Camp Ideal - every day a celebration!
Where do I begin with so much to tell?! This summer of Camp Ideal has been the best summer ever. Six weeks of nonstop fun with the highest attendance we have seen in decades! We brought in new counselors, made many new friends, and extended our Camp Ideal family. This summer, each day was a new Jewish holiday, and campers learned all about Jewish traditions and values, even though a majority of our campers are not Jewish. Every day was a celebration!
Some highlights include blacksmithing on campus, taekwondo training and discipline with Hong USA Academy, and some amazing Maccabiah Games competitions! Everyone had a chance to try something new, and with our new chugim program, campers got to focus on a specialty of their choice each week, such as sports, art, Dungeons & Dragons, or creating homemade products for Shi’Shuk. Speaking of our Friday market, we put out a whopping 29 products made with the help of our campers and shared how to create homemade foods like challah, jams and syrups, labaneh (cheese), bath bombs, body scrubs, and so much more! In the end, over $3,000 was raised through the community purchases, and the profit was donated to a charity chosen by the campers.
This summer has taught us at the Federation a lot. We have learned to work with a variety of new personalities with their likes and dislikes, both in staff and campers. We worked together to discover the best ways to instill a sense of Jewish pride for some, and an understanding of and compassion towards the Jewish faith for others. Campers made friends from many different backgrounds, and it is always amazing to hear about their playdates outside of camp.
Shirlee and I have had an amazing third summer working with our community. We arrived the first summer after the pandemic and can hardly believe how fast time has flown. Most of you know by now that this will be our last summer running Camp Ideal and working at the Federation, for the foreseeable future. Connecting with the youth in this community has given me hope that small town Jewish communities like ours are not going anywhere. As long as the families that make up this community care about fostering a Jewish identity in their children’s lives, there is hope.
It reminds me of growing up in Benton Harbor, a small town with a rich history that had little left to offer to Jewish youth. Sure, we had a Sunday school program, studied for our B’nai Mitzvah, and family services once a month or so, but without further Jewish education, or connection to Jewish people my age, there was little chance I would find my place within the faith. My Jewish summer camp experience gave me the chance to meet other Jewish kids in other small towns that had the same struggles, assimilate or find pride in being different, to blend in with what is easy or learn that being unique is more than ok. I will forever be grateful to my parents who sent me to camp each summer, and my synagogue who saw the importance in camp and funded my summer experience.
Thank you, Camp Ideal families, and all of our community, for continuing to support Jewish youth, giving them a chance to explore their identities and grow stronger together. I am eternally thankful for the honor of leading Camp Ideal and will take what I have learned with me wherever I go.
Programming Director / Camp Ideal Director