I was anxious about going to summer camp. This is my 21st year at URJ Camp Newman yet for the three days leading up to my arrival, I have been strangely out of sorts.
An unforgiving wildfire destroyed the buildings at our Santa Rosa site, so until we rebuild, we are wanderers. This summer our beloved camp is gathering at Cal State Maritime Academy in Vallejo, CA.
Newman by the Bay, as we fondly call it, is a pop up summer camp, an innovative projecttransferring the love, warmth, Jewish content and experience and inspiring community to a temporary site.
I’m the faculty dean, helping to organize and support the many rabbinic, educator, and cantorial faculty who volunteer for a few weeks to help deliver a vibrant, inspiring, love-filled Jewish experiences for the hundreds of young people who come every summer. I’m also a former camp director and longtime youth professional. Camp is in my blood. I’m supposed to be beyond the pre-camp jitters.
I wondered about my new cabin (rooming) situation, and what my new daily schedule would be like, and if my friends would be there, and if the chadar ochel (dining hall) food would be good. (Quick answers: very comfortable, very similar to last summer, yes and I’ve already made new ones, and delicious.)
And I was anxious about whether the camp staff and leadership would be able to make the transition from holding camp at our Santa Rosa site to create in Newman by the Bay a warm, loving, caring community of friends, fun, and Jewish joy.
I’ll tell you a secret if you promise that you will only share it with… everybody.
Now that I’m up at Newman by the Bay, I have seen that this URJ Camp Newman staff and leadership rocks! Like the older 12th grade CITs and 11th grade Avodanikim, I was welcomed when I arrived with great big hugs and hearty “welcome back” wishes. Instantly I felt like I was home again.
This Newman staff exudes the energy that makes camp so special. In their eidah (unit) groupings, they have been preparing with excitement to welcome the campers. They feel like a cohesive cohort of creativity. They have been simultaneously flexible with the changes the camp location brings and totally committed to ensuring that this summer will feel like the best summers in Santa Rosa.
Camp is camp is camp is camp
Location is only one part of the process. Staff’s commitment to making camp magical is the secret spice. This staff, in just a short time, has convinced me that this summer will be awesome.
No longer anxious
So as the anxiousness dissipated, I’m now fully immersed in this new-old pop up place. My home away from home. My summer camp. URJ Camp Newman. And like the staff, I can’t wait for the campers to come!