By: Ruben Arquilevich, URJ Camp Newman, year-round camp and retreat center
Children, teens, young adults and even older adults OPEN UP AT CAMP.
“My mommy still sings me a song before I go to bed”.
“Camp saved my life”.
“I almost never see my dad even though we live in the same city. My parents are separated and I live with my mom full time. I miss him a lotL”
“I still wet the bed at night. I fall too fast for girls..The girl I love may never love me back the way I love her”.
“I have a fear of heights and old fashion dolls.”
“I love to sing in the rain.”
“I love nature and sticking my hands in the dirt and soil.”
“I have been afraid of Frisbees since I was 9 and I just got over my fear.”
What is it about the Jewish camp environment that enables our hearts and souls to open up? Caring and nurturing staff? Warm, loving acceptance from peers? Jewish values that permeate camp life, 24/7? Our Nefesh (soul) program, comprised of a team of social workers and therapists? I suggest that it is all these things and more that are intangible. Ultimately, it can best be described by campers frequently sharing that Camp is where they can be their best self, feel the safest and let go of the obstacles that preclude them from OPENING UP. By opening up, they discover and learn the human path we all travel, one filled with insecurities, fear and deep yearning for companionship and acceptance. Opening up not only enriches the person who opens up but validates the rest of the community in their opening up. The sweet sentiments above was part of a program led by one of our rabbinic students, that yielded these testimonials and was accompanied by supportive blessings and commentaries from their camp community. By opening up, facing, validating and addressing our inner lives, we are all enriched and able to bring home the gift of personal growth. This is especially the case for pre teens and teens, who developmentally begin to bottle up their inner worlds, especially when it comes to sharing with their parents, teachers, administrators. Peers, along with the camp oasis, is the magic bottle opener