What to Talk About When We Talk About Camp

Gabe (left) with his team of Maccabiah Judges

By: Gabe Shapera

Whether you’re a first year camper, staff member, alumnus, horse from the stables, or anything in between, we all have different opinions on what the BEST part of Camp Wise is. A common answer might be Maccabiah (color wars). It is hard to deny how epic it is to cheer until your voice gives out. Maybe for some, it’s the first meal at camp where the Chadar Ochel (dining hall) is filled with cheers that have been building since the campers were last all together a year before. For others, it might be spirit circle after Shabbat dinner where we jump up and down and sing to celebrate the end of the week. If you haven’t caught on by now, we like to cheer, a lot. It would not be surprising for another answer to be Day Trip Day, where we all leave camp for a day of fun at water and amusement parks (where my Pioneer Waterland fans at?!). All of these activities and traditions are what make the Camp Wise experience as incredible as it is. BUT! I’m here to tell you that the BEST part of CW life extends far beyond these things. I know what you’re thinking… “Gabe! How could these answers be wrong, all those things are so awesome!” I know I know, and believe me, I agree with you. But please, allow me to explain and I just might convince you.

It has been two years since I was last at camp, but I still think about it frequently (as I’m sure many of us do). When I think back to my years as a camper, and more recently a counselor, often it is not the experiences listed above that my mind wanders to. I tend to think about the normal, partly sunny days when everything in camp is running as usual. Groups of counselors and campers are walking through villages and passing by friends to get to activities, music is playing over the speakers from the radio room, there might even be a gentle breeze passing through. Some of these campers are heading to the high ropes course, others to the lake to ride the jet ski. A day earlier was spent in cabins playing cards because it was too stormy for horseback riding, and the day before was spent in the pool because it was too hot for sports (camp is unfortunately not immune to Ohio weather). It is on these days though, where the best part of camp can truly be felt. 

To find out what that is, let’s take a closer look at those counselors and campers heading to their activities. In each of those cabins, are people from all over Ohio, the United States, and even other countries like Israel, Mexico, and the UK (to name just a few). Some are experiencing camp for the first time, while others are celebrating their 8th summer. Many are Jewish, but others have never really had any Jewish friends before coming to Camp Wise. 

The point is, no matter who you are, the Camp Wise community will welcome you with open arms and be mighty glad you’re there! THAT is the best part of camp. The normal days are the days I miss most, where I got to talk to a new friend, learn a new skill, even conquer a fear, and all while next to someone I may never have met otherwise. It can be hard to introduce yourself to someone you’ve never met before, learn a new skill, and conquer your fears away from your family. But, the Camp Wise community provides an atmosphere that allows everyone to feel comfortable enough to try something new. And, the crazy thing is, those experiences are such an integral part of camp that we don’t even think about it while they’re happening. After all, it’s just a normal day at camp. After taking time to think about it, though, if all that can happen on a normal day at Camp Wise, a normal day at camp isn’t really a normal day at all! 


Gabe Shapera is an alumni of Camp Wise. He is a rising senior at Emerson College and is majoring in Media Arts Production.

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