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Oct 13 2014

Talking with Camp JRF, the Jewish Camp That Takes Inclusion Seriously

By at 10:00 am
via Camp JRF Website

Rabbi Isaac Saposnik via Camp JRF Website

 

Rabbi Isaac Saposnik is the Executive Director of Camp JRF, a Reconstructionist sleepaway camp in the Pocono Mountains. Recently, Camp JRF initiated a big push toward inclusion with a capital “I.” Now that campers have returned to school and their parents eagerly fill out forms to sign them up for next summer, Rabbi Saposnik had some time to chat with me about camp, diversity in the American Jewish community, and the importance of asking questions.

What makes Camp JRF different from other Jewish sleepaway camps?

The Reconstructionist movement has always been inclusive, so welcoming gay campers and staff, LGBTQ parents, campers from interfaith families, campers from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, and physical abilities, is obvious for us. But this year, we took a step back to re-examine our practices because there’s a difference between saying we’re inclusive and actually being inclusive. We want our camp community to reflect the tapestry of the modern Jewish community.  Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 26 2014

A 12-Year-Old Weighs in on Jewish Camp in the Colorado Rockies

By at 10:25 am

camp-ramah

For the past four summers, Kaspar has been a camper at Ramah Outdoor Adventure (ROA) in the Colorado Rockies. Kaspar has participated in ROA’s Tikvah Program for campers with disabilities, both as a participant in the Amitzim edah (division) for campers with disabilities and, most recently, as part of the camp’s inclusion program.

Ramah Outdoor Adventure has become her second home and, according to her parents, has been a big part of her everyday happiness and success. Kaspar hopes someday to become a member of ROA’s tzevet susim (“horse staff”). Below is her take on life at Ramah Outdoor Adventure.

Four summers. Four summers bursting with the harmony of cycles. Every year, the drive up, and up, and up. That in itself is enough to break some spirits.

But there it is: the homecoming. The cheering, the screaming of names. If you are a returning camper, you are passed around, admired, and soon bear the mark of a hundred dirt-encrusted hugs. Newbies are taken in, enveloped in a new universe that welcomes you with every ventricle of its beating heart. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 20 2014

Camp Director Stefan Teodosic Left Finance for Jewish Camping & Never Looked Back

By at 11:23 am

stefan-camper-pic

Stefan Teodosic is the executive director of Beber Camp, Perlman Camp, and the Perlman Retreat Center. Stefan started his career in finance, but decided to change paths on September 11, 2001 after witnessing the World Trade Center collapse. Stefan agreed to sit down with us and tell us why his camps are different from all other camps.

1. Before becoming a camp director, you worked for American Express and were blocks away from the World Trade Center on 9/11. Can you talk about how that day ultimately helped you decide to change paths?

Since I was 16, I knew that I wanted to be a camp director, as it was the single most impactful experience I had growing up. Through college, business school, and my career, I couldn’t shake the idea of being in Jewish camping full time. It bubbled to the surface at times–thoughts about going back to school to get another degree, taking vacation time to work with teens at my old camp, and even thinking about quitting–but it was never more than that to be honest. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 18 2014

My Son’s First Overnight Trip is a Milestone for Him–and Me

By at 9:58 am

Sleeping-bag

Today marks a milestone in my oldest son’s life: his first “big” camp trip–a day at Sesame Place, followed by a sleepover at our local Y/JCC. My son could not be more excited. He has been talking about this day since June. This morning, as he confidently swung his sleeping bag over his shoulder and headed for the door, he told me that he has been waiting for this day “forever.”

Time is a funny thing in a child’s eyes. I am guessing that this same child does not remember that last summer, as he watched the kids one year older than him head off on this same trip, he said that next year, when it was his turn to go to Sesame Place, there was “no way” he would sleep at the Y.

The change in perspective from one summer to the next epitomizes how much my son has matured over the past year, and how greatly he desires to be independent. I am left simultaneously nostalgic for the days of his infancy, proud of the person he is becoming, and uncertain about how to best parent him during these transition years. How do I nurture his growing independence while keeping him safe in a world that appears to be growing more threatening which each passing day? Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 13 2014

Don’t Feel Bad About Not Missing Your Kids

By at 12:13 pm

School-bus

OK, so maybe I’m not such a good mother.

I didn’t cry or sadly wave goodbye as my kids boarded the bus to camp.

I can’t even truthfully say I missed them all that much. It was four weeks until Visiting Day and four weeks later they’d be home.  Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 4 2014

How a Terrifying Encounter in the Woods Prepared Me for Motherhood

By at 3:42 pm

Brown-bear

The most poignant lesson I learned about parenting happened seven years before I became a parent.

Unlike many friends of mine who married in their 20s, adulthood was not “delivered” to me in a pink or blue receiving blanket, cooing and drooling. Instead, I became entrenched in the world of directing summer “teen tours,” which involved supervising a bus full of about 50 teenagers, as well as a group of recent college-grad counselors.

In preparation for running this “camp on a bus,” counselors and directors participated in an intensive weekend of First Aid and CPR training, exercises in group dynamics, and instruction on how to light a lantern without setting fire to the campground. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 22 2014

What They Bring Home From Camp

By at 11:48 am

sleeping-boy

The voice mail came in while we were swimming. It was Saturday, the afternoon before Noah’s sleepaway camp ended.

Infirmary. 100.7 fever.

“Do you want to get him tonight or have us keep him here until pickup tomorrow?” the nurse asked. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 16 2014

My Daughter Came Home From Camp a Vegetarian

By at 11:20 am

Vegetarian

Every time my daughter goes away to overnight camp, there is something different about her when she returns home.

The first year she went away, she came back practically self-sufficient. I was so impressed at how well she took care of herself. I didn’t have to remind her to brush her teeth. She didn’t need any help in picking out her clothes. She even made her bed without my asking for a short period of time—and then she went back to forgetting how to do it altogether.

Last summer, she got into the car and had something important to say. I could tell that there was a big announcement on the horizon. She had a look like she knew something that we didn’t know. I could tell she was taking a moment to enjoy that with a satisfied smile on her face. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 8 2014

Five Reasons I’m Sending My Son With Autism to Sleepaway Camp

By at 11:11 am

jana-special-needs-camp

Typical parents are rarely surprised when I tell them Benjamin goes to sleepaway camp–at least not after I clarify that it’s a camp catering specifically to children with special needs.

“It’s really structured,” I’ll explain. “Lots of staff members have special ed degrees and work in the field during the year, and there’s a really high counselor-to-camper ratio.”

While the special ed speak convinces most people (or bores them into believing) that I know exactly what I’m talking about, there is one population I’m not fooling: fellow autism parents.  Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 3 2014

I Wasn’t Cool at Camp, But I’m Sending My Son There Anyway

By at 11:19 am

I wasn't cool at camp, but I'm sending my son there anyway

I’m holding my breath for 11 more days.

My 9-year-old, Noah, left yesterday for 12 days of sleepaway camp.

This morning the cat didn’t get fed until 7. Noah’s 6-year-old brother, Sam, was the first one up and put on music to stave off the quiet. I found myself, after the breakfast dishes were done, listening to the washing machine on spin.

It’s going to be a long two weeks. Read the rest of this entry →

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