As we prepare for Shabbat this afternoon we’re so excited to spend time with our teens who just returned from their four week journey in Israel! Camp will finally be complete as one big family as we have all of our campers from Rishon to ILS to SITs back at the Home of Happiness! And, this Shabbat will be filled with the amazing leadership of Chalutzim and Solel but it will also be filled with stories of Israel.
This morning we said goodbye to our friends from the Columbus and Akron JCC day camps. While we are sad to send them back home, we know they had a great experience at Camp Wise and are looking forward to being reunited with them in the summer of 2020! And, as we move into Shabbat, we’re excited to have the rest of our community back from trips so that we can all be together when we read from our new Torah for the first time on Saturday morning!
This summer, we will be particularly focusing on b’tzelem Elohim. Each Shabbat we will focus on a different aspect of b’tzelem Elohim. This week as Noar prepared for their Shabbat, they talked about the importance of self-care. They began our first prep session with a compliment battle, where people have to shout compliments at each other until someone runs out of nice things to say. Everyone agreed that it felt good to have nice things said to and about them.
We had another week jam-packed with adventures, excitement, and sunny hot days! As last week came to a close we had a special visit from the Tzofim-Israeli Scouts Friendship Caravan. We were thrilled to host this group after they took a few summers away from The Home of Happiness! With their ruach (spirit) and messages of hope and peace for Israel, it was a great way to start the last week of first session.
Maccabiah and the Talent Show could have been enough to set this week apart, but we kept the excitement going. Both the Chalutzim boys and the Ohalim girls enjoyed overnights in tents and dinners cooked over the campfire. Our Noar campers had opportunities to leave camp; the 8th graders took to Fairport Harbor on Lake Erie for a jet skiing, BBQ dinner and beach time while the 9th graders went to Pennsylvania for an overnight trip and a day on the rapids of the Youghiogheny River! On top of all of that, we spent a few days with our ILS teens, who left on Thursday morning to start their 4-weeks in Israel.
This has been quite a busy week at the Home of Happiness! There were adventures to be had here at camp and away. It all started on Sunday when C7 and C8 had a giant sleepover party in the Moadon. Later in the week, everyone had a chance to leave for trips. Solel took their big 3-day trip down south and visited Kings Island and Mammoth Cave while everyone else took day trips. Chalutzim visited Pioneer Waterland, Ohalim went to Splash Lagoon, and Noar to Cedar Point!
We have had an incredible first few days of the summer! On the first day of camp I had the opportunity to visit with campers across all villages in camp. A highlight for me was when I stopped by Chalutzim and heard several first-time campers sharing how welcomed and comfortable they felt at camp, after only a few hours! Tuesday evening, we gathered as a camp community with our opening campfire where we had the opportunity to hear from our CW family – including a first-time camper. We shared our thoughts about what makes Wise uniquely special and then closed with a traditional shecheyanu blessing; as we celebrated the first night of a new season at the Home of Happiness. In between cabin activities, free swim, silly evening programs, and dining hall song sessions Solel even had a change to take an adventure out of camp!
When your camper returns home to you tomorrow they will be more mature, more confident, and more resilient. Your camper will come home with stories where they were pushed out of their comfort zone to achieve new goals and stories where they bonded with their bunkmates in ways they could have never imagined. At the start of the summer, during our opening campfire, I asked the campers to take a moment and think about their wishes and dreams for the summer. I asked them what they wanted to accomplish this summer and to find a buddy who would help hold them accountable to reach their dreams. Tonight as we gather for CW Night, our closing camp program, I am reminded of the honor I have to spend my summers with your children. And the honor I have to help your campers reach new goals.
This week’s core value is B’tzelem Elohim – In the Image of God. The Torah teaches that everyone is created in the image of God, and this means that we all have inherent value and holiness. We must treat every person, including ourselves, with respect and dignity as we celebrate what connects us and honor what makes us unique and special. At Camp Wise we talk about B’tzelem Elohim with our staff as a way to understand that when campers come to camp they have every opportunity to be their best self and to express themselves in many different ways. Over these last five days we will continue to do just that. We will celebrate campers as we share in their many accomplishments both individually and as a part of a group.