I wake up everyday thankful that I am the director of Camp Yavneh. I am truly blessed that I have the privilege to hear so many heartfelt stories about the impact Yavneh has had on so many lives. There is a consistent theme among current parents, staff, alumni and campers – Yavneh shapes the Jewish lives of our campers in profound ways. This theme is difficult to comprehend by someone who hasn’t spent time at camp.
There is no doubt that most camps have that power. I recently attended a national conference with camp professionals from all over North America. Colleague after colleague recounted stories of watching their campers fall in love with camp, but even more exciting was having their campers discover their passion at camp.
What do I mean by “finding their passion?” Camp has always been a place where children can explore activities that they love but it also needs to be a place where, guided by their madrichim (counselors), campers can engage in new activities that are out of their comfort zone. Camp needs to be a place for exploration without any social pressure that something isn’t “cool.”
Luckily, Yavneh has something to help fight the “uncool” vibe that can sometimes happen. Our madrichim, specialists, Jewish educators and leadership work tirelessly to offer chugim (electives) and programs that inspire our campers to try new things. This summer will be no exception.
How can the staff inspire campers? We’ve been asking ourselves this question a lot lately. Members of the Yavneh leadership team spent several days together over MLK weekend brainstorming new ideas to enhance our programming. We are committed to designing afternoon programs that combine both bunk time and personal choice time for campers. Your feedback has been essential in this process and I welcome all members of our community to reach out to me with any suggestions.
Someone recently challenged my thinking about what differentiates Yavneh from other summer camps. It is more than just what happens in a teva (nature) activity or on the sports field. It is our philosophy and approach to Jewish living and practice. We have a unique voice in the camping world – we are a K’lal Yisrael camp that fosters a love of Jewish community. We are not bound by any one philosophy, rather we take from many, allow space for multiple opinions to live side-by-side and we don’t always agree on what the result needs to be; instead, compromising for the good of the greater community.
My family has a mantra when it comes to trying new foods – “You don’t have to like it but you have to try it.” What would happen if we all took that attitude when trying new things at camp? When our teaching faculty sits down every afternoon to think about Jewish engagement, they do it with a lens of how it can be relevant to our campers. I challenge you, as we approach camp this summer, that we keep all of this in mind, so we continue to create both a powerful Jewish community learning to live together and a youth community wanting to support each other in new adventures. Camps that seamlessly integrate these ideals continue to thrive in today’s camping world.
In my next blog post, I will focus on finding intersections at Yavneh that succeed at doing both of these things.
February 27, 2017 | Camp Yavneh
To learn more about Bil Zarch, new director of Camp Yavneh, click here