by Valeria Michanie, Director of Education at Temple Solel in Hollywood, Florida
Camp is about to end but it doesn’t feel like it…
When walking around the campers you still feel the excitement. Counselors, unit heads, and all the staff are involved in making this place a unique one, and keeping the enthusiasm at all times! And this is so contagious!
Last night, I was asked…”What do you like about camp?” and my answer was very simple: EVERYTHING!
Camp Coleman is a Jewish piece of land where dreams come true! This is a place surrounded by smiles, friendship and love. Campers walk around hugging each other and singing along the way. They care for their friends and support each other. In this place we talk about empathy and we practice this value.
At Camp Coleman you get infused with Judaism. When you are here, you know that all the experiences at camp will help the campers shape their Jewish identity. Let me share something I heard here… “If you are scared of nightmares when you go to sleep, you can recite the Hashkiveinu and you will be safe. God will protect you and your dreams”. This is what a 9-year-old boy said while leading Tefilah within his unit. Isn’t this amazing? Now imagine the Bonim, the youngest unit, doing a creative Tefilah at the beach and building prayers! They did a big Shin for the Shema, and a sand phone for calling the people to pray for the Barchu. But the one that really impressed me was the castle for the Avot v’Imahot. This was a house that represented a family, and behind the house a lake that represented community, namely Camp Coleman. Behind Lake Shalom there was a huge mountain that represented Mount Sinai! These children arrived to the conclusion that prayers are always there like the sand, and that they can mold and shape them in different ways so they become yours! How powerful is this? Tefilah at camp is a time to pray, learn but also be creative.
This is my second year coming as an educator and I had the privilege of working with different ages and wonderful Rabbis. We had learning sessions that were inspiring and powerful. One of the most significant moments for me at camp was last Saturday when we did a transition from the Havdalah service to honor another very special day: Tisha B’Av, the Ninth of Av. For many campers this was the first time they learned about this holy day. The service was connected to the memorable Shabbat service led by the Israeli delegation that morning, where they helped us learn more about the beauty and uniqueness of state of Israel and the importance it has for us. On that transitioning night, we recognized that as long as Jerusalem is alive and vibrant, we will be safe. We honored Tisha B’Av with hopefulness and peace. Like when we smell the Besamim (spices), we know we will keep the sweetness of Shabbat over the week, our hope was that this special moment would help our campers remember the sweet memories of being at camp together with their friends.
Rain or shine, no one stops their routines at Camp Coleman…we all enjoy each second here, and we know these memories will remain in our hearts forever and ever.
Walking through Camp Coleman, I feel so proud to be a Jew! Each stone is meaningful, and every single person here makes you feel so good…the prayers, the music, and the sounds. The Israelis offer us their warmest expressions of love and kindness.
Special thanks to Bobby Harris, Camp Director, for making me feel so welcomed and for giving me the opportunity to join this magnificent place one more time. I would like to thank all the staff for making this place be a home away from home for everybody, and to all the campers for giving me the opportunity to share great learning experiences together. We know that at Camp Coleman we are shaping our future leaders and through them the hope for a better world.
If you ask me where I am planning to be next summer ….Camp Coleman will be my answer! What about you?