Every day, I wake up thankful that I am the director of Camp Yavneh. I am truly blessed that I have the privilege to hear so many heartfelt stories about the impact Yavneh has had on so many lives. There is a consistent theme among current parents, staff, alumni and campers – Yavneh has shaped the Jewish lives of our campers in profound ways difficult to comprehend by someone who hasn’t spent time at camp.
There is no doubt that most camps have that power. I recently attended a national conference with camp professionals from all over North America. Colleague after colleague recounted stories of watching their campers fall in love with their camp but even more exciting to them is having those campers discover their passion at camp-
What do I mean by “finding their passion?” Camp has always been the place where children can explore activities that they love but it also needs to be a place where campers can engage in activities they have never done before as they are gently prodded by their madrichim to lead them out of their comfort zone. Camp needs to be a place for exploration without any social pressure that something isn’t “cool.”
Luckily, Yavneh has something to help fight the “uncool” vibe that can happen– they are our counselors, specialists, Jewish educators and leadership who work tirelessly to offer chugim and programs which inspire our campers to try new things. This summer will be no exception. How can the staff inspire campers?
We’ve been asking ourselves this question a lot lately. Members of the Yavneh leadership team spent several days together over MLK weekend; we brainstormed new ideas to enhance our programming we are committed to examine new ways to design the afternoon programs so that a combination of bunk time and personal choice for campers will be available. Your feedback has been essential in this process, and I continue to welcome all members of our community to reach out to me.
Someone recently challenged my thinking about what differentiates Yavneh from the crowded summer camp field. It must be more than just what happens in a teva (nature) elective or on the sports field, it needs to be our philosophy and approach to Jewish living and practice. We have such a unique voice in the camping world – we are a K’lal Yisrael camp which fosters a love of Jewish community We are not bound by any one philosophy, rather we take from many, giving a space for multiple opinions to live side-by-side, not always agreeing on what the result needs to be but compromising for the good of the greater community.
My family has a mantra when it comes to trying new foods – “You don’t have to like it but you have to try it.” What would happen if we all took that attitude when trying new things at camp? When our teaching faculty sits down every afternoon to think about Jewish engagement, they do it with a lens of how it can be relevant to our campers? I challenge as we approach camp this summer that we keep this all-in mind so that we continue to create both a powerful Jewish community learning to live together and a youth community wanting to support each other in new adventures. Camps that seamlessly integrate these ideals continue to thrive in today’s camping world.
In my next blog post, I will focus on finding intersections at Yavneh that succeed at doing both of these things.