It’s Never Too Late to Go to Camp
by Marcia Grossfeld
For more than 12 years I have been a member of the URJ staff in Dallas, and as part of the former Southwest Council, I had the opportunity to work with two amazing URJ camp directors: Loui Dobin and Jonathan Cohen. I was fortunate to visit both Greene Family Camp (GFC) and Henry S. Jacobs Camp, participate in camp committee meetings, and partner with these camps to plan regional biennials. I learned a lot of GFC’s history from my mentor, Rabbi Lawrence Jackofsky, z.l., who was the regional director in Texas when the camp opened in 1976. Jake always emphasized the power of Jewish camps in the south, where Jewish children are, many times, the minority in their schools and communities. Although my job responsibilities have changed over the years, my relationship with GFC has continued, in part because the camp’s associate director works in the Dallas office during the off-season.
I never had the opportunity to attend summer camp and my son attended Greene when Loui Dobin first became camp director 35 years ago. So when my 9 year-old grandson expressed an interest in attending Greene this summer, I decided to volunteer to serve on the faculty if there was a place for me. Indeed there was and so, as the GFC camp song says, I “packed my Lexus – including an egg crate pad for additional comfort on the camp bed – for Bruceville Texas and headed to GFC.”
My grandson Josh attended the 10-day Bonim session and, as you might expect, he spent the week swimming, improving his archery, table tennis, and Hebrew skills, learning Israeli and camp music, and creating new and lasting friendships. Each of these activities is influenced by Jewish values, helping to create Jewish adults whose experiences will positively influence our world in the future.
A diverse cadre of Jewish professionals and college students from around the country and Israel comprised the camp’s faculty and staff cohort. As faculty I led morning t’fillah and taught bunk sessions on friendship and listening to boys and girls, ages 10-12. I have been teaching adults in congregations for several years, but this was my first experience with the younger set. During our discussions, it soon became clear that these students also were my teachers.
At every meal, I got a big hug and kiss from my grandson as we took a few minutes to share our camp stories. Josh updated me on each of his activities, and, not surprisingly, his favorite activity changed with each new experience. At one meal, he posed this question: “GG, I know you are working, but what are you doing for fun?” I assured him I was having a good time as well. With each conversation, I witnessed his excitement, as well as the growth and personal development that camp was fostering within him. I believe that he will carry these qualities long into his future.
In chatting with Loui Dobin, we surmised that Josh and I possibly were the first grandchild-grandmother team that also was a camper-faculty team. Being a little competitive, I always appreciate being the first at anything, but what I really appreciate was that my first camp experience was one that I shared with Josh and one that each of us can pack in our memory boxes. Just as Josh grew at camp, I, too, have grown in understanding that it is never too late for one more “first,”—whether it is learning, experiencing Jewish camp, or creating lasting memories.
Thank you Greene Family Camp for our special week and for all the special weeks you continue to create for the next generation of Jewish leaders!
Marcia Grossfeld is the URJ’s Small Congregations Network Director.