Dispatch from Camp Newman, Santa Rosa, CA
Early dinner is over (we have two seatings), and I can rest easy having checked in with every one of our younger campers. From a distance, I watched their interactions with other campers and their counselors; I made sure they are eating (everyone seemed to like the spaghetti and bread sticks; some even had full plates for the fresh salad bar). I look for smiles (there are so many). Then a quick hello, a hug for many of them, and a reassuring “Michelle and I are here and look forward to having fun with you.” (We similarly checked in with the Or Ami campers and staff at late dinner. All are well.)
Now I’m sitting here in the Beit Tefilah (outdoor amphitheater) where the whole camp community has gathered for the All Camp Welcome. After a heartfelt welcome by Camp Director Ruben Arquilevitch, each set of rashim (unit heads) introduced themselves and their eidah (unit). The energy was electrifying as campers broke out into cheering and dancing.
The directors countdown how long everyone has been at camp. They elicit special cheering as the first year campers rise up and are welcomed. As they call out from second summer campers up past ten summers and more, my wife Michelle and I quickly count up our years at Camp. Michelle counts 30 summers at Camp Newman (and its predecessor Camp Swig), which is improbable since she only just turned 34 years old (not really)!
Then, as the energy begins to peak, my ear drums almost burst amidst the cacophony as campers shout out passionately, “I love being Jewish!” It is music to my ears to hear so many young people (and high school and college students) declare the centrality of being Jewish to their lives.
Great summertime experiences.
Yep, that’s what camp is all about: vibrant youthful energy, passionate Jewish experiences, and good, clean fun.