I am always amazed at the hard work of the counselors and specialists during staff week. They are so excited to learn, grow, and have fun. This year is no exception: the staff enthusiasm is palpable. This past week staff have been training on safety, activity programing, role modeling, child development, challenge course, lifeguarding, inclusion, and how to be an effective Jewish educator. We have been singing, dancing, playing sports, cleaning up, cooking, and bonding as a group: We camped at the river, went to a Tacoma Rainiers Baseball game, and now we are about to enjoy being together over Shabbat as powerful leaders for the youth of tomorrow.
The Odedim arrived yesterday and are already learning, making new friends, and having a fantastic time. There are some very talented artists, musicians, scholars and athletes in the Oded group this year; they will for sure help take the summer experience to new heights.
This summer's theme is lo l'facheid k'lal: have no fear. Our goal is to help the campers grow and overcome their fears and trepidations. In order for the staff to help the campers across this very narrow bridge, we all must recognize that we human beings need each other's support and love. Jewish spirituality lives in our midst here at Camp Solomon Schechter, and our conscientious staff are building our summer camp society. At camp, we encourage campers, and staff, to take risks. Faith is the courage to take risks: It is not certainty, it is the ability to live with uncertainty.
As Shabbat approaches, I can smell the camp Challot baking, and as I get ready to embrace the Shabbat spirit, my heart swells from the amazing opportunity to impart Jewish living, for high impact and youth development. The Aleph Rishon and Bet campers, arriving this Sunday, will certainly enjoy their first week of camp: Super fun Chuggim, new equipment, and exciting evening programs are all in store. We cannot wait for the campers to arrive! An enthusiastic, confident, and competent group of staff and Odedim are ready to great your children and bring the Ruach, so make sure that your camper is ready for the time of their life!
And we're baaaaaaaack! Camp may be coming to a close, but it’s not too late to finally release a few new episodes of the Schechter podcast. Special thanks to some of our dedicated listeners (especially one up there in BC ;) who encouraged us to make the podcast a priority and get some new ones out into the podcast-osphere before camp ended. Listen to highlights from the Derech Schechter Program and the Gimmel Basketball Tournament. Thanks for listening!
The Basketball Tournament
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I feel like a broken record talking about how amazing each week is at camp... But we really had an amazing week here at Schechter. Take a look back at some of my favorite moments from the first week of Gimmel session.
Our volunteer (Gesher) staff were deservedly rewarded for their excellent work in the Aleph and Bet sessions with a trip to the Olympic Peninsula! They started their weeklong vacation with a ferry ride over to Whidbey Island to visit the former home of CSS at Ft. Casey. They toured the old campgrounds and posed to recreate iconic pictures from Schechter’s past. Next, our Gesher counselors held a kosher BBQ and shira (song) session for religious school kids from Bet Shira synagogue in Port Townsend. Everyone had a great time!
Former Sports Supervisor Zac Dykan is visiting this week to run the Schechter World Cup Tournament! Soccer is more popular than ever this summer, following the success of the US women’s team’s victory at the actual World Cup. Campers chose the countries they wished to represent in the CSS World Cup and right now the US, Israel, Germany, Brazil, Djibouti and Guam are battling it out on the soccer field.
Tisha B’Av (the 9th day in the Jewish month of Av) is always an important day at camp. In fact, in an interview conducted last summer, CSS founder Rabbi Stampfer called Tisha B’Av one his favorite holidays.
Tisha B’Av is a troubling day in Jewish history. It’s the day the first and second Temples were destroyed. The Jewish revolt against the Romans in 133 came to a bloody end on 9th of Av. The expulsions from England in 1290 and Spain in 1492 both occurred on (you guessed it) the 9th of Av as well. Individually, each event tells a story about Jewish persecution and hardship. But, collectively, these events tell a story of perseverance and triumph unrivaled in human history. Therein lies the magic of Tisha B’Av. It’s one part a reflection on a sorrowful past, and one part a celebration of Jewish peoplehood.
This summer we are thrilled to have received a generous grant from the Samis foundation to bolster the music program at camp. The grant will go towards an official Schechter shiron (songbook), a new CD of songs we sing at camp, and a curriculum for future song-leaders. As a result, the music program is thriving at camp this summer. We have already introduced many new songs and created a new rock n’ roll style musical service.
Today is Yom Tevanut (Art and Nature Day). Art and Nature are important elements in our spiritual life at Schechter. As I type this I can see campers making cookies in pizza box solar ovens, picking fruit in the Schechter garden and working on a camp-wide mandala that will become a permanent addition to camp.
I’ve said it a million times before, and I’ll say it another million times I’m sure, but we’re having an amazing week at camp!
First off, I’d like to apologize for the long gap in camp updates on the blog. There has been so much going on around here lately that it has been impossible to find the time to write about all of the amazing activities we are running! So, in order to catch back up to where we are now, I’d like to share a few highlights from the last two weeks at camp.
Our Teva and Arts Supervisors joined forces to create the first ever Yom Tevanut (Art/Nature Day). Campers painted flower pots, made lip balm from scratch, baked cookies in solar ovens, participated in a Tu B’shvat seder, and held an arts showcase. The camp band performed a mashup of Katy Perry’s “Roar” with “Twist and Shout” by the Beatles. For evening program campers attended a Tevanut carnival, filled with games and fresh fruits and vegetables from the Tumwater Farmer’s Market to snack on.
Maccabiah Yom Sport (Sports Day) is always a huge deal at camp and this year was no exception! Sports Supervisor Molly Rubens planned a full day of relay races and competitions. The main event of Yom Sport is Zimryah (songfest), in which each team performs a skit along with a choreographed dance to a Hebrew song. The teams put a ton of effort into their skits, which tend to last about ten minutes and parody life at camp. In the end, only one team can win, and this year the Bet Session Maccabiah crown went to the Red team!
We were very sad to see our Odedim leave this morning. The Odedim are an integral part of life at camp and they tend to add a disproportionate amount of ruach (spirit) to everything they do. This year’s group was energetic, helpful and just plain wonderful to have around. We will miss them. As a reward for completing the Oded leadership training program, we sent the entire group to Mt. Rainier for a week of camping, hiking, cookouts and bonding. Many Schechter alumni look back and remember the Rainier trip as the highlight of their entire camp experience.
I was lucky enough to tag along for the last two days of the trip and get photos, sing songs, eat quesadillas and climb 5,485 feet up to the top of Gobblers Knob. When we got to the summit many of the Odedim began to pray and say the Jewish blessing over a beautiful sight. It was moving to see such a genuine expression of awe from each Oded as they peered out over Mt. Rainier, and amazing to hear that awe expressed through the Hebrew words Oseh Ma’aseh Bereshit (blessed are you, who makes the works of creation).
We headed back down for one more night of cooking, singing and sleeping under the stars. I was exhausted, sore and rejuvenated!
Our Aleph Rishon, Bet, and Oded sessions have all wrapped up now and we are cruising through our first week of Gimmel. It’s wonderful to have a new batch of campers here to add fresh enthusiasm into camp. I can’t wait for them to see all of the exciting changes we’ve made to our daily schedule, hear the new songs we’ve introduced this summer, and experience the ever present magic of Camp Solomon Schechter!
We reached a major milestone this Tuesday in our pursuit to ensure that Schechter’s future remains firmly on solid ground. As many of you already know, CSS has launched a capital campaign in order to rebuild camp’s infrastructure, renovate buildings that are nearing the end of their functional lives and add new facilities that will improve our overall camping experience!
The centerpiece of the campaign is the new Chadar Ochel (dining hall). We love our current chadar, but, for better or worse, we have outgrown it and it is in dire need of renovations. About a third of the camp currently sits outside in front of the building during meals. The kitchen staff work at a breakneck pace to rekasher our tiny kitchen between dairy and meat meals. The chadar is bursting at the seams with children, food and ruach (spirit). We have grown to the point where we have outgrown our beloved chadar.
We have a small window of time now to make the necessary improvements to our facilities due to new proposed building regulations in the municipality of Tumwater. Much of camp, including the chadar, will be located too close to protected wetlands to renovate, or build on, moving forward. That is one of the reasons why this capital campaign needs to happen now, and it needs to take the next 60 years into account.
Schechter turned 60 last year and, in Jewish tradition, that is halfway to a full lifespan. Of course, organizations often outlive people, and we hope to be shaping generations of Jewish youth for centuries to come. That hope, or goal rather, took a major leap forward on Tuesday with Sam’s exciting announcement of the public phase of the capital campaign and big news about two major challenge matches to CSS.
We are so thankful for the Samis foundation’s amazing challenge matching grant of $1.5M and for Carl & Joann Bianco’s $250K matching gift, as well as all of the other generous gifts that came in during the quiet phase of the capital campaign. We are nearly halfway to our goal of $12M. With a community as enthusiastic and supportive as ours is, we have total faith that we will be able to break ground in 2016 and ensure camp’s future for (at least) the next 60 years to come!
Yasher Koach (great job) Sam Perlin, campaign chairs Corey Salka and Amee Sherer, and all of our supporters in ensuring that Judaism and Joy will flourish in this beautiful location for years to come!
For more information about the campaign and these exciting matching opportunities, please go to from60to120.org
Assistant Director, Camp Solomon Schechter
Since the last blog post was written Israel day has come and go, the Odedim went on tubing and canoeing trips, Bet campers pitched their ideas for brand new evening programs (G6 and B11’s ideas are being run tonight!) and we are currently in the thick of Aleph Session Yom Sport!
Our camp tzofim (Israeli scouts) and shlicha (Israeli emissary) Chen Midany spent a week getting ready to transform the camp into Little Israel and their hard work payed off! Camper’s and staff sipped tea in a Bedouin tent, made pita in a Druze village, milked cows on a kibbutz, went through basic training in the IDF, fished giant puzzle pieces out of the Sea of Galilee to create a map of Israel and stuck notes into the Kotel (Western Wall), which will be delivered to the real Kotel!
The Chadar (dinning hall) was covered in blue and white streamers and Israeli flags, the campers’ faces were painted with Jewish stars and Israeli pop music poured out of the loud speakers all day long. It was a day filled with cheering, singing, dancing, hebrew and ruach (spirit).
The Aleph campers have been battling it out for Schechter glory in Maccabiah for the last two days. They completed their water sports competition yesterday and had their Yom Sport relay race all over camp today. Tonight is the big Zimriyah (songfest) competition where teams show off their best dance moves and cheers!
The tubing trip is back! Thanks to our incredible grounds crew and volunteer trailblazers we can now offer our Bet/Gimmel campers, Odedim and staff an all-in-camp tubing trip down the Deschuttes river. The trip takes about an hour, with about 20 minutes of that on the water, and the rest of the time spent hiking through the back country of our 180 acre property. It’s amazing to see campers realize just how big our camp really is. It’s even more amazing to see our veteran staff members explore huge areas of camp that they never knew existed.
Well, it’s Thursday evening, so that means BBQ down on the lower field! Time for me to go eat and get ready to help run B11 and G6’s evening program and watch our Aleph campers perform their Zimriyah songs. It’s been another full day here at CSS!