Sam Bloom on June 6, 2018
Transfer the feeling. What feeling? That feeling we all get when we drive into camp for the first time each summer. As we crest over the hill and get a first view of the ball fields, there are butterflies, nerves, smiles, excitement. It’s the feeling in the middle of winter when your parents tell you they signed you up for camp next summer, or when you just had your interview and got hired to be on staff. That feeling of “I absolutely have to be at EKC this summer.” The feeling of “I can’t imagine being anywhere else this summer.” Heart pumping. What a feeling!
Our head staff arrived at camp on Thursday, May 31st. 26 people from all around the world, the furthest coming from New Zealand. This year’s group is decisively more veteran than in past years, part of our new staffing structure to hire older, more experienced adults for supervisory roles. The average head staff member in this group has 11 years of camp experience. They “get it” because they’ve lived it. This has afforded us the opportunity to train differently. To focus on creating positive change. To go deeper, to focus on the real value of camp, and to better ensure that we give the most valuable experience to our campers and staff in a way that no other camp can.
EKC is part of a national initiative known as Hiddur, a 3-year pilot program through the Foundation for Jewish Camp and Avi Chai Foundation that allows us to amplify “the Jewish at camp,” look deeper at the Jewish experience we are giving to our campers and staff, and enhance the impact camp has on their Jewish identities. We’ve experimented with various Jewish programs and activities over the past couple years. A few nights ago, for example, we did an activity where we asked each of the head staff to write down 5-10 things that are essential to their personal Jewish story. The group was then asked to circle 3 items from their list and then write their personal Jewish story in the form of a poem.
I share with you below three of their poems. Their words are a reminder of why I do this job and why I’ve been doing it for so long; because I get to be inspired and challenged by young adults every single day. Their personal journeys and willingness to be vulnerable are incredible. Their connection to camp, this special Jewish place in their hearts, is so strong, that it is has now become part of their story.
They’ve got the feeling! And it’s powerful. If you’ve been here – you know that feeling. It will allow us to take this camp to a new level. To have an impact on campers and staff in a deeper, more meaningful way.
These words written by those who love camp most prove that it’s not about the lake or the pool, the ropes course, or any activity or program, it’s about a feeling. A Jewish feeling. A feeling in our hearts. One that is almost impossible to describe outside of this place unless you’ve experienced it. The feeling of family, and community, of Shalom Bayit (learning to live together) and love. The feeling of knowing camp has shaped who they each are as a Jewish person. The feeling of “I can’t imagine being anywhere else this summer.”
So how do we transfer this feeling? That’s what we’ll be training and working on over the next 2 weeks. We look forward to sharing many more feelings and staying in touch with you throughout the summer.
We Are Family!
“Grandma’s in the kitchen cooking her famous potato knishes
Being a mensch was what I was told to be
My Gesher camp family living happily
The chamsa mounted on my wall
Always praying it will never fall
EKC is where my heart lives
With so much more I have to give”
“JCC is where I started. Purims, Hannukah crafts and then I parted.
Community Day School was the next step.
Where after 9 years, I finally reached the top.
Services, Hebrew class and Jewish friends.
We never wanted CDS to end.
EKC takes the spot, where I spent every summer and learned a lot.
About Judaism and kids, but most about me, helping me decide who I want to be.”
Zadie always wanted it.
But not in Little Rock with no Jewish friends.
EKC was the only Jewish I knew.
What a gift I never knew.
Alex made me want it.
Dylan made me live it.
EKC and the JCC made me understand it.
Now I’ll always want it.
Sam Bloom is Director of EKC, the JCC’s overnight camp in Morgantown, West Virginia.