By Joshua Posner and Ramie Mansberg
You never know the impact that you will have on your campers’ lives. You never know the influence you will have on the Jewish community of the future.
As Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, entered the gates of Jacobs on Saturday night, staff and campers were introduced to the idea of camp as a lifeline, camp as a place where the unknown can occur, and camp as a time when you never know what influence you may have on the lives of others. As counselors at camp, we are in a fishbowl, constantly serving as role models for not only the campers in our own cabins but also every child at camp. We never know what small moment, program, or song will significantly change the decisions of their futures.
This, above all else, is what makes Jewish camp special. One small moment is all it takes to transform a shy, timid camper into a camper that craves to learn and interact more with their Judaism. As a camper, it seems to just happen – that moment when the camp changes you. Being on staff, you realize that we are responsible for supplying those moments, making sure the campers have the same kind of experience that we had. The type of experience that makes campers come back year after year.
Both campers and staff enter the gates of Jacobs and embark upon a summer of unknowns. We don’t know of the lifelong friends we can and will make; we don’t know the new things we will learn; we don’t know how we will grow as individuals; and, we don’t know how our lives could potentially change as a result of a single moment in time. It can be as simple as a Garin counselor wearing a hat that makes a camper feel obligated to wear hats all the time, inside and outside of camp. A song leader could teach a new song that inspires a counselor to start a career in music. No matter the moment, no matter who it impacts, it is as if it affected the entire planet, because improvising off a Jewish proverb, “Changing a life is as if you are changing the world.”
For us, there is no better place to start that change than at Jacobs. As Rabbi Jacobs said, Jacobs is a lifeline, a place that is needed to sustain the “Jewishness” in our Southern souls. No place is like it – no camp is like it – because we truly feel we need this place. “We” doesn’t only refer to the current staff and campers of HSJ, but extends to all the Jews living from Louisiana to Pensacola, Memphis to Mobile. The Southern Jewish community needs Jacobs and Jacobs needs the Southern Jewish community. Camp truly is a lifeline for not only the individuals who spend their summers here but also for the region as a whole.
As we enter into the last two weeks of our summer as counselors, we choose to live by the words of Rabbi Jacobs, inspired by the moments where “you just never know,” and the philosophy that camp is an ever present lifeline.
Josh is a first-year counselor at HSJ this summer, and Ramie is a second year counselor. They both come from a long line of Jacobs campers and counselors. Josh is from Baton Rouge, LA and will be attending the University of Texas this fall as a freshman. Ramie is from Memphis, TN and will be entering her sophomore year also at the University of Texas.