Ask any of our chalutzim, and most will tell you that the highlight of their camp experience was going on their “masa,” or excursion. These masa’ot were a chance for a small group of chalutzim to go out into the backcountry and experience the magic of the outdoors and the bonds that one makes with peers when one is on the trail. As the director, I was not able to go on any of these masa’ot as I needed to stay back at the Chava to work on administrative matters and to stand ready should any of the masa’ot need help. But remaining at base camp did not mean that I was not able to experience the sheer excitement present on these masa’ot. On Fridays around 11:30 am, I would begin to hear singing and cheering. As each group arrived back at the chadar ohel, they would march into camp singing the song that they learned on the trail or cheering as a group for having made it back to camp. I loved listening to these sounds – these were the sounds of happy chalutzim who had just completed one of the most intense and challenging weeks of their lives. Each time, I would run out and greet them, and ask them about their trips. Invariably, the chalutzim would say “amazing” or “incredible” and then start talking at 5000 words per minute about all that had happened. Their excitement was palpable, and almost contagious, even if I could barely make out a single word of what they were saying!!
Our summer was successful for many reasons: the program, the campers, the site, etc. But above all, it was our staff that made our first camp season a success. From the trainings that we began via phone months before camp started, to the last hug goodbye on Wednesday morning, our staff never ceased to amaze me! Comprised almost entirely of upper class college students and professional educators, our staff worked tirelessly to ensure that our chalutzim had a transformative experiences both at base camp and on the trail. While I could write pages about our staff, I will mention just two comments I heard at the staff banquet that I believe encapsulate the spirit of our team.
We ended the staff banquet by sitting in a circle and sharing one lesson we learned during our summer. One counselor commented that this summer was the first time she had been a member of a “community of individuals.” I understood her comment to mean that at our camp, each person was encouraged to express his or her own individuality in such a way that was supported by the broader mission of the community. We all were working for a common purpose, but we remained at our core strong individuals with unique personalities. The second comment was made by one of our first time counselors (entering junior year of college). She said that this was one of the only times she has been so completely dedicated to the mission of an organization that she was able to put her entire self into making it a success. She was willing to work the crazy hours and continue to give 110% because she so wanted to see our community succeed. As I listened to these two counselors, I smiled inside knowing that we had achieved one of the main goals of our camp: creating intense and intentional community where each person is valued for their contributions to the greater good.
In short, our inaugural summer was a wonderful success! We are already hard at work planning our 2011 season. Registration is open (we already have a number of chalutzim registered for next year!) If you’d like to register now, please click here.