WHAT IS YOUR earliest recollection of trying or doing something for the first time? Was it in school? Did it happen by yourself or with others? Whatever it is, I bet it has an incredible story that goes with it. Trying something new, pushing ourselves and our own boundaries, can have a profound impact on our lives. For many of us, it can even broaden our sense of who we are.
Summer camps offer our kids these experiences day in and day out. Each day is jam packed with new adventures, new friends, exposure to ideas, people, and places that our kids might have never seen before. And, witnessing them all through, not only their own eyes but through the eyes of their new-found friends, is an experience that is unique to camp, and will undoubtedly remain with them their entire lives.
At camp, our kids experience a freedom to explore and have fun while also building and strengthening relationships with friends, and with themselves. Camp is a safe place to experiment, to try new things, to explore comfort zones, and pursue experiences that they would never try if they were at home.
Where else will a camper climb up a two-story rope ladder and climb across a wire on a ropes course? Or, perhaps they will decide that their preferred adventure comes in the form of coating their fingers with paint and creating an incredible mural. Whatever they choose and wherever their imagination carries them, the encouragement they receive from their fellow campers, urging them along, and supporting their exploration provides a lasting impression long after camp is done. It tells the camper that they have people who support and care for them in ways that they may not feel others do.
Sharing experiences at camp unites kids with one another. At our local Jewish summer camp these bonds and shared memories connect our campers to one another, to their community, and to their religion. So often when people are asked about the formative experiences that connect them to the Jewish community, and their own sense of Jewish identity, so many return to their time spent at summer camp or in their youth group. In informal Jewish settings, memories are made and the connections will last a lifetime.
Join us this summer at camp Gan Shalom where our local kids will have the chance to meet their peers from across the San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys. As parents begin dropping their children off in the next few weeks, the lasting memories will soon begin. I am excited for all of this to happen, and a little bit jealous.
Jason Moss is the Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.