…and my body likes to remind me any chance it gets!
Last night, I went up to Gindling Hilltop Camp (“We are Hilltop, Mighty, Mighty Hilltop”) for an alumni Shabbat. It was a delighful evening. After doing a Shabbat Walk to gather the campers, we went up to the chapel, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean. We had a delighful, mostly musical service. Very peaceful. Very relaxing. We then walked back to the dining tent (as the pavillion is still pending rebuilding). Dinner was chicken, pasta, and veggies, followed by an apple fritter. I made a number of connections with folks at the table: I was sitting with Marla (the current A&C lady) and some other alumni… one of whom turned out to have roomed with my parents (perhaps with me as well) when I was back at UCLA. The other fellow does copyright clearance for music, something related to DRM stuff (turns out he used to run Napster!). I also ran into the daughter of one of the Krinsky boys; her uncle, Jeff, was a counselor in the cabin next to mine in the 1970s. I also had fun talking to Gersh about changes at camp. They evidently had a fun summer: in the first session, bed bugs were found in four cabins, so they had to take those kids back into town, camp at the Wilshire Grand during Miss Universe, and take them to places like Disneyland, a Dodgers game — he said it was a supervision adventure. We also talked about how they have introduced a down year between Mitzvah and CIT: this is to encourage the kids to go to Israel for a year, as well as to get older counselors to handle the more mature kids.
After dinner, the Shabbat Safety Squad was then called out to move the tables to the back of the room, sweep the room, and get us ready for what came next.
The Zmirot then started. Imagine 160+ kids and adults screaming and singing at the top of their lungs, bouncing and dancing, for just over an hour. That’s what the song session was. And I was in there screaming and singing with them, having a grand old time. I didn’t bounce, tho…, but I did loads of energetic clapping. Only about five songs were from my era, and none were “Chuck” favorites. No matter: I knew the newer stuff from the URJ Ruach albums, and the words were projected on the ceiling (ain’t modern technology great).
We then moved to the plaza for another hour or so of dancing. Really loud modern Israeli dance music. I danced the ones that I knew, but it was loud. Again, technology changes: Whereas in my era we had a record player connected to an amplifier, last night it was all run from a single iPod.
My daughter had a grand old time. She started out shy, and wanted to hang by me. But then she ran into a friend from temple, Shayna, as well as her AC from last year, Allison. At the start of the song session, Shayna came over, grabbed her, and told her she was dancing and singing with Shayna’s cabin. This is camp: she was accepted immediately. She also had loads of fun making other friends for the first time. Folks are friendly at camp! It made her a little sad, as she really wanted to go this year, but the temporary dining hall and kitchen couldn’t handle gluten free. Next year… with the rebuilt pavillion… she’ll be there.
It was interesting observing the difference that the director makes. In the early days of Hilltop, under Steve Makeoff and Chuck Feldman, song sessions were done in the Pavillion. We sat and pounded at the table as we sang Justice, Al Tirah, This is the Day, and songs written by campers, Cherish the Torah, It Was Good, Reaching Out, with the “new” Debbie Friedman stuff and songs from NFTY. Dancing was mostly the older, yeminite-style Israeli dancing, perhaps with the occasional Pada-Pada or Yellow River. There were creative services, with lots of English. Perhaps this is what might be called “Classic Reform Camping”. Now, camp reflects the increased sprituality that is Reform, the increased Hebrew found in modern Reform. Meals are Kosher-style. There is lots more Hebrew, with slightly more traditional renditions of prayers. Certainly, there is more emphasis on modern Israel and the connections to it. This reflects the influence of the new camp directors, Doug and Gersh. Do I wish camp was what it was? No. It needs to be today’s Judaism to connect with the kids, who soak it up with the same energy that we had. The energy is there, the spirit is there, the love of being Jewish is there — that will never change (and must never change). The trappings do, but camp is camp.
We got home around 11:15pm, fully relaxed. Went to bed around midnight.
Got up at 3:00am with a killer headache in the back of my head, above my neck. Took ½ T3, went back to bed. Woke back up at 6:30a with the headache still there. As I have to drive today, took 2 Excedrin. I think this is a tension headache combined with sound poisoning; my shoulders are sore as well. Much as my mind would like to be 14 again and be up at camp… my body is reminding me that I’m 46, thankyouverymuch, and that sort of energy is for young joints and brains.
Perhaps I’ll take my wife’s suggestion and see if some swimming will help loosen this up.
To the current generation of campers reading this in the camp community: appreciate the energy you have and your days at camp. I was discussing this with Marla during the dancing. Camp changes you in innumerable ways you don’t even realize. It is so much more important to your Jewish integral spirit than Temple life. It becomes part of your soul, so much a part that as you get older, you take any chance to go back up there and recharge your spiritual batteries. I’ll take this pain I’m feeling this morning for the recharge that was a Shabbat under nature’s canopy and the infectious energy of the campers during singing and dancing.
When I reach out to you and you to me,
We become b’tzelem Elohim.
When we share our hopes and our dreams,
Each one of us, b’tzelem Elohim.