By: Rabbi Paul Kipnes
What do we notice about those and that which we love? Go to the Union for Reform Judaism’s Camp Newman in Santa Rosa, CA and you will assuredly notice lots.
Camp built three new, gorgeous, well-designed cabins for 16 kids up top and 16 below, as the first stage in a multiyear master plan to usher camp into its future. Camp laid new grass upon the upper field, making it more enjoyable to use for play, especially for the pre-Shabbat ritual of Staff vs. CIT ultimate frisbee game. In the art room, the art specialist even created a museum of tie-dyed t-shirts, making it easier for campers to decide which design to make. All these exciting additions to camp. So noteworthy!
Of course, what was the first thing a certain camper mentioned to me after a few hours back in camp? That camp changed the latch inside the bigger stall in the boys’ bathroom in the Chadar Ochel (dining room) at Camp Newman. It seems that this door used to lock with a hook and eye screw; now it uses a fancy latch. You may be thinking, “Who cares about some lock on a bathroom door?!” Details matter. The little things connect us to the past and usher us through the present into the future.
Ask any camper, staff member or adult what makes camp so wonderful, and each will rattle off a list of favorite elements of camp:
- Endless bread sticks on pasta day
- Fresh fruit
- Enduring friendships
- Sunset on Shabbat
- Enchanted Forest – a hike through beautiful wooded area
- Goats at the Kibbutz OKY
- “Repurposing” the Manure at the Kibbutz
- Havdala under the stars
- Its It – ice cream cookies on Shabbat afternoon
- When the campers shout out “I love being Jewish!”
And then there are the bathrooms (again). I saw one young boy, at camp for the first time, rush out of the boys bathroom in the dining hall exclaiming, “You won’t believe this. You can basically pee right on the wall.” (He was referring to full length, wall to floor urinals. (Trust me, they are uniquely cool!)
Yes, everything at camp has its fans. Like the people who know all the special spots in Disneyland, or the foreshadowing in their favorite tv show, campers come to love (and elevate) the details, making camp the uniquely special place it is.
Find more by Rabbi Kipnes on his blog!