The Home Stretch: Make It Count
...and just like that, there was one week of camp left. Summer 2015 has flown by, a bit quicker than I usually feel the summer months tend to do. We began the summer recognizing our staff as superheroes, entering training week with excitement for the potential of what would lie ahead. We built our team, identified goals and priorities and set off on a journey.
Fast forward a few weeks and countless memories later, and we have one week left on our adventure. Time moves quickly, and there never seems to be enough time to pack it all in during a day at camp. So as we enter the home stretch, how can we really make it count? How can we ensure that we are as intentional as possible in our interactions with others? How can we make time to seek out and capitalize on those special "ah-ha" moments? What can we do to help our campers wrap-up their summer with the best experiences?
It starts with us (the camp staff). This Shabbat, we have the opportunity to re-dedicate ourselves to our mission, values and role. We have the opportunity to re-commit to the goals we set out to achieve at the beginning of the summer. We have the honor of being able to guide our campers through this chapter of their Jewish journeys and help them discover and explore who they are and who they want to be - while challenging them (and ourselves, walking step by step beside them) to be the best version of themselves.
At last night's staff meeting, we passed out "staff home stretch support kits" to each member of our team, with each item symbolizing something important and intended to express our gratitude for the hard work that has been ever present this summer:
Tissues: stay healthy and take care of yourselves!
Starburst: you’re all stars on our team!
Paperclip: remember that you’re a link in the chain of something bigger and amazing!
Rubber band: don’t forget to stay flexible and practice savlanut!
Band-aid: even super heroes get booboos sometimes!
Laffy Taffy: make time to laugh and have fun!
Life Savers: you are making a significant difference in our camper’s lives!
Smarties: real talk: we have some super smart people in this room!
Chocolate: sometimes you just need some chocolate to help you power through a long hot afternoon!
Cough Drops: our song sessions are chigaon…crazy…and we need to keep our throats in good condition!
Todah rabah תודה רבה – many thanks for all that you have done to make our 2nd summer an epic one! Yashar koach! Kol hakavod! Yeah!
We need to take care of ourselves and each other. We need to hold on to the joy in our work, and celebrate our successes. We need to learn from our challenges and struggles, and continue to grow as we look toward the next adventure. We need to remember to support our teammates as we journey toward the finish line. We need to appreciate how lucky we all are to have had this opportunity to help shape the future. It is holy work that we have done and continue to do. But now, for just a few hours, we rest, reflect and celebrate. Shabbat Shalom.
"Are we there yet?" As a Jewish youth professional who spends a fair amount of time travelling with groups of all ages, I've heard this question only a few times. In this week's parashiyot, we catch-up with the Israelites as they near the Promised Land after forty years since leaving Egypt. Generations have passed, and they have matured into a nation ready for the next challenges that lie ahead. They look back, reviewing where they have been, and quickly turn to the future. What are the tasks that lie ahead? What are the plans to move forward as the journey nears completion?
At camp, we mark time in different ways. While our daily schedule keeps us moving from activities to meals and everything in between, there are also specific days on our calendars. Just a few examples are:
Crazy hat day.
Yesterday was that funny period of time in the camp calendar called "Intersession." Two weeks (one session) down. Four (two) to go. We've accomplished so much, and we have more that lies ahead. What better opportunity to take a few minutes to sit, breathe, grab an iced coffee and reflect on all that we've already done this summer.
We've come a long way, from where we began. Check it out on our blog >>
Summer #2 at URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy blasted off with a great sense of ruach (spirit). Our campers were busy making new friends from 24 different states and 3 countries, getting sweaty from singing and dancing at song session, learning new skills and tools, building a catapult while learning about kinetics, creating music videos, learning how to program in Minecraft, flying rockets and drones, learning about fermentation and food science, working with a doctor to study how our bodies react to exercise and activity...and the list goes on.
We've come a long way, from where we began.
Wrapping-up another book of Torah, we say "chazak, chazak, v'nitchazek" -- be strong, be strong, and let us be strengthened. We have already built so much this summer as a Sci-Tech community. As we begin Session 2, let us go from strength to strength and continue to build upon this foundation as we explore, innovate, create, discover, connect and find joy as a kehilah kedoshah (holy community).
Are we there yet? Yes. We are there, and we will keep going! I'll write more later...but we're about to open the gates for Session 2!
The words we say at the beginning of our morning t'filah are quite recognizable as a blessing:
When Balam (wicked sorcerer) was hired by Balak (king of Moab) to curse the Israelites as they passed through his kingdom on their way to Canaan, what actually came out was a blessing. We interpret these words in a myriad of ways, acknowledging the blessing of community and the roles that each unique member plays. Or, maybe focusing on our obligation to be blessings throughout our daily lives. (Genesis 12:2)
While we sometimes interchange the words tents and dwellings, tents are temporary shelters that are relocatable, while we know dwellings to be a bit more permanent and sturdy. As we prepared for our second summer at URJ Sci-Tech Academy, I found myself thinking about space a lot. Not only do we approach our use of space throughout our camp season quite intentionally, we also have the task of transforming our beautiful space at Governor's Academy back into our summer home after spending 9 months away - and recreating a space that represents our values and fosters holy community.
While I would not go as far as to say that we spend our summer in one gigantic tent, it is quite remarkable to think about the transformation that occurs at both the beginning and end of our summer. Walking onto camp, it still very much looking like a school, and we work together to rebuild what we left last summer. From road signs to posters to room set-ups to supplies and then some, our leadership team and staff does it all.
But what exactly goes into our dwelling that makes it one of blessing? As I spent the last few days walking around camp, hanging out with campers and staff and watching our second summer come to life, I've gravitated towards a few answers...
Our Gesher Tzar Meod (Very Narrow Bridge) connects our main campus to where our boys and some of our leadership team lives. We took advantage of this opportunity to name it appropriately, and I believe that it also represents the journey that many of us take as we experience new things and different places. Part of the magic of camp is helping every member of our community stretch their comfort zones and experience new things. As Rabbi Nachman teaches us, the most important thing is not to be afraid as we exist in our world that sometimes looks and feels like a narrow bridge. Also: don't forget to sing while crossing it!
This summer, we gave our Livnot (Hebrew verb: "to build") period a home with the creation of our Maker Space. With a foundation of design thinking and community building, campers and staff enter this space on camp with the charge to think differently and outside of the box, design, explore, create, build, assess, problem solve and innovate. A new component at Sci-Tech this summer, it is very much still in a beta stage and we are excited to continue to add to and modify what it is and how it helps us enhance our experiences at camp. From inventing to building to creating innovative Shabbat experiences for our camp community, this place on camp is one that we can all learn from.
As we prepare for our first Shabbat of the summer as a camp community, my blessings are abundant in this place in which I dwell. Our campers are excited and empowered. Our staff is enthusiastic and innovative. Our community is holy. It's nice to be back home. Shabbat Shalom!