by Rabbi Lauren Cohn, Director of Children and Youth Programs at Temple Emanu-El in Atlanta
While this is my fourth summer on faculty as a rabbi-educator, it’s my third summer as a fly on the wall. More specifically, it’s my third summer as a parent while I’m a faculty member. As such, I’m afforded a unique perspective: I have the luxury of watching my children, Micah and Tali, as they interact with their bunkmates, counselors, specialists, and senior staff.
When I came to Coleman in the summer of 2009, URJ camps weren’t new to me. I spent many summers at URJ Greene Family Camp, beginning as a camper and ending as a unit educator. Along the way, like countless others, I grew: personally, ethically, Jewishly, and spiritually. In many ways, the person I am today is part and parcel to what Jewish camp gave me: the freedom and encouragement to try new things, life-long friends, opportunities to stretch my wings and soar as I learned to make my way in the world, and profound religious experiences in a Reform Jewish setting that formed the foundation of my decision to become a Jewish professional. And I wanted the very same for Micah and Tali and this why I will only send them to URJ camps. Without a doubt, my children are getting this from their time at Camp Coleman, but to actually be able to see it happen is a blessing.
Watching my kids giggling with their friends, bonding with their counselors, or playing cards on the beach of the lake may seem like ordinary moments at camp, but it’s the compilation of all those ordinary moments that makes their time here extraordinary. Watching Micah as he discovers his inner artist in ceramics or watching Tali sing a Hebrew song during Tefillah (services) with her arms around her friends fills my heart with joy and lets me know sending them to Coleman is the right decision for all of us. And then there is the Israeli Delegation made up of members of the Leadership Team, counselors, and specialists. Knowing, and seeing, my children forming significant relationships with this amazing, talented and giving group of people, who bring so much love and ruach (spirit) for Israel so that our homeland is so much a part of what camp is, makes me proud. More than this, it makes me tremendously grateful that when Micah and Tali think of Israel when they are not in camp, their thoughts will be of the names and faces of people there who hold an important place in their lives.
Being a fly on the wall isn’t just about Micah and Tali’s growth; it’s also about mine. When I see one of my kids have a sad moment, I can’t swoop in and take him/her into my arms. As hard as that is, I have to remember that that is the job of their counselors and their unit heads or one of the many other people here who love and care for them. This is what they have been trained to do. Not once have I been disappointed by how those moments were handled.
In four days, Micah and Tali, and I will successfully end another summer at camp. Each of us, in our own ways, has grown, and learned, and loved. Their sights will be set on next summer when they return to Coleman as campers. I look forward to next summer when I can be a blessed fly on the wall once again.