By Jeremy Klotz, URJ GUCI Director
Today marks the first Shabbat of Goldman Union Camp’s 2017 Kallah Aleph (first session). There is a wonderful spirit in camp today. After a demanding and intensive staff orientation, our campers are here, the cabin units are bonding, electives have been chosen, and everyone is having a wonderful time. There is a ton of learning going on this week, especially with our younger and newer campers.
I love watching our rising third and fourth grade campers during the first several days of camp. Some of them were here last year, but still show some nervousness as they prepare to stay with us for a month this summer. Many campers in this unit, Garin, are brand new to camp, and brand new to being away from their parents for any significant length of time.
My favorite thing to observe in these campers is their courage and resiliency in the face of something that is relatively unknown to them. I like to ask our new campers when I meet them on opening day if they are nervous because most of them will say “yes”. I also like to tell them that almost every camper in the same situation feels the same way. I leave out that the nerves are usually even greater for parents sending their kids to camp for the first time.
Nervousness, homesickness and the unknown typically disappear within a few days at camp, and it’s a beautiful thing to see. Some campers are initially tentative to get involved in new activities, to open to new friends, and to jump around at song session. However, in just a short time we start to see the smiles come. We start to see these kids opening and getting excited about what lies ahead. We start to see them hanging out with new friends and playing with their counselors in the pool. We can see that they have courageously accepted the challenge of being away from home.
This summer’s educational theme is the exploration of Middot. Middot are values, the collection and pursuit of which make us better people and better Jews. Some examples are wisdom, compassion, justice, love, joy, etc. It is wonderful when we can teach these values to our kids through creative programming. It’s even better when they realize through experience that they have a value all by themselves.
When thinking of a younger camper’s first experience at camp, the Midah “Ometz Lev”, courage, stands out. When a new camper at GUCI first realizes the courage it took to leave home for an extended stay in a new environment, the lights of possibility turn on. They start to believe in the possibility of an amazing experience and new life-long friends. They start to open up to the idea of trying new things and sharing new experiences with their cabinmates. They take their first steps to embracing the magic of GUCI.
We take great pride in creating an environment that encourages these discoveries. It’s just one of the many reasons I have the greatest job in the world.