Coming Home to Camp & Ourselves
by Stacy Rosenthal, RJE
After a year at home, it is time to come back to our other “home” again.
We are rapidly approaching our opening day of Camp Stein on June 1. 2021. To prepare, we spent a weekend at camp with our Admin staff – a cadre of college students who all grew up at Camp Stein, literally before our very eyes. A comment was made about the Admin team being like cousins. They know so much about each other and even though they go to different schools, camp is the place they come home to – their place to recalibrate and reset.
It didn’t take long before old jokes and “remember whens” morphed into conversations about how difficult the past year has been. When it became time for “Limud”, our dedicated time for Jewish learning, there was the telltale shuffling in the chairs and looks that this was something they were not really looking forward to. I presented them with a copy of the La Bri’ut curriculum, a program guide designed for building resilience in campers this summer after experiencing a traumatic year. We dived into a discussion about Chesed, or compassion, and gave them each the opportunity to see the Jewish values hidden within. They would not just be supervising their counselors and campers at Limud. They would be leading them and making meaningful connections to time-honored tenets of Judaism.
Dr. Betsy Stone, a renowned educator and clinical psychologist, compares resiliency to a rubber band, with a return to sameness when stretched. As we prepare to return to camp after a year of Covid and all of the feelings that accompanied this dark time, we explored the difference between resilience and growth, which is epitomized by a forward-thinking mentality. I introduced some of the behaviors to notice amongst campers and staff and how we process collective trauma.
At this point, something unexpected happened. The Admin team transitioned from talking about campers and started sharing their own mental health struggles over the past year. Rabbi Stephen Kahn led the group in an exercise to discuss what was lost, what was loved, what was missed, and what was learned. There was a great deal of emotion in the room, as staff came together to truly create a kehila kedosha, a holy community, even though we are all a little broken from the past year.
Together we are tasked with the holy work of not only rebuilding but also recognizing that mental health is a vital part of camper care. At Camp Stein, we are immeasurably grateful to have the opportunity to partner with FJC to prioritize healing and wholeness this summer. La Bri’ut! To our health and wellness!
Stacy is the Senior Director of Education and Youth Engagement at Congregation Beth Israel in Scottsdale, Arizona. This summer, she will be spending part of her summer as an educator at Camp Stein in Prescott, Arizona. She is looking forward to being back at camp, in person, this summer!