I know that I am not the first person to say this but at times I feel that if I ever come back in another life, I wish I could be my children. I am aware that it is our responsibility as parents to provide our children with as many opportunities as we can but one aspect of my children's lives that always make me a bit jealous is the fact that they go to overnight summer camp every year. When I was a child, my sisters and I attended a few local day camps and I did go to basketball camp for a week at a time, but I never had the opportunity to spend eight weeks away from home in a safe, supportive environment like camp. I saw the camp experience as a young adult, spending ten summers working at two different Camp Ramahs so I know how impact-full a summer camp experience can be. It was during these summers that I began to see myself as a Jewish educator. It was at Ramah that I began to push my own personal limits of what I was capable of achieving and it was in the camp environment that I learned the importance of experiential education. (This was after spending my first few summers at Camp Ramah running the sports program where the most important thing to me was the Shabbat afternoon softball game.)
Summer camp is a place for young people to explore and grow all without the burdens of school work and every day stress. Summer camp can be a place for young people to find role models who can have an impact on them in a way only a bunk counselor can. Camp can also be a place for young people to spend time with people of different ages to experiment with new opportunities, ask some of life's tough questions and find support from people who share one important thing - they are all in the same camp for the summer.
There have been many studies done that demonstrate the impact a summer camp experience can have on a child and how much it can impact the decisions they make for a life time. Every camp has its history and its stories and its legends of great camp moments including things that can never happen at home or at school, but rather only at camp.
In the coming weeks, many of our young people will get on the bus to take them to their summer home - their home away from home - to camp. There may be a few minutes of sadness for both the campers and parents as the bus hits the road. But at the other end of that bus ride, the young people will arrive at camp and begin another summer of personal growth, learning, exploring and fun. Isn't that what summer should be all about?
I want to wish everyone a happy and productive summer. I plan to spend some time away in the coming weeks and also a good deal of time in July and August preparing for the new year. We have some new staff at TJC to bring on board and we have some quieter time to prepare for the High Holidays and the year ahead. When you are home over the summer, I hope that you will make time to come by TJC for a Shabbat service or one of special services such as Shabbat Under the Stars or our Playground Shabbat that will be listed in the newsletter. I am also available if you just want to make an appointment with me to talk. I know that my plans for this summer will be very different than they were last summer because I have no surgeries scheduled, thank God.
I hope whatever you plan to do this summer, you will have the opportunity to refresh, to explore, to learn and to grow - whether you are at camp, on vacation, in a new environment or here at home. I wish the young people in our congregation who will be attending or working at a summer camp to have an amazing summer and I look forward to seeing you all again in September.
Happy Summer and Shabbat Shalom.
Rabbi Adam Feldman