A Camp Shabbat Send Off at Congregation Shalom
I had the pleasure of being invited to Congregation Shalom for a special Camp Shabbat service last Friday night. Rabbi Rachel invited me to light the Shabbat candles to represent Camp Interlaken. I invited all Interlaken campers and alumni to the bimah with me to sing Shalom Aleichem, to light the candles, and to sing the blessing to bring in Shabbat. The service was so much fun, and it was so great to sing! It made me really excited for Camp.
Unbeknownst to me, Rabbi Rachel invited a number of people from the congregation, who have experiences at different Jewish camps, to speak about the impact that their camp has had on their life. Until I knew this, I had planned on lighting the candles at 7pm and then head home to put my kids to bed. I had no idea that I was walking into the most beautiful speeches from Interlaken campers and staff: Adam Sadoff, Haley Shamah, Carly Cohen, Ari Domnitz, Rachel Weber and Samantha Bear represented Camp Interlaken! Obviously, I stayed until the end to hear all the speeches, and I couldn’t miss the s’mores that they had at Oneg afterwards either!
I have received permission to share with you some of the speeches from four of these members of Camp Interlaken’s family: Carly Cohen, Rachel Weber, Adam Sadoff, Haley Shamah and Ari Domnitz. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed hearing them!
Rachel Weber – rising 7th grader
Camp has impacted my life in so many ways. I am so lucky to be able to spend 4 weeks each summer having the time of my life along the shores of Lake Finley at Camp Interlaken JCC, located in Eagle River Wisconsin. Camp has allowed me to live in a community with 250 other Jewish kids each summer participating in activities that I cannot do at home such as waterskiing, sailing, ropes course and pottery. I have become very close with my cabin mates, who live all over the country and we learn to live life without our parents, depend on each other for support and have the Best. Summers. Ever! Also, campers don’t even realize it but we participate in evening programs and daily programs that focus on Jewish values and identity. One of my most favorite parts of camp is Shabbat. Each Friday night at camp we welcome Shabbat and we dress up and participate in services in the beautiful outdoors. We have a great dinner, sing and dance and the fast pace of the camp week slows down and we can enjoy each other a little more. I can honestly say that I have found my second home at Camp Interlaken, a place where I can just be me and share my summers with amazing friends and counselors, all in a Jewish camp setting. The moment I step off the camp bus to return home each summer, I begin counting the days until I can go back to Camp Interlaken. I am so grateful I have the opportunity to go to an amazing Jewish summer camp!
Haley Shamah – rising 7th grader
Every summer, I look forward to going to camp. I go to Camp Interlaken. It’s so fun to have a 4 week sleepover with your closest friends and all of the activities that come with it. And, yes, I said four weeks. So, naturally, camp becomes 1/13 of your life that you year. 52 weeks, divided by 4, 1/13. Make sense? Anyway, that’s a big part. Now, onto the impact part. Like I said, camp impacts me because of how long I live there but also because of what I do. I connect with it and get to do things I don’t do at home. Because of camp, I think of things in a different way and learn how to manage my own time. Maybe next Camp will teach me how to take a quick shower… Anyway, camp has also impacted how I see Judaism. Camp services are really fun and engaging and I have connected with my Judaism in so many ways. I think every child should have the opportunity to go to camp and connect. I know it’s helped me.
Adam Sadoff – rising 11th grader
Hello, I am Adam Sadoff, and I go to Camp Interlaken. Camp Interlaken has been an important part of my life. Not only as a Jew, but as an individual as well. I have been going to camp for 8 years.
Judaically speaking, camp has opened a new sense of belonging and a newfound interest in Judaic learning. It has shown me different lifestyles and different people from not only all over the US, but all across the world too. I have met people from all across the world, including Israel, from just camp. I still contact these people regularly. I have found new friends and became even closer with all of my previous friends from the area. Although I went into Camp knowing most of these people, camp has allowed me to create bonds that will last a lifetime. With these people, we went into camp as just friends, but we left as the best, most tightknit group of friends in the world. The effect these bonds and these people have had on my life is remarkable.
Camp has empowered me as a Jew and has made me feel more of a sense of loving and caring for all the Jewish people in the world, something I have never felt before. Jewish camp has been such a critical part of my life, and I highly recommend it to everyone, as it has allowed me to not only feel a sense of belonging, but also found me lifelong friends as well.
Carly Cohen – rising college junior
I’m Carly Cohen and when Rabbi Rachel called me a while ago to ask if I would speak tonight, I was delighted. However, it has taken me a long time to narrow in on just one of the many things that I love about camp.
For me, Jewish summer camp has been part of my life since I was 9 years old. I have been a camper at OSRUI, Interlaken, and the URJ Kutz Camp in Warwick, NY. I reflected on all of my memories from those summers and thought of stories that I could tell to convey the message of the importance of camp… of the importance of those summers on my life.
I decided to take a more straight-forward approach and talk about the skills I gained as a camper and the ways that camp helped shape me into the person that I am today. Camp pushes us out of our comfort zone and supports us to try new things. It exposes us to new activities, new experiences and new people. It helps us develop social skills and teaches us how to communicate. It teaches us how to be leaders. It teaches us to face challenges and learn the value of hard work. I feel safe at camp and because of this, I took healthy risks, set personal goals and realized my dreams.
Camp builds character. It helps provide us with the core values of a strong, moral individual by teaching us about ethics, honesty, caring for and respecting others, and taking responsibility. It helps us foster independence and discover new facets of ourselves. In addition, it exposes us to diversity, it helps boost out self-esteem and it helps us connect with nature. It helps us make friends and it creates memories that will last us a lifetime. Not to mention, camp is really, really fun!
The camp experience is a special part of our community and I hope that you will take the opportunity to take the leap and trust that you will get more out of camp than you put in.
Ari Domnitz – Alumni
When Rabbi Rachael Marks asked me to speak at the Congregation Shalom Camp Shabbat Service, I was thrilled! When she asked me to talk about why I loved camp in 250 words or less… I was worried. How could I possibly summarize why I love camp or what camp means to me in just 250 words? So I decided to focus on one aspect ofwhat I love about camp and since it was Shabbat, I decided to focus on what I love about Shabbat at Camp. So come with me, to the North Woods of Wisconsin, down Old Highway 70 to Camp Interlaken on Shabbat.
Camp Shabbat starts like most days at camp, activities, meals and songs… but then, slowly things begin to shift. You join your cabin mates in your cabin, and you clean, you clean well… much better than the average morning clean. Beds get made, floors are swept and clothes are put away. You shower or you do the lake shower, you pull out the best clothes you have at camp. Hats are hung on hooks, cabin music gets turned off and you start to hear the slow, deliberate tones of a ringing bell. Not frantic or alarming, but a call that rings through the woods, the indication that the shift is complete, it is time for all other things to become secondary… it’s time for Shabbat at Camp. As the bell makes its way up the back road and through the girls side, we collect campers, staff and ad staff and it’s Shabbat at Camp. The Camp director leads the group, hand in hand across the bridge to Boys Cabin Row, and one by one, every single camper, counselor and Ad Staff member wish one another Shabbat Shalom. Some give quick cheek kisses, others giggle and shy away, but you connect, if even for one brief second, with every single person at camp.
As the train continues past Cabin Rueben, the youngest boys join the end of the line, hair combed, shoes tied, looking their best, because it’s Shabbat at Camp. As the entire group arrives on the Athletic Field we make a circle. There we stand, campers, staff and leadership, in one perfect circle, no end or beginning, but it’s the whole Camp. The director reviews the week and give us words of wisdom and wishes for the week to come. Candles are lit, and Shabbat is here, Shabbat at Camp. Hands drop and for 10 minutes you find those most important to you, the people who truly touch your heart and you hug them, you connect with them, former counselors, fellow campers, sister and brother cabins… you hug them and say Shabbat Shalom. These moments don’t last very long, they are short, a passing glance at the best versions of ourselves, we hug, we connect and it feeds our souls. There have been 73 Friday Nights at Camp in my life… 73 Shabbat Walks… and they are amongst the most cherished days of my life.
From the Athletic field we make our way to services in our Amphitheatre and you feel the joy of being Jewish, in nature, in a safe environment, doing exactly what you should be doing in that moment, surrounded by this community. Shabbat dinner and song sessions are special, a full Kiddush brings us into the meal, and the full Birkat Hamazon closes the meal. Staff and campers stuffed with challah and chicken soup sing loud and tables are full of the joy brought on by Shabbat at Camp. Evening program is short but focused on a topic consistent with Shabbat and as the night comes to an end we join hands again. We sing, we chant, we hum, we wish one another Shabbat Shalom around the camp fire. We are never as together as we are on Shabbat, tomorrow the activities will continue, we will have services, picnic lunch and close the week with Havdalah.
Havdalah is bitter-sweet, because it’s wonderful but its closes out Shabbat. We smell spices and light a woven candle and as the sun sets on Saturday we will sing, as one unit. We always sing the same song, we make the same plea for a Shavua Tov, a good week, a week of peace. Lilah Tov camp, chugs, programs and the lake await you in the week to come. But here and now in this moment, we are saying goodbye to Shabbat at Camp. 73 times I have stood in that circle, 73 times I have hummed as the Camp Director spoke about how incredibly lucky we are to be here. In 73 Havdalah services, the group has never once contained the exact same people, some variation exists in every one of those circles, but one things remain the same, the feeling of connection to the group, not just the people in the group, but the group as a whole, you connect and you are thankful for this, because it’s Shabbat at Camp. It is quite simply my favorite time, at my favorite place in the entire scope of my life. If this has given you even a taste of what it feels like to be there on Lake Finley, sheltered by the magnificent North Woods of Wisconsin, surrounded by young Jewish people, then I hope you’ve gotten a taste of Shabbat at Camp, and if you have, you’ll have a Shavua Tov, a good week and a week of peace.