An Incredible Reunion Weekend!
I’m still thinking about the extraordinary weekend we had in Palmer, March 25-27. Over 100 campers and over 20 staff joined together to attempt the impossible – to recreate a camp Shabbat during the year. Of course, we can never perfectly recreate camp without all of our friends (and without the summer weather), but I know everyone felt that this one weekend has given the energy to make it through the rest until we have a REAL Shabbat at camp.
Each year at reunion, I am amazed by how much the little things can contribute to the camp Shabbat atmosphere. For example, this year, because the weather was relatively warm, we started Shabbat with a traditional Hachanah L’shabbat circle. All 120 people stood together, many arm in arm, as we entered Shabbat together, and focused on our Kavannah (intention) for the rest of the reunion. As we stood in the grove, noticeably empty of the 800 people who usually occupy the space on a typical Friday night, I asked everyone to close their eyes and think about the last moment that they had stood in that exact spot. Many remembered what it was like their last Shabbat of last summer, watching Nivonim perform in all-white to close out their camper years. The Nivonimers, slightly teary-eyed, recalled the strong emotions that accompanied them when they were last in the Horsha (grove).
The davening at this year’s reunion was truly remarkable. It was amazing to see how each camper slipped back into the camp mindset, remembering old tunes and words. More than a connection to camp, the reunion provides an opportunity to reconnect with Judaism during the year, and reinforces the idea that we promote all summer: Judaism is not only to be practiced at camp, but can be brought into the year and provide meaning throughout all months – even when it’s cold out! Kabbalat Shabbat in particular was beautiful.
Even the meals felt like we were back at camp! Chef Sean, Chef Plato, Jen (our fantastic allergy chef), and other members of our summer cooking crew put together delicious food reminiscent of summers at camp. Shabbat dinner was chicken soup, chicken, potatoes, salad, vegetables, and of course, Shabbat brownies. Danishes for breakfast, cold cuts for lunch, baked ziti for dinner – it was as if we had never left!
Of course, I must mention the most important part of the reunion….reuniting! Reunion provides an important opportunity for campers who live hours away (often a plane ride away) to see each other, catch up, and get excited for the summer. Reunion staff facilitated conversations about what everyone has been doing during the year, and how we can bring more of that camp ruach into our day to day lives. From the way the campers greeted each other on Friday afternoon, to the way they said goodbye on Sunday morning, you would think they had been back at camp for months, rather than for days.
Lastly, I am pleased to highlight the inclusive nature of this year’s reunion. For the first time, we had a joint Tzad Bet/Amitzim reunion! Eight Tikvah campers participated in much of our reunion program, and also had some separate programming and davening. On Saturday afternoon, we had a “buddy reunion,” where all campers who had participated in an Amitzim buddy program (peer social program) could reunite with their buddies and do a camp scavenger hunt together. This program was fun and enjoyable for all involved.
I am actively soliciting reunion feedback from all campers and families, as we’re always looking to make our programs better for next year. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to be in touch.