Week of Leadership

  • Last Shabbat we introduced our value of the week, leadership. Our oldest girls in Birya had the opportunity to model this value on Saturday night.  It is tradition for the girls in Birya to lead the camp in a moving Tisha B’av service. As they shared their hopes for a future filled with kindness and peace, they recited “I believe” statements.  The service, which ended at the waterfront with a Zachor (remember) fire sign, was extremely inspirational. Thank you to Birya for leading this touching service and for teaching us about the meaning of this day. 

    We took a break from Sunday’s cleaning and packing for our awards ceremony.  Each department presented awards to campers who showed exemplary leadership skills during the first session. We also gave out 5-year mugs and waiter gifts to campers leaving after first session. 

    We celebrated the end of first session with a “Fast Food” themed banquet, planned by Birya and Tel Chai.  Our oldest campers spent the session working in committees such as decorations, food, invitations and entertainment to plan this special event for the camp. These camp leaders practiced leadership skills such as brainstorming, teamwork, multi-tasking, creative problem solving and time management, as they worked side by side with peers.

     After the banquet, we gathered in Elbess for our first session slide show and final shira. I am totally serious when I tell you that the tears were flowing before we even started the first song.  By the time we got to “Leaving on a Jet Plan,” the place was flooded with tears, as friends said good bye to one another. During the evening, we also honored Assistant Director Dan Wulf as he celebrated 25 years at camp. Whether it is setting up for Shabbat, organizing Shabbat services, putting together tables, training us on zone defense or setting up technology, Dan is always there to get things done.  He once told me, “tell me where you need me, and I will do it, even if you need me to catch butterflies on the Tsof field.”  His flexibility, computer skills and ability to fall asleep anywhere, anytime is truly admirable.  His revolutionary song, “Walking Back to My Table,” has changed the dining hall experience.  We presented Dan with a Tel Chai ‘85 shirt, because he was in Tel Chai before they had Tel Chai shirts!

    First session ended the same way it started, with rain! As soon as we finished saying goodbye to our first session campers, we welcomed in the families of our full season campers for visiting day. Although our waterfront brunch became a dining hall brunch because of the rain, it was an enjoyable morning of campers showing their parents around camp before leaving for shopping and haircuts! While families were gone, our staff quickly moved beds and dressers and made new job wheels and welcome signs in preparation for the start of second session.  Our staff also played a game in which they had to guess the name of a staff member by a description of their qualities. It wasn’t just our campers who made new friends.  I loved hearing staff who did not know each other a few weeks ago, talk about the personalities of their new friends in a loving and caring way.  

    Early Monday evening, we greeted our full season campers back to back and enjoyed a camp BBQ before our Bogrim and Bogrot headed out to Roller Kingdom to go roller skating. Other campers stayed in camp and had a great time playing video games and dancing with Party Excitement. 

    Tuesday morning, we welcomed our second session campers into camp, including one camper who was originally a first session camper and decided overnight that she missed her friends and wanted to return to camp! Our second session campers easily integrated into camp life and with our traditional grilled cheese lunch, second session had begun. By the afternoon all campers were engaged in their regular activities including mad science, waterskiing and drama. 

    Tuesday night was the Counselor No-Talent Show. Every year I question why we call it that because we have amazing talent amongst our staff.  A fourth year returning counselor from England and his sister, a first year counselor, sang a beautiful duet together.  Other staff also sang, danced and played instruments.  The show ended with the glow stick dance that was started by some male staff in 2011 (including my son) and has continued every year since.  The lights go down, and all you see is colored glow sticks dancing on the stage as the camp oohs and aahs. Then the music changes to Eye of the Tiger, the lights go on and they are wearing color war shirts, and the entire camp begins the chant, “1,2, 3, 4, we want color war.”  Then I realize that it is not the grilled cheese that signifies the start of second session, it is the anticipation of color war!

    Wednesday was a great day around camp.  A highlight was seeing our 7th grade boys lead a blindfolded friend through an obstacle course as they learned about leadership. They shared with me that they had to trust their leader who was going to give them clear directions to safely get through the obstacles that they couldn’t see.  As anticipated, we had more rain on Wednesday night, but also as expected, we did not let the weather interfere with us having fun.  Our Olim and Olot had so much fun playing four square, card games and Heads Up during indoor organized free play. Our Tsofim and Tsofot had to move their bonfire into the dining hall, and the stories and the s’mores were almost as good indoors as they would have been outdoors. Our Bogrim and Bogrot played Hoop, Dare It is, a fun trivia and action game-show like game. 

    As I walked around camp on Thursday, I saw all smiles as campers and staff engaged in activities all over camp.  Campers in the Ole Zumba class was so proud showing me a routine they had already learned.  There was a camper brand new to camp in this class, and I loved how the returning campers embraced her and agreed to walk her to her next class.  The waterfront looked amazing with kayaks, paddleboards and sailboats far out in the lake.  Campers were so excited about Futsal, a new elective being played in our sport courts.

    With Israel Day over, our Israeli delegation turned their attention to turning the CIT cabin into an escape room.  I was lucky to have the opportunity to test it out. It was so much fun to find clues and solve puzzles in this Israel themed escape room.  The fact that I am writing about the experience shows that I was able to figure out the clues and escape!  No worries, the Birya and Tel Chai campers, who started coming through the room in small groups, were also able to escape! 

    Thursday night was bunk night, and campers enjoyed a variety of bunk bonding activities around camp.  Our Tsofim and Tsofot soccer team hosted campers from Camp Young Judaea for a soccer game, while our Bogrim and Bogrot traveled to Camp Young Judaea for a game.  We won one (Tsofs) and lost one (Bogs), and everyone had fun!

    Today we will distribute our bracelets to our campers and staff who have been nominated for acts of leadership. The nomination boxes are full, and I am so proud of the members of our community for embracing the value of the week both in their own actions and by recognizing these traits in others.  The value of the week program, introduced and organized by our Cornerstone Fellows, has helped us celebrate the leaders of this summer, and the leaders of the future.

    Shabbat Shalom,


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