By David (Office Dave) Bonham, Office Manager
When I got the offer of a job here at Camp Kalsman this summer, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I knew American camps are like nothing else on earth, but quite what that meant I wasn’t too sure. Looking back from the other end of camp, I can say for sure that I was not expecting to feel this attached to a collection of people from all over.
A phrase that was recently foreign to me, but aptly sums up this atmosphere of unconditional support and inclusivity is Kehila Kedosha, a holy community. Whatever you need, whether it be a certain Director or Senior Assistant Director to make a bad dad joke, a bubbly, smiling and uplifting attitude from program supervisors or a swarm of excited, energetic kids, full of positivity and tenacity, Kalsman’s Kehila Kedosha can provide.
Equally as unexpected was the true focus on Jewish values, especially this summer’s focus on Mitzvot, or commandments. Whilst they are broadly about being your brother’s (or planet’s) keeper and focus on bettering the world around you, some of the ways Kalsman has taught these to the campers surprised me. Even something so simple as providing a pocket-size flip-book of Mitzvot and situations in which they can apply to counselors, to help immerse the campers in a truly Jewish camp experience.
I must confess, being not an ounce Jewish myself, parts of camp were odd to me, but I now see just how important they can be. Some, like the tradition of Havdallah around the campfire, seamlessly combine Jewish culture and camp culture into one greater, composite culture for the better. This in fact led to one of my personal favourite moments of camp – Shabbat Shira. The songs, whilst I can’t understand the words, hold a special place in my mind and heart. The dances and actions, ranging from downright silly and truly in the spirit of camp, all the way to surprisingly meaningful, are something I doubt I’ll forget. But the one thing this reminds me of is the ironic mosh-pit of Kesher campers crying to G-d to heal her (whoever she may be).
Reflecting on what camp has given me, I value the friendships formed with these people in a small corner of Washington state, and part of me just wants to count the days until I can reunite with them all again. But as much as I hold camp dear, I must return across the Atlantic to the rainy island of the UK. I do know that whatever I do from now forward, I do as a better person for the experience Camp Kalsman has given me.