By Avra Bossov, NFTY Social Action Vice-President 2011-2012
“There’s more to see than can ever be seen; more to do than can ever be done.”
– Circle of Life, Lion King
Goodbyes are hard.
Goodbyes mean something is ending and another thing will replace it; that it is time to move on whether or not you’re prepared for it; that you’re leaving one instance and going back or going to something new.
And so I found myself outside the chadar ochel at URJ Camp Coleman, three coach buses lined up, full of Camp Jenny campers, ready to depart, despite the lines of NFTYite counselors blocking the buses’ path. After three days, we had created a community unlike any other through programming, outdoor activities, meals and bonding.
For those of you that do not know, Camp Jenny brings in campers from inner city Atlanta to URJ Camp Coleman during Memorial Day weekend to have a meaningful camp experience that they otherwise would not have. Ranging from Juniors (Kindergarten and 1st grade) to Tweens (2nd and 3rd grade) to Pios (4th and 5th grade), campers are divided into units that each have two unit heads and a unit mentor. Campers work all year to earn their spot through academic performance and behavioral excellence. Counselors, composed of NFTY-STR and NFTY-SAR participants, live in the bunks with campers, mentoring and nurturing them. Each weekend has a theme; this one was Disney’s “Lion King.”
This past MDW marked the 25th Camp Jenny. We were fortunate enough to hear from David Haller, Campy Jenny’s founding director. He was among the NFTYites that created Camp Jenny after seeing other regions have mitzvah corps programs, and in memory of Jenny Rosenthal, an avid NFTYite and Colemanite, who passed away in a tragic car accident.
How inspiring—that something so influential to so many people began from a group of NFTYites, leading from within to change their own community. I get chills just thinking about it.
I spent 8 summers at Camp Coleman, as a camper and as a Machon adventure program participant. My favorite part of this weekend was seeing how such a special place – so close to my heart – could be transformed into an even more sacred place with this group of people. To see kids face their fears of heights by climbing the rock wall or going on the zipline, to see them create tie-dye shirts in the Minsky, and to reflect with each other in the Strauss chapel: these images and many more come to mind when I look back on what took place here.
When David spoke, one of his main messages was how Camp Jenny helped shape who he is as a person and how, since his time in NFTY, he has continued to take the lessons and experiences with him into other moments, professionally as a lawyer and with his own family. As I prepare to become a NFTY alumna, after five years in this incredible organization, David’s words struck me as incredibly inspirational.
You never know how you change lives. You could inspire an elementary school child with an unstable home life to believe in themselves despite his/her environment. You could inspire a peer to be comfortable in his/her own skin. Whatever it is, allow yourself to become immersed and be changed by those around you. Inspiration, hope, motivation: these things come in all different shapes and sizes. The friendships – years in the making, or for just one weekend – can truly last a lifetime.
I am honored to have been welcomed into the Camp Jenny family, and I hope to continue going back. Thank you to NFTY-SAR and NFTY-STR for welcoming me into your regions. Thank you to the students of Walter White Elementary and D.H. Stanton Elementary, for giving me hope for the future, as we work together to bridge the human divides in plain sight.
Enjoy the slideshow!