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.
Everyone in this world needs help with something. This week’s core value is Tikkun Olam, Repairing Our World. When it comes to Tikkun Olam, Rabbi Tarfon taught, it is not your responsibility to finish the work, but neither are you free to desist from it. No one person can fix the world by themselves, but with help from others we can do so much more. This value is something that we practice every day at camp.
In this first short week of camp, we have truly focused on building community. Saturday evening, campers and cabins participated in our Talent Show. Campers who are veterans to the stage shared and supported those who were a little nervous performing in front of all camp. Together we joined as one community to cheer on and celebrate campers’ talents. Kehilah, our core value for this week, is so important in life, and it is one of the things that makes camp so special. Our shared experiences, our willingness to support each other, our encouraging of each person to be exactly who they are want to be, this is the ruach (spirit) of the Camp Wise kehilah and this is why we return each summer.
As the session closes, we celebrate the many accomplishments of our campers. We joined together for several programs this week which featured the talents of many. From Saturday night’s talent show, to Tuesday’s performing art showcase, and Thursday’s production of High School Musical, I have been filled with pride as I see each camper take the stage. While it was clear to see how campers developed confidence as they shined on stage, this is something that we see each day at Camp Wise.
This week was special as our camp community welcomed and then said farewell to our teens in our Israel Leadership Summer (ILS) Program. In its inaugural summer, we have 27 rising 11th grade teens participating in this program which includes 4 weeks in Israel and a culminating week at Camp Wise at the end of second session. They teens joined us for an overnight at camp on Wednesday for a brief orientation and a special CW send-off poem. By the time you are reading this they will have already celebrated their first Shabbat in Modi’in (near Jerusalem)!
If we thought the first week of camp went fast, the second week of the session was even faster. Each day was packed in with fun! We had some Wacky Weather (ask your campers to teach you the new camp song) but that only made our days more special. Our week started off extra hot so we made sure to have additional time in the water. We changed our schedule on Monday to allow for more time at the pool and the lake. While Chalutzim and Ohalim were splashing in the pool, Noar left camp for their own water fun. The 8th graders packed up dinner and the CW jet skis and spent the afternoon at Fairport Harbor on Lake Erie while the 9th graders had a blast whitewater rafting on the Lower Yough in Ohiopyle, PA.
The first week of the summer just flew by! After opening camp all together with a special indoor campfire program on Sunday, we kicked off the week with great weather, friends, and fun. In just one week our campers have already experienced so much of the Camp Wise Magic. In between cabin activities, free swim, silly evening programs, and dining hall song sessions we even had a few groups that took their adventures beyond the normal camp day! Solel, our oldest campers, already had their first out of camp trip! Some highlights from their trip include cheering on the Detroit Tigers, glass blowing in Toledo, and adventures on Put-In-Bay. The Ohalim girls also escaped camp for a bit, and enjoyed a beautiful overnight in the CW woods complete with a BBQ dinner, s’mores, and song session.
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…