Sitting here in my house listening to the constant drops of rain, it is hard to believe that it is August 1st and that we are now in our intersession before our last session.Â Yet, this morning, we said goodbye to 56 of our campers, all of whom were here for our session II.Â Like so much else this summer, it was an amazing session filled with countless highs and occasional lows.
At Havdallah, on Saturday night, one member of each ohel (tent) shared a high point of the summer.Â While there were mentions of theÂ masaot (excursions) the theme that emerged again and again were the close friends thatÂ chalutzim made during their time at camp.Â I sat there smiling thinking about all the conversations I had with potentialÂ chalutzim and their parents over the course of the year. Â The concern that emerged most often was â€œwill I be the only person who does not know anyone?â€Â And 100s of times during the year I reassured potentialchalutzim that most people coming know one or two people at most.Â Â Â Sure enough, over the past two weeks, we were able to transform ourselves from a group of 56 individuals into a single unitedÂ kehillah (community).
Ironically, ourÂ kehillah became even more united after the week we spent in small groups on massaot (excursions).Â During theseÂ massaot,Â chalutzim had a chance to become very close to a few other people with whom they spent 24 hours a day and on whom they relied to get them through the day.Â What we witnessed on Friday, when everyone returned from theirÂ Massaot, was thatÂ chalutzim not only felt connected to those on their ownÂ masa, but that they also felt a closer bond to those who were not on theirÂ masa.Â I believe that this â€œtrans-masabondingâ€ was due to the fact that they all had similar experiences (like cooking dinner over a camp fire, huddling together during a thunderstorm, waking up early and working to the point of exhaustion in the late afternoon, encouraging each other to keep going Â etc).
Our last Shabbat was the perfect way to end the session.Â Â We had time to sing together as aÂ Kehillah, time to relax, time to study, time to play sports, time for some group bonding activities and of course, time for a festive Seudat Shlishit, AKA final banquet.Â Â Packing onÂ Motzei Shabbat posed an interesting challenge because there is no electricity in the camper tents (they live in a technology free zone).Â We figured it would be easier for them to pack if they had bright lights, and not just their flashlights.Â So after Havdallah, we drove seven cars over the camper tents, pulled them up to the front of them and turned on the lights on bright.Â It was quite a scene to see all theÂ chalutzim packing by the light of headlights with the din of the running motor in the background.Â The extra lights enabled everyone to pack in time to make it to the 10:30 slide show.Â Â Â After the slide show,Â chalutzim had a choice between going to sleep or coming to the field to â€œcloud gazeâ€ (sadly there were no stars on our last night).Â Not surprising, mostÂ chalutzim chose to stay on the field until 1:00am chatting in small groups before we sent everyone to sleep for a few hours.
This was the first time any of us on staff had ever run a two week camp program.Â Overall, I believe it was a successful trial, one that we will replicate next year during session I & III (June 21-July 4th & August 3-15th) .Â But I think I speak for many of us (chalutzim andÂ madrichim) when I say that one of the challenging aspects of this session was that just as we were really coalescing as aÂ kehillah, just as we were really getting to know each other on a deeper level, it was time to pack up and leave.Â As I have written before on the directors blog, much of the research on the effectiveness of Jewish camping shows that three and four week sessions are far more effective in the long run at instilling a deep sense of Jewish identity and Jewish passion than are two week sessions.Â The reason appears to be that campers who come for longer build deeper relationships with each other and have additional Jewish experiences with their pears.Â My hope is that many of our session II campers from 2010 will return to our Kehillah next summer and be able to continue building the friendships they began this summer and continue to have intense meaningful life changing moments with each other,Â both in our adventure activities and in our Jewish activities.Â Of course, because the sessions for next summer are different from this summer (session I & III are two weeks and session II is four weeks) we will have to see how the different communities we created this summer will come together next year during the different session.
Speaking of next summer:Â Â Registration is already open and chalutzim have already registered!
Session I: Tuesday, June 21st -Monday July 4
This session is open to Chalutzim entering grades 5-11
Session II: Wednesday, July 6th â€“ Monday, August 1st
This session is open to
entering grades 5-11.Session III: Wednesday August 3rd â€“ Monday, August 15th
As a thank you to our founding families, we will not raise tuition for you in 2011.Â We will even offer the same early bird discounts to our founding families that we offered in 2010.
Until January 1 the rates are:
Session I: $2,000