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By Brooke Robbins, 13 and Jamie Feldman, 14 — CITs at JCC Chicago Elaine Frank Apachi J Camp

Singing is an important part of day camp because songs create memories that will last. When we went to day camp at Apachi J Camp, we learned The Hope by Rick Recht, Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu, Artik Menta, Tree of Life and so many other songs. This summer at camp has not been a typical one because our song leader missed the first two weeks because he was in Israel. As CITs, we want to make sure our campers don’t miss out on the music of camp.

Music at camp always puts everyone in a good mood, and cheers them up when they’re feeling down. Music teaches lessons and provides positive memories to help campers remember their experiences at camp. Children from a young age learn to do things through songs, for example the preschool “clean up time” song. As they get older, campers become connected to songs and associate them with camp.

Many of the songs that we sing at camp incorporate Hebrew or Jewish values. For example, when we sing Shalom Chaverim it reminds us about being a good friend.  At lunch, groups say HaMotzi, but it is done in a song, which teaches the campers to be thankful for the food we have.

Our mission to make music a part of our campers’ daily ritual started with us singing during transitions and walking to the next activity. This is a time which can be boring for campers, counselors and CITs, but music helps everyone keep the pace, since some of our campers can walk slowly. We then started bringing in music during other parts of the day. It took a few days, but our campers started to catch on.

We are surprised about the times and places our campers start singing songs. It seems like their favorite place to sing is in the locker room before and after we go swimming. Singing might be providing some comfort to campers while they are changing or during other down-times at camp. It’s almost like singing when you go into your basement at night to keep the monsters away.

Just the other day in the locker room, one camper, out of nowhere, started singing Tree of Life. Then all other campers joined in. A few of the girls even used their bodies as drums for the Shalom, Shalom part of the song.

This felt like a huge success! Not only were our campers singing, but they were singing a Jewish song that we loved as campers and feels like camp. As CITs, we want our campers love Apachi J Camp as much as we do. It seems like we are carrying on tradition, making music an important part of camp and bringing a little piece of something Jewish into every day.