Wally Levitt6.19.23
I’m often asked if I spend the whole summer at Camp. Thanks to our talented Camp Director, Assistant Director and Camp team – who, along with our summer staff, do a phenomenal job running our Camp program and ensuring campers are having a great time – I am able to come and go throughout the summer, splitting my time between our Clayton campus and Atlanta office.

When I am at Camp, I’m there mostly to be a “fly on the wall”. I spend my days walking around campus, checking in with our year-round team, ensuring all our campers are smiling and staying safe, spending time getting to know our tzevet (summer staff) and guests, and generally just taking in all the incredible things that happen every day in our mountain home. During my walks, I inevitably observe many beautiful moments – the kinds of things that, as parents, we hope happen at Camp but don’t have the chance to see personally. This past Shabbat in particular, I witnessed so many special moments. I just wish you could have been here to see them, too!

On Friday night, I stood at the back of the amphitheater as almost 700 campers and staff gathered for Kabbalat Shabbat. To say it was spirited would be an understatement. I watched our Gesher campers leading the way, singing at the tops of their lungs (and interrupting the service a few times for impromptu dancing). The sense of uninhibited Jewish joy was palpable. It was a sight that would make every parent proud.

I wish you could have been here to see it.

Shabbat morning, I like to move around between several different tefillot (services). This week, our youngest campers were gathered in the large pavilion by the lake and were kept completely engaged with the parsha thanks to the creative approach led by their counselors. Our oldest campers, on the other hand, ran their own service in the Beit Am (our covered basketball court we use for large gatherings) from start to finish. It was inspiring to see teenagers trying their hand at leading davening, reading Torah and giving a d’var torah. The highlight this Shabbat was an aliyah given to one of our Vocational Education Program campers – she was able to recite the entire bracha on her own, bringing tears to the eyes of many.

I wish you could have been here to see it.

After lunch, as I walked around Camp during free time, I witnessed so much joy and so many acts of kindness. The pool was hopping, filled with adorable kids from our Gan (nursery) – the young children of our adult educators – who have become best of friends after just 10 days together. I spotted a group of Kochavim (7th grade) boys playing a pick-up game of basketball and asking nearby campers if they wanted to join in. And as I passed our large “spider web”, I saw about a dozen young campers lounging, engaged in a discussion about why they love Shabbat at Camp.

I wish you could have been here to see it.

The end of Shabbat at Camp is always a highlight, and this week was no different. After seudat shlishit (Saturday dinner), campers from our two oldest aidot (age divisions) rearranged their chairs into four concentric circles for the weekly tradition known as Sloach. Entirely camper-led, Sloach is more than just singing beautiful songs from our liturgy to mark the end of Shabbat; between each Hebrew song, a couple of campers stand up to share their innermost thoughts – why they love Camp, why Sloach is their favorite part of the week and why they are their best selves at Camp.

I wish you could have been here to see it.

And then there’s Havdallah. Words truly cannot describe the moving experience that is Havdallah at Camp Ramah Darom. Hundreds of campers in large circles singing together to mark the end of Shabbat, followed by a giant party featuring Israeli songs and dance moves that everyone knows. It’s magnificent and moving to see campers and staff of all ages and all abilities joining in with every dance. Havdallah at Camp is truly a community experience like no other.

I wish you could be here to see it.

As parents, we send our kids to Jewish summer camp hoping they will have a great time, make new friends, learn to be more independent and connect with their Jewish heritage. I’ve now spent two Shabbatot at Camp Ramah Darom this summer, and it’s absolutely clear to me that our campers are getting precisely the experience their parents were hoping for.

I just wish you could be here to see it for yourself.