Four weeks of new friends, old friends, sunscreen, flashlight time, singing and dancing, tefillot—and it all comes down to this night. The final night of camp is exciting and bittersweet—for our campers and our staff. Each one attempts to squeeze in everything that must be said, games that must be played, thoughts that must be shared, songs that should be sung—and then there’s packing and folding and sweeping. After a full day of packing and free time spent with friends, campers and staff sit down together for their last dinner of the session. The energy is so amazing. It’s followed by a giant song session with the campers’ picks for the top ten songs of the summer. Some songs are no surprise—Hoshia and Sweet Caroline, but all are sung with a passion unmatched during the session.
After incredible singing and dancing, campers break off into their units for a final group program. This is the time to say goodbye to counselors in other cabins and to remember the experiences from and within the unit. Many campers will have an opportunity to speak with different counselors about the highlights of the summer. This is an amazing time where our staff see the growth that happens over these weeks at camp. Staff listen quietly and proudly as campers articulate special moments in the session and feelings about special counselors and campers who made a difference. Each unit then comes to a final camp Havdalah service organized by Avodah—our most senior campers who are powerful role models for our campers.
The Friendship Circle follows. This powerful program can evoke a lot of emotion from campers and staff. The finality of this night often sets in during this experience. Cabins have the opportunity to sit together to watch a slideshow of photos from the summer and cheer for photos of their friends or unit; and then whisper to each other as they recall memories from the session. The music seems more beautiful than ever as everyone sings, shares memories, and connects to our camp community during this program.
The final formal program of the night takes place in the cabin. Counselors and campers participate in an activity that wraps up the cabin theme and help campers share their final thoughts, observations, and feelings about this summer at camp. Many campers talk about this closing program years later. Once this has ended, campers can go meet with the rest of the camp community in the Mercaz Tarboot for a short time to get souvenir items signed, exchange contact information, and have a fun time before heading back to the cabin to try to get some sleep on this last night at camp.
These weeks have been incredible and powerful—and it really shows on this final night. Seeing tears and hearing laughter and choruses of songs among camper hugs is a testament to the success of the summer. See you next year Kallah Bet!
–Dusty Embury, Staff Consultant/Inclusion Coordinator