Giving back to the place that has given us so much for more than half a decade felt empowering, especially this summer. Knowing that our signatures will be tucked away on the inside of our project forever and knowing that we are starting our legacy of giving back to camp in new ways means so much to us. This summer has been pretty lackluster for us otherwise, but returning to camp for a few hours filled us with the energy, lightheartedness, and happiness we had six years ago when we arrived there for our first summer, and that is a testament to how wonderful CW is. While walking through camp, we found ourselves reminiscing, talking about camp and smiling the whole time. Even though we all had to spend this summer away from our home away from home, we want the entire Camp Wise community to know that camp still feels like camp, and that giving back to camp helped remind us of how much it has impacted us in our lives.
Eight years, three houses and two states later, we now live in Cleveland and the one constant that has remained for our family is Camp Wise. It is where our children, now teenagers, have found themselves. It is where they have learned independence. It is where they have learned how to enjoy the muddy, rainy camp summers more than the hot and dry ones. On a regular basis, they debate whether potato bar constitutes as a full meal. They know that they have a community that wraps around them and supports them. Toasted cheese. Chugs and more chugs. And, as one of our kids says, “Camp Wise is a feeling; you can’t label it or define it by one word. It IS Camp Wise.”
Undoubtedly, this has been a challenging year for everyone. For us, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, spelled out the postponement of our wedding – something we naturally had been incredibly excited about and planning for well over a year. But as two life-long Camp Wisers, we were fortunate enough to have developed the skills and ability to adapt, adjust, and roll with the cards we were dealt while managing to find the positive in any situation (or you could say, making lemonade flavored bug juice out of lemons!).
We have often said that the decision our parents made in sending us to Camp Wise was the single most impactful decision on the trajectory of our lives. For both of us, camp was a place where we had the opportunity to explore our identities and become the best versions of ourselves, which ultimately led us to finding each other.
I love Camp Wise because…it’s where I met my best friends, discovered who I really am, and how to embrace everything that is great in life; it taught me how to be unapologetically myself and raised my expectations of the person I could be; you can make a purple soup with your village at 7:45 am; it shaped who I am as a leader, friend, community member, and Jew.
Last summer, my first-ever summer at Camp Wise, I had the best summer of my life. Whether it was playing Name That Tune on the Solel bus (shout out to the front of the bus gang), playing cards on the deck, trips to Cincinnati and to Buffalo, Shabbat services, or talking, laughing, and singing together in the yurts, there was never a dull moment. If you had seen me at Solel Havdalah, you probably would have thought I had been going to camp for 8 years because of how much I was crying.
The memories spent basking in summer’s heat, laughing with my friends, exploring my creativity, and growing as a young adult continued to impact me long after singing “Leaving on A JCC Bus” during CW night. Those precious moments as a camper at my home away from home have left a deep imprint on who I am today.
The first time I truly understood the impact of a large Jewish community across the country was when I attended Camp Wise. As someone who was lucky enough to attend camp from ages 12 – 21, I attribute most of my positive attributes and self-confidence to Camp Wise. While my wife and I have shared many of our life experiences together, we did not grow up at camp together. CW remains the one thing I feel I am not able to properly describe to her, especially in regards to its lifelong impact on me…
The camp we love is a product of everyone who has left their mark since 1907, and the traditions we cherish are deeply rooted in camp’s history. Lasting contributions and legacies have paved the way to the camp we know today, and they are the reason that Camp Wise continues to play a role in each of our lives. Camp Wise is a place unlike any other…
We jumped down sand dunes, rode camels, stayed in Bedouin tents, hiked up Masada, visited the legendary Dead Sea, saw the Old City in Jerusalem, snorkeled in the Red Sea, chilled with Israeli host families, had nights out in the city, visited crazy Israeli markets, had Shabbat and Spirit Circle in the desert, and ate falafel that made us cry because it was so good.