“Do not separate yourself from the community.” – Rabbi Hillel, Pirke Avot
At Camp Solomon Schechter, we create a community where our kids can be their full selves and experience the power of belonging. Over the past two years, they have been through an extraordinary number of challenges and hardships. I was losing sleep at night worried our campers and staff would miss another summer at camp, so I created the Washington State Camp Coalition, representing the 145+ camps in the state, which advocated for the importance of resident camp at the state level. In collaboration with the Governor’s office, we wrote the state guidance for reopening resident camps. In late April, our guidance was adopted, and the state approved us to reopen. We celebrated and then shifted to the joyous work of welcoming campers back to camp.
Fast forward to opening day, Sunday, June 27th. Yes, it was 116 degrees out! (I’m still shvitzing.) We had waited two long years to see our campers arrive back at the most magical place on earth; move over Disneyland! The pure joy and energy of watching our staff welcome the arrival of our campers was contagious. They smiled from ear to ear, embracing their camp friends with monster hugs. It was a beautiful sight to see and took my breath away. It was magical, inspiring, and everything of which we could have hoped and dreamed. It was the exact antidote they needed to remember what it was like to be a kid. As that transformation set in, all the hard work to reopen camp was worth it.
Kids need to run free, be courageous, be creative, be curious, and be compassionate. At camp we create a space for our campers to build confidence, surround themselves with friends on which they can count, build a deeper sense of community, and celebrate being Jewish. Campers get to shine at camp and be the best version of themselves. It is truly remarkable. Creating a safe and healthy place for our campers and staff was especially impactful this year.
“In summer 2021, I was able to attend CSS. This meant everything to me. I had a very hard year feeling isolated because of COVID, and my dad was very sick fighting colon cancer. Camp was a place where I could actually have fun, meet new kids, and be myself. I was able to feel like a normal teenager again with other people who were understanding and sensitive to me. Camp really helped me cope with all the hard things and allowed me to have some fun. It was very important to my dad for me to go to camp.”
– Max, 2021 First Time Camper
We tried to anticipate the mental, emotional, spiritual, and social needs of our campers and staff. As much as we prepared, we were surprised in many areas. We knew some of our campers were going to struggle, we just didn’t know how much. We integrated therapists and specialists into the camp community to learn, listen, and talk with our campers. We intentionally hired additional staff to ensure we could meet the needs of all our campers.
The support system and network needed to support our campers was, and will need to continue to be, extensive. When you zoom out, summer 2021 was incredible and life changing, but it is important to call attention to the campers and staff who struggled. We want all our campers and staff to thrive at camp, but how do we continue to fully support them? How do we provide a safe community for our greatest gifts? How do we take the time to listen and not judge this vulnerable demographic?
Camp is the answer; the power of camp is real! Let’s make sure camp is affordable, available, inclusive, welcoming, filled with loving and capable childcare professionals and resources, and infused with Jewish values and immersive programming. We need to continue to double down and invest in our kids, who are our future and most prized possessions in the world.
Please join me in supporting the power of Camp Solomon Schechter and our campers with a donation of $18, $36, $180, or $360 paid today, monthly, or quarterly. Donate today by clicking here or on Venmo at @Camp-Schechter.
Zach Duitch, Executive Director
PS: Save the date for Schechter Spark. We will honor Judith & Garry Kahn, the 2022 recipients of the Rabbi Joshua & Goldie Stampfer, z”l, Migdal Or Award! It will be held virtually on Sunday, May 1, 2022.