Intentional and Accidental Camp “Moments”

Part 3 in a series from the Association of Reform Educators (ARJE) on preparing for camp.

Last week, Vanessa Ehrlich shared with us this quote from Chip and Dan Heath: “Moments are what we remember and cherish.” This is so evident in the work that we do at our Jewish summer camps and summer Israel programs. We asked our ARJE members to share their favorite “moments” from camp and here is a sampling of some of them:

Scavenger hunt to find where God is on camp!! (After searching, campers concluded it was where Shabbat Shira happened, because when everyone is together so happy singing Hebrew songs, surely God is in this place!! – Laura Perpinyal

Watching the kids’ unrestrained joy at Shabbat song session and dancing. No one cares what you look like or who you’re dancing with. Just enjoying the moments. – Laura Novak Winer

In 1994 I had an 8 year old named Ashley who was at camp for the whole summer – 7 weeks. (We had two 3 week sessions and a 1 week session) She’d never spent a night anywhere but her house or her grandparents’ house. The parents were traveling abroad or something. She didn’t get mail. At all. The first two weeks of camp you could see her face fall every time we finished mail call. But I knew the parents were traveling and airmail was slow…. So I hoped. Meanwhile my co-counselor and I were starting to talk about if we should ask a couple of our friends or our own parents to write to her….when our cabin full of 8 and 9 year olds waited til she went to the bathroom and presented us with a stack of letters they wrote for Ashley and asked us to save them for mail call. Favorite camp moment ever. – Becca Tullman

Welcoming the campers and families on opening day! – Emily Messinger

The second after closing circle at night when the song leader stops playing and no one has said anything yet and everyone is just standing there with their arms around each other in the briefest moment of silence and perfection. – Joel Swedlove

When I was staffing NFTY Mitzvah Corps in Israel we had the first transgender participant on a NFTY in Israel trip. After much trepidation on his part, watching him at the Kotel, surrounded by people who identify as the same gender as him was the most beautiful and gratifying experience I have been privileged to be a part of. – Jessica Wainer

What is interesting is that some of these are part of the carefully crafted, intentional “moments” that we, as the leaders of these programs, create. These moments are special because we have worked so hard to create them, to elevate them, to sanctify them. And then there are many of these “favorite moments” that are not a part of the organized experiences – they grow out of them, however. We can’t make the accidental moments without the intentional ones as well; it is the intentional moments that create the culture that breeds the accidental moments. Putting camp programs together is challenging – our task is to imbue each day with just enough crafted moments that we also leave space for participants to also make their own.

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