By Bobby Harris | Camp Coleman Director
As we near the end of our summer at camp, our oldest campers are customarily given time to speak at services and reflect on their days as a Coleman camper coming to an end.
It is an intense moment for them as they begin to understand the preciousness of time and more deeply understand that there are certain milestones we go through only once or a few times and do not experience again — the bar or bat mitzvah is perhaps the first encounter with this feeling, and their final year as a camper, in many cases, affects them even more profoundly.
The camp environment lends itself to creating these memorable experiences because it exists in a place unique both in time and in geographic space.
Throughout the year, most of our campers live in residential suburban neighborhoods far from the mountainous forest and rural countryside where we live at Coleman. Campers spend the majority of their year — 10 or 11 months — living in a particular neighborhood and attending a particular school. Their summer pilgrimage to the North Georgia mountains of Coleman therefore becomes a unique and special experience — the place where they can mark and internalize their growth from year to year.
The final Shabbat service of this summer included the Ten Commandments, and it provided us a wonderful opportunity to reflect on how we might take the wonderful magic of Jewish living at Camp Coleman and bring a little of it into our lives at home for the next 10 or 11 months.
Rabbi Bradd Boxman, who has spent 29 years at Jewish summer camp and leads a congregation in Parkland, Fla., offered the following “10 Ways to Feel Closer to Camp All Year Long. This Rosh Hashanah is a great time to rededicate ourselves to this effort:
- Start counting the days until Coleman 2016. For those completing 10th grade, count the days to participate in Coleman/NFTY Israel Adventure.
- Get involved in your temple youth group or junior youth group back home. Attend any Coleman reunions. If you’re in NFTY, go to as many regional conventions as you can.
- Talk about camp with your friends back home and persuade them to give Coleman a try.
- Give your parents the biggest hug ever when you see them and thank them for sacrificing so much to be able to send you to camp.
- Write a thank-you note to any organizations, such as your temple and the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, that helped your family send you to camp. In 2015, our local Federation enabled 525 children to experience the magic and joy of Jewish summer camp. Special thanks to chairs Mark Silberman and Joel Arogeti for their efforts in building local support for camp.
- Write a blog about your camp experience to put on your temple website or send it to Camp Coleman, where we can post it on our website.
- Since you know it, lead the Motzi and Birkat Hamazon at home or at your temple whenever you have a meal.
- Stay connected with your camp friends old and new.
- Keep in mind and practice Coleman’s four core Jewish values every day and in everything you do — kavod (respect), chesed (kindness), shalom (peace and wholeness) and kehillah (community).
- Go on the Coleman website, get the apple brown Betty recipe, and make it for your family on Shabbat and Rosh Hashanah.
It’s true that it is impossible to replicate the 24/7 immersive environment of Coleman, but these 10 recommendations can serve as a bridge to transition from summer 2015 to 2016 and to build an even stronger Jewish community in 5776.