6 min read

Shabbat-O-Gram Week 5

By AllyCKW July 29, 2023

Dear parents and friends,

When a camp has been around for 110 years, every space is filled with stories. Not just one, but layers and layers of years of stories. Every story adds to the legend and lore of that building, dock, or bunk, so when you step into a space, you can feel that it’s so much more than just old wood and screens. Take the Old Rec, for example. The Color War plaques from each session for the last 20+ years line the walls, almost reaching from the floor to the ceiling. When you stand in the Old Rec, you can practically hear the laughs and cheers of campers in Color Wars from years past and smell the intensity of each team’s efforts. That’s one of the things I love most about being a part of a camp community with so much rich history. Nothing is just about what you see on the surface. Everything has depth and meaning beyond what’s right in front of you, just like each camper. 

Last night, I shared with the campers that when Mitch and I came to Kingswood in 2021, it wasn’t a given that we were going to keep Camp Kingswood’s name and identity, and that it was a common question we were asked at the beginning – if we’d be changing the name of camp. I told the campers about how the first people we reached out to to learn about camp was a group of past campers and staff who still really loved and cared about camp – the alumni. I shared that it was hearing their stories and the love in their voices when they spoke about Camp Kingswood that told us everything we needed to know, that there was no way we would change the identity of this amazing place.

I told this story because Olim and Chalutzim chose the theme of ‘Tradition’ for this week’s Shabbat, and because it’s our 110th Alumni Shabbat Weekend. Many of those same alumni from our first conversations were with us last night in the Chapel! They led parts of the Shabbat service alongside current campers and staff, some of whom were their campers in years past. The alumni jumped right in, even joining to teach songs, cheers, and dances at Ruach. The first of two weekends for alumni this summer, this one, during camp, is extra special for us because it connects our current campers with the people behind stories and traditions they know. 

It’s hard to describe the incredible feeling at services last night, but I can tell you I’m not sure there was a dry eye in the house. Elaine and George Fleishler, alumni from the 60s, shared their story of meeting at camp during their one summer as counselors. They shared how neither of their families could afford to send them to camp as campers, but they had each wanted the experience, so they had jumped on the opportunity to work at camp as a counselor. They told us about how in the old days they used to sit boys and girls together at tables in the dining hall, and how Elaine was the counselor of G15 and George was the counselor of B15, so they were both assigned to table 15 for the summer. They met there, in the dining hall, and after first becoming friends, a relationship blossomed. They laughed together last night telling their story to us in the Chapel, finishing each other’s sentences. We were all glued to their story, and for the rest of the night, campers were trailing them asking follow up questions, like “Was your first kiss at camp?” and “What did you used to have for dinner?” Elaine and George said the evening was too good to be true, and that while some of the tunes may have changed, the spirit and community of Kingswood seems better than ever. 

This Shabbat, as our spaces have come alive with the stories and traditions of past summers, it’s fitting that Shabbat has been led by the units of Chalutzim and Olim together. We pair campers in those two units for our summer-long Big/Little program, and leading Shabbat together, you can see the sweet relationships developing between our oldest and youngest campers. This beloved camp tradition of Big/Little gives a “big sibling” to our youngest campers, and a taste of role modeling and camp leadership to our oldest campers, who are getting ready to become CITs. 

We talk a lot here at camp about our own stories. What do we want our story to be? Who do we want to be in the world? What do we care about and how do we show up for other people? We talk about how coming back to camp each summer is like a new chapter in their story, and how they can fill those pages however they want. Our alumni this weekend have shared their stories with us, and have encouraged campers to think about the power they hold in writing their own camp story. 

This past week at camp was full of moments that will be added to our camp stories. Little moments, like rest hours in the bunk, joking with friends in the hammocks, or running around at an evening program. Courageous moments, like the Olim girls’ day trip to Mount Sabbatus, the Olim boys’ overnight in the Kingswood Forest, or Tsofim’s trip to the Maine Botanical Gardens, where they climbed on giant carved trolls. Big moments like the four Intercamp Games teams competed in this week, coming home victorious from the 15 and under soccer game at Camp Wigwam. 

As we head into this next week at camp, we’ll do so with the voices of camp alumni fresh in our minds. “Don’t waste a moment of your time here,” “It will be over before you know it,” and “I wish I could just have one more day as a camper,” are some of the comments I overheard alumni sharing with campers around the Waterfront earlier. I know campers are taking these messages to heart, and I couldn’t help but smile when I heard one camper telling a past counselor of hers that she promises she’ll make every moment matter, and she won’t waste a single moment on silly things like drama in the bunk. 

As I head into this week I’ll do so with the voices of George and Elaine in my head, complimenting how friendly and warm our campers were to them, and sharing their awe of all the activities we have here at camp now. We’re starting our second elective cycle, and at sign-ups today kids were talking about how hard it is to choose what to pick! I’ll be thinking about all the alumni who came up to tell me how happy they are to be here in person, because they want to tell their camp friends that Kingswood is still Kingswood, and camp still feels like home. I like to think we’re a pretty special community, but it’s great to have the stamp of approval from those who love this place most. There’s no greater compliment than hearing that the vibe of camp feels great. 🙂 

Tonight we’re celebrating Halloween in July, and I’ve got to go finish my costume plan. I love programs like this at camp, where creativity and a little Arts & Crafts leads to the most hilarious costume ideas. As you can tell by the timing of this email, it’s been a busy Shabbat, and it’s been hard to tear myself away from the action in camp! Stay posted for pictures to see what costumes we all come up for tonight. Also look for clues about another big program starting soon…

Have a great week, and as always, be in touch if you want to check in!

Shabbat shalom,