August 1st – Art is Everywhere!

Art comes in many forms here at Capital Camps: it could be through the literal making of art in Omanut (our art room), dancing during Shabbat, acting in our annual camp show, creating music during shira, and even cooking a meal down at the farm. Whatever it may be, all these things make a lasting impact on the staff and campers here from generation to generation. 

I find it so special walking around camp and everywhere you look there is something that has been left behind by people from years gone by. If you peer into Habima (our theatre space) you will see decorated wooden plaques from Maccabiah (our color war) dating all the way back to 2003. Wandering around to our amphitheater the walls of the stage are adorned with brightly colored paintings depicting our community coming together at Shabbat. If you take a short walk down to Omanut, you will see artwork on the walls from 15 years ago and messages and names written on the benches by campers and staff from years gone by. 

As well as artwork, the arts are engrained in many other experiences throughout our community. As the whole of camp congregates before each meal on the plaza for byachad you may see the dance and Rikkud specialists lead this year’s or even 2016’s camp dance that is forever in campers’ and staff’s memories. Another whole camp event is when everyone comes together to watch the annual camp show, this year being ‘High School Musical’. As the campers prepare to perform the musical that they’ve been working on so incredibly hard for every day, fellow bunk mates will be chanting “C is for the camp show, A is for the amp show, M is for the mp show, P is for the p show!”, a chant which was started who knows when! This year during our Shabbat services, we have also sung songs new to campers but familiar and known to staff members who may have been here for 18 years or more! 

Whatever it may be, art is an integral part of bringing together our whole community, and each and every camper and staff member have added to the painting which is Capital Camps. In many ways, without the arts Capital Camps would simply be an idea on paper, which in itself was a creative artistic spark 36 years ago that started the camp we have today. A quote that perfectly encapsulates the way I believe art impacts and truly changes everyone who passes through capital camps every year is:

“Art pulls a community together.. Art makes you feel differently. That’s what artists are doing all the time, shifting and changing the way you see life.” ~ Lister Sinclair 

Your Arts Coordinator,

Sophie Irons

July 31st – Journeys Out of the Village

A rabbi had a son who used to wander off into the woods. One day, the rabbi decided to ask his son why he went wandering each day. The boy said to his father, “I go there to find God.” 

“Well,” the father said slowly, “That is a very good thing. But, my son, don’t you know that God is the same everywhere?” 

“Yes,” the boy answered, “But I am not.” 

-Hasidic Tale, and a story shared on page 37 of our camp Siddur 

To me, and to numerous others at camp, this story hits home in a special way. Camp is a special place where individuals can be themselves in a way they might not be able to anywhere else. So, why do we ever have campers leave camp? Surprisingly, it’s for the same reason. 

During the summer, each village has a different campout or trip that is specifically picked for the campers of that age group. For our campers in Benjamin and Reich, they start their campout time by taking a trip down to our lake in the afternoon. Once there, they will help set up tents, do some fun programs, and help as our outdoor adventure specialists prepare a delicious dinner cooked over the fire. In the morning they will pack up and have breakfast by the lake before “returning” to camp and their normal schedule. 

For Kaufmann village, they will get the chance to get on a bus early in the morning to head to Harpers Ferry, WV for a fun-filled day of hiking, rafting, and enjoying some time doing other activities away from camp. For Macks village, the time off camp extends to spending 2 nights at ACE adventure resort. Each day is filled with fun activities and a chance to bond with one another and their counselors by being away from camp. During 1st session, our LITs get to enjoy traveling around Israel for 3 weeks together. Earlier in the summer, our CITs took part in a multi-day service trip to Richmond, VA.

What makes these campouts special to the campers is that they are separated into their grade-level groups, rather than the entire village. By doing so, it gives campers a unique experience and a chance to bond with their peers in a special way. Something about being in a place, or space at camp, that you aren’t used to, but with the people you are used to, always leads to creating special memories. Despite the campers leaving camp or their typical living spaces for their trip, to them it still feels like just another day at camp. They are surrounded by their friends and counselors but they get to try new things that they wouldn’t be able to at camp or during a normal camp day. It creates something special for each group. 

Much like the boy from the story shared earlier, our campers bring their authentic camp selves to all the places they go, even if things are a little bit different than they are back in Waynesboro. During the year, I love hearing about families joining together in the special hand motions of Birkat Hamazon or camp friends expertly in sync during a Rikkud dance at a B’nai Mitzvah. Campers and staff alike end up bringing that camp magic with them no matter where they go, no matter what time of year. 

Austin Theis

Assistant Camp Director

July 30th – Critical Thinking at Camp

Critical thinking is the process of actively conceptualizing, applying, and analyzing information gathered from observation, experience, reflection, or communication. Here at camp, we are offered daily opportunities to hone our critical thinking skills in a myriad of ways. Take outdoor adventure for example. Yesterday while I was at the low ropes course confirming that a camper had what they needed, I looked up and saw three campers calculating their next foot placements, using information that the adventure team had provided earlier, as well as observation of their suspended cabin mates in front to move across a series of elevated ropes and challenges.

Similarly, down at the lake campers enjoy climbing up and jumping from enormous inflatable lake toys. This process, disguised as fun, is in reality a critical thinking workshop, as many of the installations are quite difficult to master (I’ve tried). Campers need to not only observe each other but also rely on one another to get onto and then up the floating Iceberg, aqua-pavilion, and Wibbit inflatable tower.

Less obvious but equally important examples of critical thinking can be found in the cabins, where campers, some brand new to camp and shared living space, work on turn-taking, compromise, and problem-solving, strengthening friendships here at camp and building life skills that will prove invaluable on campuses and in workplaces years down the road.

Yes, at its core camp is about having fun. It is a magical place that for me provides the energy to get from September to May, but dig a little deeper and it’s a trove of learning experiences and critical thinking opportunities that our kids look forward to each and every day! 

Doug Putchat

Reich Village Leader

July 28th – Shabbat Shalom!

In this week’s Torah reading Moses recounts the revelation at Mount Sinai during which the Jews were given the Ten Commandments. These Commandments were carved on two stone tablets. According to tradition, the first five address the relationship between individuals and God while the second five address the needs of the community. 

On the first day of camp, I talk with each village about their individual hopes and dreams for the upcoming summer. Camp provides many opportunities for each of us to choose our own adventure. Some of us prefer the lake to the pool or pickleball to tennis. Some of us chose a creative chug such as ceramics, dance, or mystery chug while some choose a more active chug such as rock climbing, soccer, or basketball. I asked each camper to think about what they individually wanted out of this summer. 

In addition, we talked about the type of community we are building here at Capital Camps. During these first-day talks, I reminded everyone about the Code of Conduct each camper signed. Our Code of Conduct is based on values such as kindness (Chesed), treating everyone with fairness (Tzedek), gratitude (Hakarat Hatov), teamwork (Avodah Tzevet), and social responsibility/community mindfulness (Kehillah). 

As we conclude our first week of second session and prepare to celebrate Shabbat, I am very proud of the ways we have come together as a community. I admire the Kaufmann campers who took it upon themselves to help their peers use kind words and the Benjamin campers who shared the many ways they are thankful for new friends. Our LITs showed amazing teamwork as they planned and ran a mini Maccabiah program for our Rookie campers. In Reich Village, several bunks have joined together to form grade-level cohorts and Macks Village had a special program with representatives from JCADA (Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse) on healthy and positive relationships. And of course, our CITs are enjoying the hands-on learning that comes from the opportunity to work with campers. 

At camp, we recognize that each of us is created B’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God. Each camper and staff member is valued and appreciated. Everyone has a role to play in creating and building this year’s special and unique second session community. We had an amazing first week and can’t wait to see where this summer’s adventure leads us. 

Lisa Handelman

Camp Director

July 27th – The Excitement of New Experiences

Something unique about going to sleepaway camp is that you have no choice but to jump in with full force, and there are a lot of feelings that come along with this transition… Excitement to be more independent, and nerves about being away from home. Pride in trying something new, and fear that it may not go how you’d like. Happiness in building a new community and memories, and sadness that your loved ones aren’t there to experience it with you.

A lot of these emotions are like double-edged swords, but we can’t have growth and wins without challenges and getting out of our comfort zone.

Camp can be hard, whether you’ve been here for one year or ten, but the skills we leave with go way beyond the walls of our Waynesboro summer home. Returning back to CCRC for the first time in 10 years to be the camp’s first Behavior Specialist exemplifies what this place means to me; I’m so happy to be stepping out of my usual routine and facing new challenges head-on alongside your kids this summer!

Hillary Lacks

Behavior Specialist

July 25th – Starting Off Strong!

B’ruchim Haba’im! Welcome! Yesterday we welcomed our second session campers to camp. As I stood in the Welcome Center greeting each car, and each bus, I felt a newness to camp, regardless of the fact that I have been here myself for five weeks. I saw the wonder and curiosity in the eyes of new campers, and the comfort of returning in the eyes of those back again. Our staff who have also been here for weeks showed up differently today. They brought the excitement as if it were their first day of camp as well!

Cheers of reuniting with old friends and new were heard all through camp as we entered the dining hall as one community for our first meal of the session…classic pizza bagels! Hearing a full camp chant of Hamotzi and Birkat Hamazon, the prayers before and after the meal, was music to our ears. 

As campers settled into cabins, tents, yurts, and rooms, and got to know their counselors and villages, we are filled with overwhelming joy and hope for the next three weeks. We know our long-time campers wait all year to get back here and new campers eagerly anticipate experiencing the magic of camp for the very first time. We promise it is worth the wait!

Melissa Grossman

Assistant Camp Director

July 21st – Shabbat Shalom Session 2!

The song for summer 2023 is called “This is Where the Adventure Begins” and we can’t wait for our Session 2 campers to arrive and start on an amazing camp adventure. Summer 2023 will include a combination of new adventures, camp-wide hallmark programs and the return of some old camp traditions.

As we celebrate 36 summers at camp, we will be bringing back some former camp songs and traditions. Our CITs have created a Seudah shlishit program based on an “old camp” tradition. On Shabbat, after our Shabboptions (a chance for everyone to pick among several creative Shabbat electives) and a music-filled T’fila (services), we have an afternoon of free time, swimming, playing sports or exploring elements at the ropes course. At the end of the Chofesh (free time) block, we gather for a special Shabbat treat. We learned from talking to former Capital Camp leaders that there used to be creative programming to accompany this special afternoon snack. We have named the new version of this program Seudah shlishit since it comes at the time of day when traditionally families gather for a third meal. Our CITs now do a short creative presentation of the week’s Parsha followed by some intriguing questions and yummy cupcakes.  

We added some new adventures and brought back some fan favorites. We have two new lake toys for campers to explore and we have added pickleball to our sports program. Our Kaufmann campers will once again have the opportunity to go on an out-of-camp adventure which will include white water rafting. Our Macks campers will be traveling to ACE and our Benjamin and Reich campers are planning on having a campout at the lake. Our Benjamin campers will once again have the chance to make challah for Shabbat dinner and Benjamin, Reich, and Kaufmann Village will each have an opportunity to contribute to Shabbat services. 

Of course, we have all our camp-wide hallmark programs planned such as SING, carnival, and Maccabiah. We have a great staff who are looking forward to welcoming all our Second Session campers. Our sports, arts, aquatic, and outdoor adventure team have fun daily activities planned. Our cabin counselors have created both silly and meaningful village and evening programs. We are ready for a session full of fun and friendship. Let the adventure begin!

Shabbat Shalom,

Lisa Handelman

Camp Director

July 20th – Welcoming Your Camper Back Home

Every summer we rely on a deep partnership with you as parents and guardians. Before camp, you filled out forms, labeled clothes, and helped prepare your child for the transition to camp. Thank you for trusting us to care for your children. This session our campers had tons of fun, learned new skills, made new friends, strengthened existing relationships, and grew as individuals and as a community. Now that the session is coming to an end, we look again to partner with you as your camper adjusts to home life and routines. This can be emotionally and/or physically challenging; some campers will show signs of a post-camp phenomenon aptly named ‘camp sickness’. Campers may express a range of conflicting emotions, happy to be home but missing camp. 

Here are some suggestions to help ease the transition back to home life:

  • Listen to your children and ask them open-ended questions about their time at camp. Encourage your child to relive the experiences through storytelling. This can provide an entry into learning all about their summer. Help your camper ease back into the world of technology. Racing back to screens instead of taking the time to readjust can be a shock to the system after spending the past few weeks unplugged. 
  • Don’t take it personally if your campers may prefer to be holed up in their rooms, on social media, connecting with their camp friends, and want very little to do with you for a few days. Hang in there and don’t feel rejected. They’ll come around!
  • Learn to connect with the “new” child in front of you and accept/recognize the changes that they have gone through. Your camper may look taller, tanner, or just more grown up than when they left for camp. It’s amazing what a few weeks can do. Aside from the physical changes, you may see that your child has developed emotionally as well. They have probably gained some confidence and independence while at camp. They’re made new friends, tried new activities, and figured it all out themselves—that’s a good thing!
  • Ease into enforcing home rules and routines. At camp, your child was far more independent. Transitioning back to the “real world” will require time and patience. 
  • Don’t jump to conclusions. Many of our campers like to stay up later on the last night of camp in an attempt to make the magic of camp last a little bit longer. They may arrive home in need of a good shower, a nap, and a good meal. Also, your child may share some negative experiences from camp or even view the whole experience as just “good” or “ok”. Listen to your child, ask questions, and with time, a more accurate and actionable perspective will likely emerge. 
  • Encourage your child to connect with friends from both home and camp. When campers return home, they are often thinking about how much they already miss camp friends. Encourage your camper to stay connected and consider creating opportunities to get together, but remind your camper that there are great friends at home, too. 
  • Luggage and clothing require parental attention. Just like returning from a vacation, it is best to unpack luggage in a garage or mudroom. Wash all clothing including items that were not worn. 
  • As always, thank you for partnering with the CCRC team. Your collaboration with us is invaluable in making these pre and post-camp transitions as seamless as possible!

Adina, Caryn, Lauren, & Michelle

Session 1 Yoetzot

July 19th – Building Tomorrow’s Jewish Leaders

Today, we want to take a moment to celebrate the incredible impact camp is making on the larger Jewish community. Beyond providing a fun-filled environment for our youth, Capital Camps & Retreat Center proves to be an invaluable pipeline for cultivating the leaders of tomorrow.

In recent years, Jewish summer camps have emerged as powerful incubators for personal growth, Jewish identity development, and leadership skills. By blending Jewish values, culture, and traditions with engaging activities and a supportive environment, Capital Camps fosters a unique sense of belonging and pride in our campers and staff.

So, what is it about the Jewish summer camp experience that fuels this leadership pipeline? Here are a few key factors:

  1. Nurturing Jewish Identity: Jewish summer camps offer a space where young campers can explore and strengthen their Jewish identity. Through meaningful rituals, Shabbat celebrations, Jewish learning, and engaging discussions, campers and staff develop a deep connection to our heritage and traditions. This foundation serves as a bedrock for future Jewish leaders who can carry our values and principles into the wider world.
  2. Strong Community Bonds: Campers forge lasting friendships and develop a strong sense of community at CCRC. The bonds created in our inclusive and supportive community empower campers to collaborate, communicate, and engage in collective decision-making. These interpersonal skills are vital for effective leadership, and the connections made at camp extend well beyond the summer, forming a network of future leaders.
  3. Experiential Learning: The immersive nature of Camp provides campers and staff with opportunities for experiential learning. They engage in hands-on activities, outdoor adventures, and team-building exercises that promote problem-solving, critical thinking, and decision-making. These experiences cultivate leadership qualities such as resilience, adaptability, and a willingness to take initiative.
  4. Mentorship and Role Models: Capital Camps is fortunate to include a dedicated team of counselors, educators, and staff members who serve as role models and mentors for our young campers and teens. These individuals exemplify leadership qualities through their guidance, encouragement, and support. By witnessing these role models in action, campers and staff learn valuable lessons about leadership and develop a vision of what they can aspire to become.

The impact of the Capital Camps’ experience on our local communities is undeniable. Many of today’s Jewish leaders, including professionals, philanthropists, and communal activists, trace their journey back to their transformative camp experiences. As we invest in the success of Camp, we invest in the future leaders who will shape and guide our community.

At Capital Camps & Retreat Center, we are proud to collaborate with our local community partners that recognize the profound role in creating a pipeline to tomorrow’s leaders through the Capital Camps experience. I encourage you to help us explain the power of our work together to your friends, family, and the broader community, by spreading awareness about the invaluable impact Camp has on our youth and specifically your own children.  

Let us celebrate and cherish Capital Camps as a catalyst for developing passionate, empathetic, and resilient leaders who will steer our community toward a vibrant and meaningful future.

Wishing you a joyous summer and looking forward to witnessing the continued growth of our remarkable young leaders.

Warm regards,

Havi Goldscher

CEO, Capital Camps & Retreat Center

July 18th – Leadership & Mentorship

As everyone gathers in the amphitheater at Capital Camps for Maccabiah, the energy is palpable. Maccabiah brings everyone in the camp community together for 2 days of spirited, friendly competition. From sports and aquatics to skits and banners, there is something for everyone to do to contribute to their team. The value and meaning of Maccabiah goes far beyond the fun and games. The camaraderie built and leadership opportunities for campers and counselors cannot be underestimated. Maccabiah offers the chance to campers and counselors to be with people outside their normal cabin or village group and make new friends.

For each cabin, the counselors choose one spirit leader, resulting in 2 spirit leaders from each village per team during Maccabiah. This is an incredible honor for the campers and a role that counselors choose carefully. They look to recognize one of their campers and help their cabinmates cheer them on in this role as well. For many campers, it is the first leadership role they may have at camp or in their lives! 

Outside of Maccabiah, our staff makes campers feel special every day. The bond between campers and staff is special and meaningful, and our counselors take their duty as role models for campers seriously. I love to hear from counselors about their campers—who makes them laugh, who they’ve seen grow over the course of the summer, who they’ve seen help out their friends. The sparkle in a counselor’s eye when they tell me about the camper who mastered a new card trick tells me everything I need to know—they are proud of their campers, they are cheering them on, and they want to see them succeed.

The end of Session 1 is already approaching, and as your campers’ time winds down, please consider making a contribution to our staff appreciation campaign. Your gift to Capital Camps will support our staff engagement and training efforts that are vital to providing an incredible experience for your camper. You also have the opportunity to share a message with the staff to tell them what impact they’ve had on your child. 

As you follow along with Maccabiah and the last few days of camp, I hope you’ll see what is behind those smiling faces: growth, leadership, friendships, and new experiences. Our staff facilitates these adventures for our campers, and we’re so appreciative of their hard work and dedication.

Samantha Sisisky

Development Director