My name is Mitch Morgan and I am the director of the JCC Maccabi Camp Kingswood, and I love Jewish camp—and not just because it’s my job!
I grew up in an area without many Jews—and by not many Jews, I mean that it was just my brother and I. At some point my parents decided it was time for us to participate in various programs offered by the JCC. That summer at the JCC day camp, I met my first Jewish friend, Robbie. At some point, Robbie’s mom convinced my mom that going to the JCC’s overnight camp would be a great idea. I don’t remember being asked about it, but the following summer I found myself in the seat next to Robbie on the way to camp. Not only did I make a ton of friends (some are still my best friends to this day), but I learned a lot about myself and felt the magic of a Jewish community. Like many people, I can look back on my time at camp and say that it has had a major impact on the person that I am today.
As I enter my 21st summer in overnight camping, I think that my parents had a fairly decent strategy for raising their boys. I’m not sure they planned on raising two camp directors, but that’s what they got. (My brother, Sean, is the director of Camp Wise of the Cleveland JCC, and even my mom was inspired to become the registrar for Camp Sabra of the St. Louis JCC, where she still works.) Anyway, my parents’ approach is nicely summed up in a quote I received from a camp parent: “We send our child to school for a Jewish brain and to camp for a Jewish heart.” I love that quote and think about it often.
This summer at Kingswood, our theme is “ruach,” which is generally defined as “spirit” or “wind.” At Kingswood we also use it to describe how we each breathe life into our camp community. Rabbi Mark Sokoll, our great friend and CEO, was here at camp this morning discussing ruach with our staff. Our staff drew some great comparisons between the spirit and wind definitions since both are invisible yet still have the power to move other things.
You could literally see the lightning bolts hitting our staff. RUACH!!! It’s that thing we can’t see but can feel. It’s why we put our arms around each other and sway during songs. It’s the building of lifelong friendships. It’s the journey we’ll go on together this summer. It’s why you feel you can be yourself at camp. It’s the excitement. It’s the laughs. It’s the songs, dances and cheers. It’s the tears at the end of the summer. It’s the soul of camp.
Like I said before, I grew up in an area without many Jews. The ruach I felt at Jewish camp made me feel like part of a community. It allowed me to be me. It fostered my spirituality. It gave me my Jewish heart.
We have less than 24 hours to go until summer 2013 kicks off here at Kingswood. Campers all across the world are filling with excitement. If you were a camper, you know the feeling. You’ve waited the entire year for camp to come. You feel like you could burst! I might be a camp director, but I still get that same feeling today.
Jewish camp means a lot of things to a lot of different people. To me it will always be my connection to the Jewish people. No matter what it means to you, I hope that everyone has a safe, healthy, fun and RUACH-filled summer!
Mitch Morgan is the director of JCC Maccabi Camp Kingswood.