Maybe that’s all a family really is, a group of people who miss the same imaginary place

This is the end of summer speech given by Rachel Fraade – Nivonim Camper 2010

            Every bunk I have lived in has been
decorated in a different way. From Israeli movie posters, to themed Nikayon
charts, to Tiki lights, I’ve seen it all. But the adornment that has stuck with
me the most is a piece of paper on the wall of my Machon bunk that bore the
quote, “Maybe that’s all a family really is, a group of people who miss the
same imaginary place.” This single sentence, more than anything else, sums up
the meaning of camp, why we return year after year. Camp is a family, first and
foremost. It is a home. I have spent eight years – half my life – swimming in
the agam, eating in the chadar, and praying Kabbalat Shabbat in the Grove, and
the paths of camp are just as familiar and far more dear to me than the streets
of my hometown. The community here is open, accepting, and loving to all who
enter it, turning 01069 into more than just a zipcode: it is a number we carry
with us always, etched into our very beings. Camp is a refuge from the cares of
the everyday world, a place where I can be myself and know that my friends, my
edah, my community, will still be there for me unconditionally. The second I
enter the gates of camp I am safe and happy, enveloped in the bubble that
surrounds 39 Bennett St.

is a place unlike any other. It is the most real place in the world – but at
the same time, it is as unreal as anywhere can be. Camp is where I grew into
the person I am today – it shaped me in every aspect of my life, giving me a
strong Jewish identity, my best friends, and a true home. When I look at my
life, I see Palmer. Camp grounds me, supports me, and is with me every step I
take. I talk about camp constalntly; I count down to the first day of camp
every year; simply put, I live 10 months for 2.

makes camp so special, so irreplaceable? The essence of camp cannot be
described. In a way, camp is real because it is so relative. It is an
eight-week blur of faces, songs, and activities – yet, each memory is more in
focus and makes more of an impression on me than anything from the real world.
Camp is what you make it. It is real to us, but to those who have not seen the
spirit of Color War, who have not stood in a circle for Havdallah and watched
the flames flicker to usher in a new week, who have not witnessed the
Yehuda-mobile, it is incomprehensible. Why do we want to live in tents for a
summer? Why does the song Oof Gozal make us break down crying? It is because
camp is the people, the community, the traditions. Camp is real because of the
things that are indescribable, the experiences that do not make sense until you
have had them for yourself. Camp is real to us because it is so unreal, because
the things that make it so special to us are intangible. You cannot describe
stargazing with your friends on the migrash or recreate walking through the
Shabbos gates. You can take as many pictures as you want in a summer, but they
won’t capture the things that make camp what it is – those are in the memories,
the friendships, and the legacy you leave on camp. People ask us, why do we
love camp so much? Why are our rooms covered with photos and Shabbat-o-grams?
The answer is that camp is a family, an interwoven net of connections,
laughter, and love. It is a net that cannot be described or replaced; but most
importantly, it is a net that will never, ever, be broken. Shabbat shalom.

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