A Suburban Dilemma with a Camp Solution

By Joe Pollak, Joe grew up in Tulsa, OK, and is a former GFC assistant director. Robin Weber Pollak was a camper at URJ Camp Eisner, is a former assistant director at URJ Camp Harlam and former GFC faculty-member. They now reside is Robin’s hometown of Ann Arbor, MI, where Joe is an admission officer for the University of Michigan Law School and Robin is the president of Journeys International.

My wife, Robin, and I have a suburban problem. We recently bought our first house and it features both a formal living room, which I call the living room, and a “family room” which I also keep referring to as the living room. It gets confusing.

Our new solution: rename the two rooms the beit am and the moadon (loosely translated: the community room and the clubhouse). At GFC the beit am and moadon are two large rooms at the center of camp with murals on the walls painted by campers and where important camp activities like arts & crafts and roller hockey take place. Outside, the courtyard outside has a fabulous view of Lake Jake and the zip line. It seems like a natural fit: we don’t have a lake, but our beit am also has art from a Jewish artist – our ketubah – and our friends also come to hang out in the moadon.

Perhaps it is not surprising that Robin and I would use camp as a model for our house. We were both campers at URJ camps. We’ve been counselors, activity specialists, unit heads, and birthright Israel tour leaders. We met at NFTY Convention when I was assistant director of GFC, Robin was assistant director of URJ Camp Harlam and, it seems, our camp friends conspired to introduce us to each other.

We’re now a few summers removed from camp and our careers have taken us away from the Jewish world. Yet lessons from camp continue to affect our lives. Robin owns an international eco-tourism company and when her clients enjoy an awesome trip, it’s because of the programming techniques that she learned as a counselor and unit head. My current boss hired me because my resume said “certified ropes course instructor” – a skill I learned at camp.

When I was 9-years-old, I went to GFC for my first summer for mundane reasons: my older brother had gone the summer before and ga-ga ball seemed pretty cool. I was not seeking a good job and a Jewish home. Honestly, as I became an older camper and then a counselor, I was not seeking those things either – camp just seemed like a fun place. Somehow the Jewish lessons and values just happened without me trying and I am very thankful that my parents did send me to camp.

So with all of the benefits that we have received from camp, it’s only fitting that we continue to bring camp into our home. My beit am and moadon are still missing one thing, but I have plans to rectify the situation. Next week I will be petitioning the neighborhood association for clearance to construct a zip line in the backyard.

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