Today, under bright blue skies with warm sunshine streaming through fluffy white clouds, I watched a camper reach the top of our climbing tower for the very first time. The camper beamed with pride as he gazed out over the lake from 60 feet in the air, pumped his fist, and then recited the Shechiuyanu blessing- to which his friends who were cheering him on below responded, “Amen!”
A new summer has launched here at Ramah Darom and “Shehechiyanu Moments” abound! It is beautiful to watch new and returning campers arrive at camp and be confronted at once with both warmth and familiarity but also with new, challenging opportunities. Kids are making new friends, learning new songs and dances, tasting new foods, playing new sports skills, and preparing to read Torah for the first time at camp this Shabbat. New experiences help kids stretch and grow; they build self-esteem and expand a child’s understanding of the world.
On the way back to the cabins from dinner Wednesday night, several Garinim campers walking in front of me were awestruck as they turned the corner and encountered a swarm of fire-flies. Many had never seen lightening bugs before and none had ever caught one in their hands. It was an extraordinary moment of watching children encounter wonders of Creation for the first time and a moment which makes it clear why we send kids to the mountains for the summer.
There are many new programmatic additions this summer that our Campers are very excited about too. We’ve built an outdoor, wood-fired Pizza oven to enhance our cooking activities, completed an elevated boardwalk down the back of our Mountainside Campus, purchased new toys for the Lake including round boats called “Corcl” and a “Key Log” to teach kids how to log-roll like lumberjacks. If the image of Jewish lumberjacks makes you chuckle, wait until you see the photos and videos of all of our Jewish Ninja Warriors on the new course that we installed this year. The kids are loving it! And we’ve added exciting new options to our Hebrew language electives: rounding out the list of creative ways that kids are learning Hebrew this summer are balloon-making, face-painting, and magic electives.
Tonight, we will gather for our first Shabbat together of the summer. We’ve done a special clean-up this afternoon, and decorated our Chadar Ochel (Dining Hall) to reflect our excitement about this opportunity to rejoice and relax together. Our oldest Aidah (Age-Division), Gesher, will set the mood by performing a beautiful song before Kabbalat Shabbat services.