By Sarah Braslow, Summer Marketing Intern
Growing up at camp has been one of the best upbringings I could have ever imagined. No offense to my parents, who (thankfully) sent me to camp in the first place, but I have learned a lot about myself in these past few years. From my people skills to my Jewish identity, Henry S. Jacobs Camp has shaped me into the person I am today.
But enough about me… Let’s get down to the real reason I was so inspired to write this post. I am not the only person in my family who has grown up here at Jacobs Camp. My younger brother, Jeremy, is serving as a first-year counselor this summer.
Before last summer was even over, I had already made the decision to come back to camp for Summer 2013. It was not because I was offered this wonderful job as the Marketing Intern (that came much later), or because I wanted to be one step closer to getting my Five Year Jacket (although that is a nice perk), but because I knew that my brother was coming back to be a counselor, and having the chance to work side-by-side with him is an opportunity I wouldn’t miss for the world.
When Jeremy and I were growing up, we never really fought, but we were not all that close either. It was not until he and I started going to camp together that things began to change.
I don’t remember much about what it was like when we were both campers together. I was too engrossed in my own cabin life to notice what the kids two years younger than me were doing. The summer I remember truly being able to see and feel the shift in our relationship was my first summer on staff. My brother was still a camper then, in the oldest unit, Chalutzim.
To be completely honest, I did not even realize it was happening at first. Older staff members constantly came up to me after seeing my brother and I together at song session and Shabbat festivities telling me “how adorable” we were and saying things like, “I wish my sibling and I were that close.” It took me a long time to see the big picture. I was not seeing what everyone else was. Comment after comment about our relationship made me open my eyes, and that’s when I really started to pay attention to the magic that was taking place.
My brother was growing into something more than just my sibling right before my eyes. He was turning into my best friend. He was suddenly someone I could hang out with when all my friends were out of town; someone I could confide in when my feelings were hurt; and someone who I have felt overwhelming pride in as I have watched him grow up.
My brother was never the most outgoing kid when we were younger. (He is probably going to have my head for saying this, but it’s true.) Everything took a turn when he immersed himself in the magic of Jacobs Camp. He completely changed from the quiet kid that played too many video games and kept to himself; he even chose to spend the past year as NFTY-Southern’s Programming Vice President. Now if that isn’t a complete 180, then I don’t know what is.
His various skills that were fostered at HSJ have propelled him to do things I never imagined he could do. He is turning into everything I aspire to be in life: a great leader, role model and mentor. Watching him interact with his campers makes me extremely proud to call myself his big sister.
I’ve been called by my last name by close friends and peers for the majority of my life, but now when someone shouts, “Hey Braslow, nice job!” I have to turn around and make sure it isn’t my brother they are talking to (and it usually is). I like to think that my brother used to look up to me when we were younger. Now, the roles have reversed…I look to him for guidance and advice.
With my brother entering his freshman year at LSU and me entering my junior year at the University of Alabama (a heated rivalry, I know), HSJ becomes more important to us than ever before. It is our portal of communication. It is the place that we can come back to in one year or twenty years and act like the same goofy kids we always have been. It is the sanctuary where we both discovered our Jewish identities. It is our safe haven and our home. It shaped who we are today.
I like to make sure I spend each Shabbat here with my brother. It’s the one time each week I get to spend some quality sibling time with him. I sit with him at meals, dance with him during song session, and put my arm around him when we get to the closing song of the night, the Shehecheyanu.
As you celebrate Shabbat this week, with whatever traditions you may have, take a moment to think about your family and how important it is to you and hug them close.