By Marla Aviva Bentley and Lauren Reeves, Segel (Faculty) for Kallah Atid
“I am not so sure I want to do this,” she told us on the pontoon boat yesterday afternoon. “Here, I’ll hold your hand and lower you in,” said the madricha (counselor). From the water, I reached out for her hand. She gripped my hand tightly and I could feel her nervousness as her legs wriggled about. She relaxed just enough to kick around and start splashing, and then she swam around to get back on the boat. The next time, she scooted herself off the front of the boat, and smiled broadly as we swam together. The third time, she jumped off the boat with a loud “woo-hoo!” As she swam back to me, she said, “I love this camp,” and I smiled to myself. The next time, she took a running leap off the boat. As we sped back to the dock at OSRUI, she told me, “This is the best summer camp ever. I want to come for the whole summer next year.” I told her how proud I was of her overcoming her fear of jumping into the lake and how much ometz (courage) that took. She looked at me thoughtfully and said, “Yes, that did take a lot of courage… I have a feeling this camp has a lesson to teach me.” She had no idea that in addition to making my week, she had also allowed me into the wonderment of her first experience of OSRUI. And I had the honor of being there as she fell in love with this place and found a second home.
This scene illustrates the whirlwind week for Kallah Atid chanichim (campers). Our chanichim have been able to experience all the best that camp has to offer. From climbing the tower at etgar (tower and high ropes course), to horseback riding, to tubing on the lake, and learning about the teva (nature). For most of our chanichim, this is their first experience away from home and away from their parents. In the beginning, some were a little nervous, some a little homesick, but within a few minutes of being at OSRUI, they were making new friends, singing new songs, and forming bonds that will last a lifetime. In just a few short days it is common to hear, as we already have, that OSRUI is the best place ever, that they never want to leave, and that they can’t wait to come back again next summer. The madrichim (counselors) are the heart of camp. It is their energy and creativity that brings every activity for the chanichim to life. Whether they are playing games during a transition, helping with meals, giving high fives and fist bumps, or cheering on chanichim to try new things, the madrichim are always making sure that each camper is feeling seen, heard, and is having a blast.
Our theme for Kallah Atid is Shabbat. Our goal as segel is to infuse the joy of Shabbat into our chanichim throughout this week. We have done this through skits, stories, and music. We focus on the rituals of that make Shabbat at camp special. Some of those rituals are ones we also do at home like lighting candles and having a communal meal. Some are rituals unique to camp, such as Shabbat Shira, our all-camp song session on Friday evening, and Havdallah, which draws Shabbat to a close with sweet spices and a feeling of community. This taste of Kallah shows our chanichim everything OSRUI has to offer and connects them to the place and people that will be part of their Jewish identity for years to come.
Marla Aviva Bentley serves Temple Beth Israel in Skokie, Illinois as Director of Music. Lauren Reeves serves KAM Isaiah Israel in Chicago, Illinois as Religious School Director.