Why We Keep Coming Back to Camp Kalsman

by Tamara Lawson Schuster & Neal Schuster, Faculty Kallah Aleph 2014

We live in Kansas.  So why, every summer, do we schlep three kids and ourselves (along with the requisite mega-duffle-bags) halfway across the country to spend a week on faculty at Camp Kalsman?

The reality is we can’t imagine not doing it.  We are camp people through and through.  Between URJ OSRUI (one summer for Tamara), years of Camp Swig (for both of us), and the old TDHS Camp for Living Judaism (for Neal), we have something like a bajillion years of camp between the two of us.  In fact, we first fell in love when we were on staff together at URJ Camp Swig in the summer of 1987.

When our kids began to approach camp age, we had a lot of great Jewish camps to choose from, and we decided that if we were going to travel for camp, why not come to Kalsman where our kids can be campers with their cousins and the kids of people I (Neal) grew up with.

As parents, camp gives our kids a powerful growth experience combining both independence and interdependence.  They now have friends in the Northwest with whom they stay in touch throughout the year, and they know their cousins better than they ever would have without camp.  And there is no other place where the sense of connection to Jewish time tastes as sweet as the berries that turn every stroll at Camp Kalsman into a snack.

As Jewish professionals, camp gives us a deeply meaningful and inspiring opportunity to teach, mentor and connect.  The things we do while we are here make a difference in the experiences and lives of both campers and staff.  We know because they tell us, and because we can see it.  Watching the personal growth and the Jewish growth – and the intertwining of the two – of the people here is one of the great privileges of our summers.  We know we matter here and we make a difference. 

And Camp Kalsman makes a difference for us as well.  It keeps us connected to our Reform Jewish Camping roots, and renews in us the profound sense of joy and connection to so much of what matters most in our lives.

When we arrive at camp, we’re greeted with the traditional excited “Welcome home!”  We have been coming to Camp Kalsman as faculty, and our kids as campers, for five years now; the place and the people really do feel like home.

Why do we keep coming back to Camp Kalsman year after year?  How could we do anything else?  This is our place.  These are our people.  This is our home, even if it is a plane ride away.

Neal Schuster is the Rabbi and Senior Jewish Educator at the University of Kansas Hillel; Tamara Lawson Schuster is the Director of Admissions for the Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy in Overland Park, Kansas.

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