Rabbi Elizabeth S. Wood

Rabbi Elizabeth S. Wood
Celebrating Havdallah

Friday, June 24, 2011

Summer camp: Memories of a lifetime

All I can think about, lately, is summer camp! It's that time of year when all the camps are starting up and I am reminded of my own experiences as a camper, staff member, senior staff member, and thinking ahead to my work this summer as faculty.

When I was 8 my parents sent me and my brother to Camp Young Judea in Waupaca, WI. It was my very first summer camp experience. And I LOVED it!!! I loved it so much that I had two friends come back with me the next summer. But soon after that, we stopped going to camp for various reasons.

Then, one summer, a good friend of mine from home (the same who attended camp with me that second summer at CYJ) wrote to me about all this fun she was having at Goldman Union Camp Institute (GUCI) in Indianapolis, IN. Thank you, Becky Emery, for changing my life forever.

Over the next decade, I spent my summers at my "home away from home." I was a camper for two years, an avodahnik (someone who works around camp before entering college), a counselor, a specialist, a programmer, a driver, assistant head counselor and a unit head. It was here that I learned to be myself. It was here that I learned how to be responsible for myself and others and live in community. It was here that I learned to sing and pray and love God and Judaism and my own Jewish self. It was here that I connected with lifelong friends, rabbinical students and rabbis that would help lead and guide me on my own path to the rabbinate. It was here that many parts of my own identity were shaped and formed. There was a magic and power to it all.

Yesterday, I spent the day at Eisner Camp in Great Barrington, MA teaching the new summer staff various texts and exploring real-life questions and issues with them, in preparation for their summer ahead. It made me so excited to know that all of this magic was developing and happening at camps around the country this summer for future generations. I wish I could have stayed longer than one day - it wasn't enough! But I feel so grateful for the opportunity to be back up there later this summer for two weeks to work on faculty, advising a unit and teaching mini-courses, and spend time with kids from all over the country (including many from our very own congregation).

So I spent today writing letters to various staff members and kids around the country who are at different Jewish summer camps. Getting mail at camp is one of the most exciting things! And it makes me feel connected to them and to the various programs that are running right now. I also spent today reflecting on the huge role that camp has played in my life: yesterday, today, and how it will unfold tomorrow.

My brother never really loved camp. He couldn't understand why my parents (who themselves were campers and staff at various places in NY in the 1960's and 1970's) would send me there. Just for fun? Maybe. To get me out of the house? Perhaps. To meet new friends? Sure.
But I am here to tell you that summer camp changed my life and who I am forever in countless ways. It is an integral part of who I am as a professional, as a Jew, and as a human being.

Enjoy your summer, wherever you may be!!!!

1 comment:

Marci said...

Such wonderful memories and reflections - thanks!!!