As we approached the last Shabbat of this session, we paused and reflected on our wonderful week here at Camp Ramah Darom. By far, the highlight of this past week was “Yom Sport,” our version of a Camp Olympiad – a celebration of sport, spirit, creativity, and collaboration. Our Gesher campers planned this entire day for the community as part of their Leadership Development program. The Gesherniks chose “The Lion King” as their theme for the day and divided the Camp into four teams, each named for a character from the movie and the character’s most defining attribute: Zazu – Loyalty (Blue); Nala – Responsibility (Yellow); Rafiki – Wisdom (Green); and Timon & Pumba – Friendship (Red). I was thrilled by the enthusiasm and level of sportsmanship exhibited by all of our campers throughout the day. And I was sincerely moved, not only by the effort and creativity of our Gesher campers, but by the models of leadership that they demonstrated to all of the other kids in Camp. They have grown into an amazing group – exceedingly kind, helpful, and inclusive. We were so proud to put them in the spotlight!
We woke up the morning after this fantastic Yom Sport and had the opportunity to celebrate Rosh Chodesh – the beginning of the new month Hebrew month of Tamuz. We brought multiple age-groups together and joined in musical tefilot (prayers) with guitar and percussion accompaniment. Then, only two days after scrubbing off face-paint and cleaning up streamers from Yom Sport, the entire camp was once again dressed-up and decorated. This time is was Red, White, and Blue in honor of the Fourth of July. The whole community lined-up on our Kikar, the main lawn in front of the Chadar Ochel (Dining Hall) to sing the “Start Spangled Banner,” recite the “Pledge of Allegiance,” and dance to some classic Americana (a rare event since normally only Hebrew music plays through our loudspeakers at Camp).
In some ways, it felt like this past week was a string of special days and big celebrations. (I haven’t even mentioned the Inter-camp Sports competition against Camp Coleman, the big rock concert from the Nivonim (10th grade) Rock Band, or the full-scale musical production of Aladdin last night put on by the Drama Elective.) Yet despite all the interruptions from our daily activity schedule, the rhythms and values of the Jewish lives we lead here at Camp have come to feel regular and familiar to our campers. Ending meals by expressing gratitude and cleaning up after ourselves no longer requires guidance or even instruction. Hebrew words and phrases roll off tongues without thinking. Gestures of kindness and helpfulness, looking out for friends and the needs of the group, are commonplace and unprompted.
Today our campers returned home with a few more freckles, wrists full of friendship bracelets, some new tan-lines from their Chaco sandals and ready for haircuts. We hope that they will be bringing home excitement if not passion for the values and commitments which they’ve developed at Camp over the past month with us.