"Why should you have to leave camp to go elsewhere, when camp in and of itself is mei’ein Olam Haba?"
When summer 2021 rolls around, will we have learned anything?
With the havoc that COVID-19 has wreaked on the world and on all things we once considered normal, it could be argued that no industry was affected more than the frum camping industry.
For a camp director in New York state, the unimaginable happened. However, now I’m writing this looking out my window at a beautiful mountain in our temporary home in New Hampshire. If you had told me in January that I would be spending my summer in Hebron, New Hampshire, I would have thought you fell off the moon.
Now all the crazy weeks of the unknown — traveling seven hours each way, building the eiruv and mechitzah, and kashering the kitchen — are basically forgotten. Just today we had our health department inspection, and we can’t thank Hashem enough for the results — especially considering the 1,200-plus coronavirus tests and crazy amount of paperwork we had to go through. The kids are having the times of their lives and are literally walking on air. They’re just so happy to be here and be together with their friends. I can breathe a sigh of relief, since it was all worth it.
When he was the head counselor of Camp Torah Vodaath, Rav Mordechai Finkelman shlita once asked Rav Pam ztz”l, “Where can we take boys on trips to avoid tzniyus issues?”
The Rosh Hayeshivah, in his humility and living emes l’amito, responded, “I don’t understand the question. Camp is the trip. Why should you have to leave camp to go elsewhere, when camp in and of itself is mei’ein Olam Haba?”
After months of craziness, unknown, and illness, the kids are happy simply because camp is the trip! The previous norm that some camps set was that the children would go on a trip every week. This summer, the kids were thrilled with their activities and fun programs.
The Teen Camp programs had been competing to go on a trip every day! Now, in 2020, we see how much fun they’re having without getting on a bus at all. On days off, staff should be resting up so that they can focus on the kids, not left to be hefker and running around the mountains in sometimes dangerous situations. This summer they see that they are fine without it.
I challenge camp directors, parents and kids to seize the moment so that next year, the new norm will be really “normal,” and we will have not lost out on learning the COVID-19 lesson that camp is the trip!
R’ Leibel Karmel
Director; Govoah Special Projects
Camp Tehilla/Camp Kanfei Yonah
Rabbi Leibel Karmel is Co-Director (along with Rabbi Dovid Teichman) of Govoah Special projects in East Durham, NY. Camp Tehilla for girls, Camp Kanfei Yonah for boys along with various Mesivta programs.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 822)
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