For the past eight years, I have encouraged many families to send their children to Jewish summer camp. In those conversations I tried my best to explain the incredible benefits of spending a summer away from mom and dad, a summer spent making friends that will last a lifetime, a summer where Judaism seeps into your pores through osmosis. This has been the story I have told “other” people, as my kids were too young to attend sleep-away camp, that all changes on Sunday. No longer am I just the Rabbi who tries to encourage kids to attend Jewish Summer Camp, now I’m the dad with a kid at camp, and so I offer you a few words of advice as you head out on your journey.
On Sunday you will embark on an incredible journey. Being at camp will be the first significant time away from home, it may be difficult at first, don’t give up, the things that scare us the most, the experiences that make us the most nervous, that cause us the most amount of anxiety, are the things we have to do, they make us stronger. I don’t think I could have gone away for five nights at age 8, and I am so proud of you, you should also be proud of yourself!
A few bits of advice:
be grateful – realize how fortunate you are to be going up to camp. It is an experience that not every kid gets to do. It’s not about being special; it’s about being thankful for the opportunity.
Make new friends – you are blessed to have so many people in your life who care about you. While at camp take the time to meet new people, introduce yourself and learn one cool new fact about each of your bunkmates, they are wonderful people with amazing stories. Be curious, learn about who they are, if you are lucky, their friendship will last the rest of your life.
try and shower at least once; it’s only five days, I promise it will be worth it!
It’s ok to be homesick, it’s ok to get a little upset and miss Imma and Abba (and Leor), but then you need to jump into a game with friends or swimming in the lake or even making up a new song, and I promise, soon enough the feeling will go away. You will still miss us, but the fun you are having will take over.
Try new things – don’t be scared to try something new, from camp food to a new sport, to learning a new song. The bravest people I know are those that are willing to try new things
be Naama – you are fun, smart, caring young women. If everyone is doing one thing and you have the choice do something else, and that is what you want to do; do it. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing; just be yourself.
don’t forget the history – while camp may not be home, it is a second home for Imma, Uncle Adam, Bubbe and Zeyde. Bubbe and Zeyde attended camp, met through camp, and Ramah will always have a special place in both their hearts. And you know, better than anyone, how important camp is to Imma and Uncle Adam who both spent many summers as both campers and as counselors. Now you get to follow in their footsteps and create your own memories.
I love you so much. I am incredibly proud of you and cannot wait to hear all the amazing stories when you get home.