From Lisa, our Camp Director…
I am looking forward to Hanukkah 2022 with renewed passion. The main theme of Hanukkah is “pirsumei nisa”, publicizing the miracle. In the Hanukkah story, the miracle is that a little bit of oil lasted for eight days. We publicize this miracle individually in our homes with family and friends as we light the Chanukah candles and publically with the community by placing our Hanukkiah (Chanukah menorah) in a window. The connection between the individual and the community is likewise a central theme at camp. Capital Camps is a place where individuals are supported and celebrated as they discover their “best selves” and at the same time Camp is a place where we create strong communities, in our bunks, in our villages, and throughout camp. In addition, the intentional weaving of Jewish values and traditions throughout what we do at camp inspires our individual campers and staff to go out into the world as more confident, connected, and proud Jews.
Last week Havi, Adina, Ilana, and I attended Foundation for Jewish Camp’s (FJC) biannual conference in Atlanta. For the first time since the onset of the pandemic, hundreds of camp professionals, lay leaders, and advocates were able to gather in person for networking, professional development and to celebrate Jewish camp. This public gathering of Jewish professionals from across North America and Israel both provided opportunities for individual growth and connected us to a strong community of like-minded leaders. Capital Camps is proud to have received two grants from FJC. The Yashar grant provides funding to support increased accessibility for campers and staff with disabilities and aligns with our goal to continue to grow our Atzma’im (inclusion) program. The Yedid Nefesh grant aims to provide support to address the mental, emotional, social, and spiritual health (MESSH) of campers and staff in holistic ways. There were specific sessions at the conference for both of these initiatives. Ilana attended the Yashar session and Adina attended the Yedid Nefesh.
Our work with the Yashar and the Yedid Nefesh grants supports individual campers and helps strengthen our community. While our Atzma’im (inclusion) program makes it possible for campers with disabilities to attend camp, we have always recognized that this program benefits the entire community. Likewise meeting individual campers and staff MESSH needs creates a safe and healthy camp community. Furthermore, these programs align with our camp values such as kindness (chesed), compassion (rachmim), social responsibility (achrayut), and decency (derech eretz).
The word Hanukkah means dedication. As we celebrate and publicize the miracle of Hanukkah, let us also rededicate ourselves to our values. Let us be inspired by our “best selves” to be inclusive and supportive of others. As we light the Hanukkah candles in our homes with family and friends, know that we are connected to our camp friends and families who are likewise lighting candles in their homes. Wishing everyone a Happy Hanukkah!
Adina’s Yedid Nefesh Experience
I am so grateful to have attended FJC’s Leaders Assembly this past week. I attended through the Yedid Nefesh Initative. Yedid Nefesh (beloved soul) is a grant that promotes MESSH at summer camps. I am part of a cohort of 99 other camp mental health professionals that meet to talk about better practices for camp and the challenges that our staff and campers face today. I attended sessions with experts in the fields. This included sessions from Keshet; Bamidbar: the first Jewish wilderness therapy; Transplaining: an organization focusing on trans youth in camping; and S’more Melanin focusing on racial justice and equity in the camp world. Throughout the conference, I kept going back to our idea of challenge by choice. Many of the professionals at the conference spoke about the “struggle muscle” and how we can build that in our campers and young staff. The consensus in the room was that challenging situations use the struggle muscle, therefore, building resilience. So many of the gaps that our campers have in this area can be fulfilled by camp. Two other themes throughout the sessions were meeting staff and campers where they are at and building a culture of kindness. I am so excited to continue to work on these ideas and bring them to Waynesboro in 2023.
Ilana’s Yashar Initiative Experience
I attended Leaders Assembly through the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s Yashar Initiative. The initiative focuses on increasing accessibility for campers and staff with disabilities at Jewish day and overnight camps across North America. The sessions I attended focused on understanding and auditing the many sensory experiences at camp, celebrating neurodiversity, best practices for training our staff with tools and strategies to support the various needs of those in our community, and much more. In addition, I toured Camp Twin Lakes, a camp site that hosts transformative week-long camps for children with serious illnesses, disabilities, and other life challenges. We learned about physical and experiential accessibility and left with tangible ideas of ways to increase accessibility at our camps.
As a new year-round team member, I appreciated the opportunity to network with and learn from countless professionals from camps all over North America. In addition to the Yashar Initiative focused sessions, I attended sessions on how we can effectively appreciate our summer staff, the value of taking risks and trying new things, and strategies for staff recruitment.
I am looking forward to bringing the knowledge I gained from Leaders Assembly to our summer Leadership Team and staff, so that we may continue to live out our values of inclusion and being a camp for all, and so we can continue to create the best possible experiences for every member of our camp community.