May Camp Newsletter

From Lisa, our Camp Director…

“All my bags are packed and I am ready to go”, the song written by John Denver, can be heard on the last night of camp as candles float in the lake. In May, this song takes on a new meaning as we pack up our bags to head to camp. Our Dining Staff have already begun arriving at camp. In 26 days, our Ropes Course and Lifeguard Staff will arrive to begin their training. And in just 34 days, we will have our full summer team together to kick off staff week. Every summer is special in its own way and Summer 2023 is positioned to be a summer full of celebrations.   

This year we are celebrating our 36th (double chai) Anniversary! Our tagline “Individual Growth, Collective Future” encapsulates the impact on each person who comes to camp and how our work together will impact the Jewish community of tomorrow. At our recent summer Leadership Team gathering, we discussed the many skills learned at camp including, independence, responsibility, collaboration, and increased confidence. Together we build strong communities where each individual’s uniqueness shapes the communal experience.

This summer we will also be celebrating Israel at 75.  A connection to Israel is strongly embedded in daily life at camp.   The cabins in Benjamin are named for Israeli cities, Reich cabins are named for Israeli mountains, and Kaufmann cabins are named for Israeli Kibbutzim.  Part of our Shabbat experience at Camp includes Rikkud, Israeli dancing. We sing the Israeli national anthem, Hatikvah, every morning at B’yachad (our daily gathering at the flagpoles).  Talented Israeli staff join us each summer.  And our LITs will be traveling to Israel! It’s an amazing experience for each individual going and an opportunity for our leaders-in-training to return with programming ideas that will positively impact all of camp.

We are very excited about all the new things planned for summer 2023. From the highest point up in Kaufmann Village all the way down to the lake, there are new structures and new elements.  We will be adding a new sport to our sports rotation and a new element hanging on our static tower on the Ropes Course. Our CITs are poised to create a new Saturday afternoon tradition and our Kaufmann campers will once again be traveling off-camp for an outdoor adventure.  As part of our 36th anniversary celebration, we have invited alumni song leaders to join us.  We have enhancements planned for our staff including additions to our staff lounge and increased mentoring support. 

The Capital Camps team and I have the greatest job ever.  Every summer we get to help our campers and staff grow as individuals.  We are in the business of Jewish identity building.  We focus on Derech Eretz, commonly translated as “the way of the work”.  Derech Eretz is the code of behavior that includes integrity, kindness, and compassion.    And we get to do this in fun and joyful ways and by creating meaningful challenges and shared experiences.  We’re packing our bags in anticipation of all Summer 2023 will offer.  We can’t wait to start celebrating!

Home Hospitality – Supporting our Staff

We need your help and involvement in making our Home Hospitality program a success. This program not only offers us the opportunity to demonstrate our Jewish values and shows our appreciation for our hardworking counselors, but also enables us to meet legal requirements connected with hiring international staff.  

The majority of these individuals come to camp on J-1 visas, which requires cross-cultural exchange elements.  Our summer staff Engagement Coordinator creates events throughout the summer to intentionally integrate our international and domestic staff so both groups can learn from one another. Home hospitality, an opportunity for our international staff to stay with a family before camp, during intersession, and on days-off during the summer is another important component of this program. The Department of State provides examples of appropriate exchange activities which can include: opportunities to learn about American culture, history, philanthropy, volunteerism, sports, recreation, etc. Conversations about all of these topics happen naturally when families invite international staff into their homes. 

Those of us who have participated in Home Hospitality for Capital Camps international staff can attest that this is a relatively easy mitzvah to perform. 

  • Our staff are generally looking for a welcoming place to rest on their time off. 
  • Most families offer Home Hospitality to two or four guests, but some can accommodate more. 
  • A pullout couch or air mattresses are fine and some welcome the opportunity to do laundry. 
  • These independent and self-reliant young adults appreciate a ride to the Metro so they can explore the museums in DC or being dropped off at a nearby shopping mall. 
  • Sharing a meal or two together is a nice addition and if staff is staying with you on a day-off during the work week, there is no expectation to alter your regular work routine. 

I fondly remember a group of Israeli staff who stayed with us, walking to and from the Metro from our house and surprised us by making us shakshuka in the morning before they left.    

Home Hospitality is also a powerful way to demonstrate kindness and live our Jewish values. Abraham and Sarah provide us with inspiration for hakhnasat orkehim/hospitality to guests.  Abraham didn’t wait. He rushed to greet visitors and made sure they were comfortable and satiated. Several of our holidays also stress the important of inviting others into our homes.  We begin the Passover Seder welcoming anyone who is hungry. During Sukkot some ceremonially welcome ushpizin (Aramaic for guests) into their sukkah by inviting Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, and Da. Each of these biblical leaders were uprooted and strangers in new lands. And I know my own Shabbat table is enriched when we have guests join us for Friday night dinner.  

We encourage everyone who is able to get involved with Home Hospitality this summer. Being a welcoming and inclusive community is one of the core values of Capital Camps. Please join us by completing this form to let us know how you can be involved.  

Thanks in advance,

Lisa Handelman 

Camp Director