The Canadian Jeiwsh News

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

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Summer camp nostalgia , Pt. 2

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Last week we began our look at the mystique of summer camp by quoting from Allan Sherman’s classic song Camp Granada, in which he pleads for freedom but then decides to give camp a second chance – and stay a second day. []

Sherman has nothing on Rabbi Joshua Hammerman. The rabbi pulled out some of his own genuine camp letters from when he was 10. Here’s one: “Dear Folks, I REALLY am sad now. I need more food because I haven’t had anything to eat. My swimming teacher is making me jump into the water, but I don’t want to. I’m scared of putting my clothes into the laundry because I’ll lose them and they’ll come back different colours. Send ear plugs.”

But then Rabbi Hammerman continues, “What’s funny is that I actually loved camp – even that first year – because I discovered there what children have been discovering about summer camp for decades and what Jews have known for millennia: when you leave home, you can reinvent yourself.” He then draws the parallel of how Abraham had to leave his home in order to found a new faith. And later, when Jews were sent into exile in Babylon, they were forced to examine themselves and create new national institutions. []

And which Jewish activity has the greatest impact on campers? After interviewing professional and lay leaders, researchers think they found the answer: Shabbat. Brian Greene of Camp Ramah in California agrees. “Beginning Friday afternoon, the camp is cleaned and campers prepare themselves to put on their best. Our campers prepare ‘Shabbat-o-grams,’” wishing each other a good Shabbat. “Our children are inspired by that and look for ways to take it home.” []

As a half-Israeli growing up in the United States, Adam Davidson really felt the challenge when he found himself at a teen army camp in Israel. “What was tough about this was that I was really a nobody there… I mean, we were always, for no apparent reason, running like crazy from one tree to another tree, or up some mountain. Every few minutes there was something you could be the best at. And I was never the best.” However, thanks to some quick thinking, Adam’s self-described “geek status” was transformed one evening. Listen to his lovely adventure. And then listen to the accompany radio documentaries, Notes on Camp. []

For Rebecca Ets-Hokin, recollections of camp include not-so-delicious summer camp meals. “My dining hall memories include rubbery scrambled eggs, warm Kool-Aid and unappetizing stews.” Although the food has improved considerably since then, its seems Ets-Hokin feels no generation should be deprived of the classics. So she collected recipes for campers’ favourites such as Max’s Meat Loaf, Tomato Sauce and Garlic Mashed Potatoes. []

How to wash all that down? Bug juice, of course. Phyllis Wilson’s classic summertime beverage calls for flavoured drink mix, sugar and “red food colouring if you feel a little sadistic… Serve with fleishig sandwiches, either on a picnic table under a shelter (day camp) or at long wooden tables with benches in a room with a screen door leading to a flag circle (overnight camp).”  []

To all campers and former campers, have a marvellous and safe summer!

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