The 3 Camp Traditions to Try at Home!

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By Nemmie Stieha, Goorim Unit Head

There is something about camp that keeps us coming back year after year. It may be the magic or the sense of adventure, but in a way it’s that we know certain things will * always * be there. Tevye and our friends from Fiddler on the Roof may have said it the best, “And how do we keep our balance [as a fiddler on the roof]? That I can tell you in one word: tradition!” (and then he breaks out into song). Much like the town of Anatevka, Kalsman has our traditions and our moments of song are some of them! But the greatest thing about traditions is that they are alive because we keep them and grow with them.

Here are some Kalsman traditions and how you can keep them strong throughout those long 11 months until camp comes back around.

1. Song Sessions and Dancing

Shirah and the mishlachat dance happen every day, no matter what. We sing before we get our breakfast, we sing after breakfast, we dance after lunch, we sing after dinner and we sing before bed. Many of these songs are Jewish songs that our camper’s parents sang for many years and some of them are brand new to camp. One of the most recognizable Kalsman traditions is singing our version of Hashkiveinu and Sh’ma at night before we go to sleep – a version that was written by Kalsman song leaders that very first summer of camp.

This is the easiest tradition to bring back home! Try singing some of these songs together on car rides or after Shabbat dinner. Listen to Jewish Rock Radio or Facebook Live concerts to learn new Jewish music and try to guess what camp’s next big song is going to be. Create instrumental lines that can be brought back to camp next year or learn how to play “Lift ‘em Up” on the trombone to become part of Shabbat Shirah! Camp’s music is always growing and changing and that is made stronger by every voice at Kalsman.


2. Shabbat

Every Shabbat we dress in all white, we walk together creating a path of song that follows us into the Beit T’filah. We welcome Shabbat by singing L’cha Dodi and rise to face the west. Then we go in to dinner where we sing the blessings as a whole camp: the Sabbath Prayer, the blessing over the candles, over the wine, the parent’s blessing over the children, and then hamotzi. All of these actions, which are regularly campers’ and staffs’ favorite memories, come together to mark the largest tradition of them all at camp – sanctifying Shabbat. As we study mitzvot this summer our campers are learning that to observe and mark Shabbat is a commandment as well as a tradition. The prayers we say and the white we wear comes from the larger practice of marking the day of rest.

So how can we bring this home when our daily lives often get in the way and we can’t get together (or away from soccer, homework, school trips, etc.) to rest for 25 hours, let alone make it to Synagogue every Friday night and Saturday morning? You can do parts of Shabbat! Make a point to light candles on Friday nights before going off to sports games, or sit down for an early or late dinner. On Saturday morning have everyone read a story that relates to the Torah portion as they are able and come together at some point to talk about it. Shabbat is holy because we make it holy and we recognize it. While at camp we have the luxury of time to spend observing Shabbat, but not everyone has that luxury. The tradition is that you find a way to spend time together with others that you care about.


3. The Tower/The Swing/The Lake/Guitar/Ceramics/The Farm

These activities aren’t as much “traditions” as they are markers of a tradition that camp has shown me – every year you should find a chance to agree to a challenge by choice, or do something new that you haven’t done. Campers that have climbed to the top of the tower 12 times during a summer may have never paddled a canoe before, just like campers who are always on the swing may be learning how to play guitar for the first time. My favorite camp tradition is the “I did it!” moment that every camper has when they try something new.

Camp’s tradition of challenge-by-choice is probably the hardest tradition to do year round. So often we find ourselves getting into a routine during the year and leaving adventures for the summer. Bringing this into our year can look very different for different families. For some it may be having one night a week where the kids cook dinner for the adults, for others it may be trying a long bike ride. Finding those moments to break from the routine of home and challenging ourselves to do more (even a single step more) is truly within the camp tradition.


Although camp comes once a year, we can continue to uphold our favorite traditions all year round! Which ones will you bring home with you?