Daily Newsletter – June 25, 2019

Good morning Friends of Capital Camps!

At the beginning of each summer, our campers and counselors create rules and expectations for their cabins and villages.  The goals are the same in every age group: we want our communities to be kind, respectful and supportive.  When our campers and counselors created rules for their cabins during the first 24 hours at camp, they began building a Sukkat Shalom – a shelter of peace and wholeness.  

During staff week, our Atzma’im (Inclusion) counselors and CCI (Capital Camps Institute for Leadership & Learning) Fellows, were trained in Mental Health First Aid for Youth.  This training is part of a national initiative to increase mental health awareness and literacy, and it is part of our local Jewish Federation’s Living Well Initiative.  Through the National Council for Behavioral Health, approximately one million individuals have been trained in Mental Health First Aid.  This training provided our counselors additional skills to build a Sukkat Shalom – a shelter of peace and wholeness. 

The training breaks down stigma surrounding mental health, while teaching specific skills related to listening, reassuring and encouraging support.  Our counselors learned best practices in assisting a young person, who may be in the early stages of developing some type of mental health challenge.  They also learned additional ways to support the social and emotional needs of all campers.  When our counselors say, “I am listening, please talk to me,” or “I’m on your side,” or “I will do whatever I can to help you,” they are building a Sukkat Shalom – a shelter of peace and wholeness

While camp is often described as a safe, protective “bubble,” the image of a Sukkat Shalom seems more appropriate.  Building a shelter of peace and wholeness requires us to acknowledge human strengths and weaknesses, while believing in the unique potential in each of us.  It requires us to come together and to know that we are not alone, as we build a cabin, village and camp community.  During a conversation I facilitated with a group of Benjamin Village campers (entering grades 3-5), we discussed how counselors and friends are here to support one another. 

In Reich Village (entering grades 6 and 7), a cabin group explained the ways in which their cabin’s rules are inclusive, as well as that fairness means ensuring that they treat others how they would like to be treated themselves.  While it’s just a few days into camp, our campers are already building a Sukkat Shalom – a shelter of peace and wholeness. 

Rabbi Elliot Kukla wrote a prayer for healing mental health.  The prayer concludes with the words, “May we not be alone on this path, but accompanied by our families, friends, care-givers, ancestors, and the Divine presence.  Surround us with loving kindness, grace and companionship, and spread over us a Sukkat Shalom – a shelter of peace and wholeness.  And let us say: Amen.”

I am very proud to be part of our Sukkat Shalom here at Capital Camps.

Have a great day!


Lisa Handelman
Inclusion Coordinator