Shabbat-O-Gram Week 4
Dear parents and friends,
I have to confess, there’s something special I love about Second Session. Maybe it’s because growing up at my childhood camp in Canada I was only a second session kid? I always begged to go full summer, but we couldn’t afford it, so I’d impatiently wait until mid-July each year to be at my favorite place. Don’t get me wrong, I love First Session too – everyone’s coming right off of their school year so the energy is electric and we’re all starting together. But when Second Session begins, there’s an added element of feeling relaxed and easy, because our whole staff team has now done a first day together before. After a month of working alongside each other 24/7, we know what it feels like to move through a camp day together. It’s harder to differentiate who’s been here for years and who’s here for their first summer. Add the incredible energy of our 7-week campers and the anticipation and build-up of our Second Session friends having waited for a month to arrive, and the vibe in camp right now just feels perfect.
Welcome to those of you whose campers have just joined us! We’ve been having the most incredible summer ever here at camp. If you were here with us in person, like some of you with 7-weekers were on Tuesday for Visiting Day, we’d be singing you the Kingswood Welcome Song, just as we did Sunday when campers arrived. In honor of our 110th Anniversary we’ve been re-claiming lost traditions, and while a beautiful Welcome Song sign made by campers has lived on the wall in the dining hall since at least the 90s, it hadn’t been sung since our oldest staff were campers themselves! When we met with some alumni in the Spring to learn about what traditions were most important to them, the Welcome Song made the list, and it’s been so fun to bring it back. Now, when we have a visitor or a new session starts, the whole camp jumps up on our benches to warmly welcome our guests, reflecting how important it is to us that everyone feel at home here at camp.
Last night as we welcomed Shabbat in the Old Rec, I talked about the special time and space of Shabbat. Typically, our Friday night service is outside in our Chapel in the woods, but last night we had to make the difficult call to move inside, as the skies opened up in the moments before we were gathering for Shabbat Walk at the Waterfront. We joked about how in COVID, campers were so upset to have to do Ruach outside instead of in the Old Rec, as is the tradition, but we ended up loving Ruach outdoors. Similarly, while we were disappointed at first last night that our first Friday night service of the session would be indoors, it turned out to be incredible, and just as meaningful and spirited as if it was outside. Even with the move indoors, the ruach (spirit) and feeling of Shabbat at camp stayed the same.
I shared with campers last night that the different time and space of Shabbat is one of my favorite parts about living in Israel during the year when I’m not at Camp Kingswood. I don’t consider myself to be religious and I’m rarely in a synagogue, but I love the feeling of Shabbat there. The whole country slows down on Friday afternoons, and there’s a peace and stillness in the air that comes from a community taking a pause together. The only other place in the world that feels similarly for me is Shabbat at camp. At camp, our schedule on Shabbat slows down on Fridays, we clean up and dress a little nicer, and by Friday evening we’ve ‘broken the script’ of the week and we’re on a different schedule until Havdalah on Saturday night, when we come together on the Waterfront to end Shabbat and move into the next week. The Saturday schedule isn’t five periods of electives like during the week, and campers can choose what they want to do all afternoon. There are special Saturday events like The Big Swim, sports tournaments, and card tournaments. After a week of structure and routine, Shabbat at camp is such a welcome pause to relax and be with friends.
When I spoke about this last night, I also shared what a unique opportunity we have right now to be starting a session with Shabbat. While it can feel slow – some campers arrive and want to jump in right away – it’s also such a gift to be able to take a pause on our second full day here, catching our breath after all the changes of the last few days. For new campers, it can be overwhelming at first. The dining hall may feel more chaotic than fun. Elective sign-ups may feel stressful the first time. Living in a cabin with other kids can be exhausting, even if the idea of a sleepover every night sounds amazing. Starting the session with a Shabbat gives us a chance to slow the pace and let everyone catch up, so that tomorrow, when the first elective cycle starts, we’ll all be ready.
This week, our 7-weekers took the lead on Shabbat with staff, and the creative expressions shared during services were written by staff members Michal, our Assistant Head of Trips, and Sydra, a counselor. I learned this morning that speaking during Shabbat has been on Michal’s camp bucket list for years! Last night we heard her talk about coming here first as a camper from Israel not knowing anyone, and then returning after years away in 2022 as a staff person. She spoke about how grateful she is for the community here at camp, and how much it has shaped her into the person she is today. Today we heard from Sydra, who also came to Camp Kingswood as a camper, and returned this summer for the first time as staff. I asked if I could share her writing with you here, because it fit so perfectly with the theme of ‘Welcoming’ that was chosen for this Shabbat. In the words of Sydra:
“Coming back to camp was like closing my eyes in a trust fall. After missing out on four years of Kingswood campfires, Shabbat services, and Color Wars, I didn’t totally know why I wanted to come back to Kingswood, and I wasn’t totally sure that Kingswood would want me back either.
So with each day, I closed my eyes and let myself fall. First lunch, first cheers, first Birkat Hamazon. And bit by bit, songs lyrics poured out of me like a lost language. My body remembered the Tudo Bom dance before my mind did. Four years and several kitchen staff later, and the pasta tastes exactly the same. But all I had going in was the trust that if I didn’t know what was going on, if I felt lost, if I felt afraid, Kingswood was going to catch me.
This week, our theme is ‘Welcome,’ and on our first Shabbat together, I hope you feel just how welcome you are. Your laughs, your fears, your silly jokes, and your tears. We welcome your questions, your voices, your secrets, and your difficult choices. We welcome your lowest lows and highest highs, your goofy hugs and your sad goodbyes. But if not anything else, we welcome you to fall. To trip and stumble and know that we all will be there to catch you. After a very, very long time away, I understand being welcome in all its meaning. Welcome is leaning into a trust fall, knowing that there are hundreds of people right here are waiting with their hands up to catch you. So, to my campers, old and new, I promise you this: I welcome you exactly as you are. Lean into your trust fall. Whether you fall, or you fly, I welcome you.”
Sydra’s words could not be more fitting for this first Shabbat of Second Session. We have an incredible three and half weeks planned, and while you may not hear that excitement reflected in your camper’s letters right away, please trust that the most rewarding moments are often a struggle at the start for all of us. It can be extra tough when we start with Shabbat because we aren’t on our regular routine until tomorrow. Please know that our staff are prepared, as always, to be with your children in whatever way they need, giving them space to adjust to being at camp at their own pace. As always, I invite you to reach out to check in anytime. 😊
While we’ll be busy having a ton of fun, you can follow along through the photos in CampInTouch (use the Campanion app if you’re not already!), and through Instagram and Facebook. Our weekly session recap videos will be posted on Thursdays this session, and you can count on receiving an email update from Mitch on Tuesdays, and this Shabbat-O-Gram from me each Shabbat.
I encourage you to write letters to your kids, even if you’re sending emails too. It may seem old-school, but nothing beats the fun of receiving an actual envelope with a letter! A reminder about packages – we do not give out packages at Camp Kingswood unless it’s a flat envelope, a forgotten item our office has been informed of in advance, or a Birthday package. All other packages will be returned to you at your expense, so please kindly let grandparents and friends know too.
It’s going to be an awesome week here at camp, and I look forward to filling you in next week!