Whether you’re a first year camper, staff member, alumnus, horse from the stables, or anything in between, we all have different opinions on what the BEST part of Camp Wise is. A common answer might be Maccabiah (color wars). It’s hard to deny how epic it is to cheer until your voice gives out. Maybe for some, it’s the first meal at camp where the Chadar Ochel (dining hall) is filled with cheers that have been building since the campers were last all together a year before. For others, it might be spirit circle after Shabbat dinner where we jump up and down and sing to celebrate the end of the week. If you haven’t caught on by now, we like to cheer, a lot.
It is with deep sadness that the Board and professional leadership of the Mandel JCC and Camp Wise have made the very painful and difficult decision to cancel our Camp Wise Summer 2020 season. After careful consideration and consultation with experts, it became increasingly clear that the risks to bringing our community together in-person this summer would be extraordinarily unique and challenging with no guarantee of the safety and well-being of anyone. Ultimately, the decision was made and founded upon one goal – to safeguard the health and wellbeing of everyone in our community. This includes our professional and summer staff, the returning campers who love their summers spent at Camp Wise, the new campers who were looking forward to their first overnight camp experience, their families at home, and others they are connected to and responsible for in their communities. In this unprecedented moment in time, we believe it is incumbent upon us to do what we ask our campers and staff to strive for every day each summer, which is to live by our Camp Wise values, even when it’s hard and involves sacrifice.
As we begin to adjust to new routines for working and learning at home, we hope that the programming that Camp Wise has offered virtually has been a source of comfort and positivity for you and your families. We have enjoyed connecting with you all in this way, and we are committed to continuing to bring Camp Wise virtual programs and opportunities for connection during this time. On a personal note, I have loved connecting with campers, parents, staff, and alumni over the last few weeks and I am reminded of the resilience and the strength of our community.
I really value how much Camp Wise cares about bringing international staff to camp. The cultural exchange it affords provides a great opportunity for campers to learn about the rest of the world, and it gives staff a chance to learn about and experience life in a pluralistic Jewish community (whether they’re Jewish or not). One of my fondest memories is spending time with my campers, sharing stories of my home, answering their questions, laughing at silly different words we have for the same thing, and then debating which one is the right one!
SIT year was a phenomenal experience—it was truly life-changing. We had so many opportunities to bond with each other as well as campers and staff, and we lead activities that utilized our critical and creative thinking skills. Truth be told, more than we ever expected. The transition from camper to ILS to SIT might seem intimidating, but the SIT program was a perfect capstone to our past few years’ camp journey. We have all had counselors who significantly impacted us when we were campers, and to have the opportunity this summer to be that person for our campers was incredible.
Picture this: you’re going on a four week trip to Israel with forty-one of your closest friends. Sounds pretty great, doesn’t it? Well, that’s exactly how we spent our last month. The Camp Wise Israel Leadership Summer (ILS) experience taught us leadership in a way we would never have been able to learn anywhere else, and we can’t wait to show off our new skills in upcoming years as future staff members of Camp Wise. We had the time of our lives in Israel, and we’re so excited to tell you all about it!
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.