gathered by city in El Bess to use their keys to play a game to earn points.  Rishon earned the most points and will enjoy an ice cream party as a prize. Israel Day ended with each city coming together as one community for an Israeli Flash Mob of a dance they learned in Rikud.  

    Israel Day was a huge success thanks to the hard work and dedication of the 9 new and 8 returning Shlichim.  The cheers of thanks they received at the end of the day warmed my heart and once again reminded me of the love and strength of our community. It was especially nice that two visitors from the Foundation of Jewish Camp, Kate O’Brien and Brett Gurwitz, were able to see Israel Day in action.  FJC’s support and mentorship over the years has been instrumental in the enhancement of camp programs like Israel Day. 

    And as if Israel Day wasn’t excitement enough for one day, last night was trip night.  Our Olim and Olot enjoyed miniature golf, bumper boats, and of course ice cream, at Kimball Farms.  Tsofim and Tsofot went to Chunky’s, our favorite movie theater to see the Incredibles 2. Kinneret and Tel Yehuda saw the Fisher Cats baseball game and Birya and Tel Chai enjoyed the go karts and miniature golf at Mel’s Funway.  Yes, everyone slept well last night!

    As I write my last newsletter of first session, I take a few moments to talk to a friend.  We are sharing how as soon as campers arrive at camp, it seems like they never left, like it is just a continuation of last summer.  And then we blink, and first session is almost over. On our final Shabbat of first session, we celebrate our Tevya community.

    Shabbat Shalom,


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