Alumni Shabbat Dinners, Vol. 1: Bringing CW to our home

By: Marty Shankle, Solel 2003

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.

This is why when we were approached by Abby Kaufman, Assistant Director of Camp Wise, about hosting a Camp Wise Alumni Shabbat, I was very excited to hear what she had in mind. The idea was to gather a group of alumni at our home to share a Shabbat dinner, Camp Wise style. We hosted six couples, all of whom had one partner who was a Camp Wise veteran and one who was not. This was not by design, but it set up for a perfect opportunity to not only enjoy a Shabbat dinner with old camp friends, but also to provide a space to learn more about camp from several perspectives around the table.

We began our evening by serving toasted cheese and tomato soup shooters (a twist on a Camp Wise favorite!) as appetizers before beginning our Shabbat traditions. I have always made a close connection between Shabbat and CW as it was the only place where I seemed to properly observe the Sabbath, and in a way that was meaningful to me. From Friday sundown to Saturday sundown, camp was a calmer place where the day was not scheduled out as the others. Celebrating Shabbat on this recent evening reminded me of those times when camp helped me truly understand the meaning and value of Shabbat.

Throughout the night, we reminisced about our camp memories, looked through old photo albums, and did our best to explain the experience to those who have never been. We participated in camp icebreakers to get to know one another better and to share some of the reasons we still feel a connection to and love for camp. We even ended the evening with ice cream sandwiches (aka chipwiches) which were the most renowned desserts of the summer when I used to attend camp!

I have come to realize that while my days as a camper and staff at CW have passed, whenever I spend time with camp friends and revisit camp traditions, I feel at home. Bringing this feeling to my new home with my wife and friends was a special experience I am very grateful for, and I look forward to becoming more involved as a CW alumni in the near future.