By Laura Gurvis
Senior Assistant Director
Union for Reform Judaism
Eisner and Crane Lake Camps
I have spent 13 summers at Eisner Camp. That’s approximately 650 days. Most of them have been wonderful days that make me smile when I stop and think about them. However, one day during Summer 2013 was definitely one of the best days, ever!
I was walking around camp one Thursday morning at the beginning of our first activity period. First, I went to our Lower Sports Complex. There I saw 4th graders playing tennis. I watched as the tennis coach worked with one camper on her backhand. When her opponent served the ball, she could not return it over the net. Serves kept coming, the coach kept helping her until – bam – she returned the ball with a strong back stroke. Campers watching all around the court cheered for her!
I watched as the biking coach let go of the back of a bicycle and a 7th grade boy took off down the path for the first time by himself. As he rode off, the other campers clapped and screamed for him.
At the pool, a 6th grade boy, who I know had been afraid to get in the water, was standing in the shallow end of the pool, putting his face in the water for a few seconds at a time. Each time his face came out of the water, the other campers cheered and whistled, celebrating his bravery with him.
In the Fine Arts Building, I watched an 8th grade girl on the pottery wheel alongside the instructor who helped her get her first-ever pot off the wheel. The instructor and the camper were smiling, laughing, and gave one another a very messy, clay-dripping high five.
I saw 10th graders sitting outside the Bet Am playing their guitars with our head song leader. They were all playing L’cha Dodi, getting ready for Kabbalat Shabbat the next day. One camper kept putting his guitar down and patiently helping another camper who was struggling with the transition between chords. The song leader smiled as he watched one camper help another.
Everywhere I went that morning, I saw the glowing faces of campers who were trying new things and succeeding at things they had been practicing. Coaches and instructors were reveling in these successes and campers at all corners of camp were cheering one another on.
It occurred to me as I returned to my office, that although it was just an ordinary Thursday morning, nothing about it felt ordinary. How extraordinary, and what a privilege it was, to see such pride in the faces of campers when learning how to ride a bike or throw a pot on the wheel or play the guitar, and the list went on and on. How extraordinary it was to see the proud faces of the campers and staff witnessing these Shehecheyanu moments, as campers accomplished something for the first time.
That morning I was reminded of the magic of Eisner Camp: a safe place where a child can learn something new or do something better and unabashedly feel great about it, a comfortable place where children are supportive of one another and outwardly rejoice in each other’s successes and accomplishments, and a welcoming place where staff is patient and encouraging and celebrates each success with each camper.
Although I had spent so many days at Eisner Camp prior to this one, my eyes were opened a bit wider that Thursday. I watched campers and staff exemplify the many Jewish values that create our Kehilah Kedosha, our holy community. I saw that indeed, Eisner Camp offers a child “A Summer That Lasts a Lifetime.” And I learned that any ordinary day could be the best day, ever!
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