Right about now, they are transforming back into students. Some are in their last year of high school while others are in college. During the summer, they were camp counselors.
I ask myself why they choose to do it and what’s Jewish about it. This time I asked two counselors at Camp Pembroke, an all-girls overnight camp: Sara Jonas, age 19, and Maddie Alford, age 17. Here’s what they told me.
What does Sara do at Camp Pembroke? She’s a dance specialist and a bunk counselor for 20 14-year-olds. And Maddie? She’s also a dance specialist and a bunk counselor for 12-year-olds. She admits that she didn’t “quite remember how it was to be 12.” She finds her campers are “full of energy,” which is “refreshing.”
Their day-to-day lives include getting campers ready for the day, being with them between activity periods, making sure they eat, sleep, stay healthy and get along with others. They also each teach dance. Maddie described it as “being on 24/7.” As a newer counselor, she is grateful for the support from her co-counselor. Sara chimed in, explaining that, “As you get tired, the goal is to be seen to be energized so that you’re an example, or a role model, all the time.”
When I asked why they wanted to be counselors, they both wanted to answer. When Sara started going to Camp Pembroke as a camper, she cried every day. She is a counselor to help “timid kids” like her. “Camp changes you,” Sara said as she described how it transformed her from a shy girl to someone who now “goes to school six hours away from home.” Maddie added that camp “is extremely formative.” She gained independence at camp by learning how to enjoy life “without a screen.” Maddie’s reason for being a counselor is to “foster the love of life in general in kids.”
Camp Pembroke celebrates Shabbat in “the Pine Grove,” an outside sanctuary under pine trees overlooking the lake. Both Maddie and Sara think it’s an important and special time of Jewishness. They went on to list other Jewish things at camp, like the bunk names being names in Hebrew and Israeli cities, and learning Israeli dancing. Sara and Maddie also related the unique connections they made at camp to Jewish values. Maddie hesitated before summing it up with, “Everything comes back around to being a good person here.”