Words for the Wise – Look to the Trees, and Breathe!

I love trees. Trees at Camp Wise are second only to the wonderful people who reside in our Home of Happiness community. Their steady, calm, penetrating sense of peace grounds us and helps us feel whole, even when so much in our word may seem broken and uncertain. 

During services last Shabbat (it was Ohalim Shabbat!!)  I was looking out at the saplings sprouting up around the Camp Wise chapel.  I thought about how the children growing around us at camp are similar to those young trees…growing up in a crowded world, striving to find the rays of sunlight peeking through the canopy above. Each one, pushing against the odds in an ever-changing environment to find a unique path upward. Our campers said it best about the Camp Wise sanctuary– “this is the place I come to be me.”

Scientific research shows how extreme weather due to climate change impacts the development of plant life, especially of seedlings and saplings. Our forests display swings between higher or lower rates of regeneration than normals, illustrating the stress on the system – most evident in the youngest and fastest growing trees.

I thought about all of this and about the trends we see in our camper and staff community at Camp Wise. The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic changed so much about daily life for a period of three years, and it feels like we are finally seeing the light on the other side. In the past three summers we’ve witnessed our campers exhibit significant sign of stress and changes with mental well-being from the extremes we all felt in the pandemic. We noticed increases in anxiety, struggles with social development, and changes in resilience for example. While this has been hard for families, teens, parents, and youth serving programs to navigate – now, we see threads of light shining through.

This summer has been marked by a renewed sense of joy – and a sense of calm and familiarity with being back in the camp environment. Our youth are clearly still healing and adapting to the “post-COVID” world – but there are numerous signs of healthy growth in the right direction. We see less stigmatization of mental well-being challenges, learning differences, and neurodiversity…and our camper and staff community demonstrates a more mature commitment to inclusion on many levels.  We also see teens willing and interested to use coping mechanisms, and even advocate for their own access to therapists, counselors, and healthy forms of support.

As we reach this final Shabbat of Trip I – we are proud to be closing out these four weeks with a community that cares for each other, generally supports one another well, and is beginning to see the full potential of each and every human being. As the world around us swirls and changes, we know – and we  see at camp – that we have each other to lean on…a Camp Wise network of interconnection – roots intertwined and strong. Chazak Chazak v’nit chazeik – be strong and we will strengthen one another.

Let’s take a look on this amazing week!

C1- Our highlight of the week was definitely Maccabiah! It was super funny when at the high ropes course when Carter kept helping kids across the elements and he made us laugh! We feel happy with the experiences that we’ve had and yet we feel a little sad about camp being over soon!

C2 – Our highlight this week was the Jet Ski rides, everyone was incredibly excited for it! Rock night had a lot of laughs, in particular Dennis naming his pet rock, “paper scissors.” They’ve managed to overcome social boundaries and dislikes and be more inclusive of everyone in the cabin. They’re sad to see camp end but also looking forward to seeing their parents and pets!

C4 – Maccabia and the 4th of July was the highlight of our week. Seeing the kids perform in song, skit, and cheer was fun. They have interacted more outside the cabin and have continued to become more socially active in the village. All will be sad to see it end though some are more content with the ending than others.

C5 – All of the campers are working and hanging out together to make “cabin stores” and trading different things they made – it became a fun highlight! All of them had art shops and were giving each other all temporary tattoos their parents had sent. We went on the overnight even though they were a little nervous about it. It was still a blast! We are sad to leave but also excited to see family!

C6 – This week the Rishon kids really enjoyed their Chugs! They mentioned Tower, HBR and Dance. When the girls used putty to make a beard and they found it really funny. They have been less home sick and embodied camp and all the activities and the fun week we’ve had! We feel excited to see our families and get back to normal schedule, too.

C8- Our highlight this week was, the July 4th carnival because it was so fun and creative! The funniest moment was when we jumped in the pool with our clothes on! Our campers became more independent and confident this week with maccabiah a 4th of July. We feel bittersweet about saying goodbye to our friends but excited to go home and continue our friendships outside of camp.

O1 – We LOVED doing the new ropes course and the giant swing at rest hour. The funnies moment was when the basketball specialist said “this is how you make a shot,” and then missed – we all laughed together. Multiple campers conquered their fear of heights on the giant swing. We feel sad about the end of the session.

O2 – The highlight of this week for us was Lorax Maccabiah! The funniest moment this week was when the whole village sprayed our very own counselor, Adam Coles, with water at Western Night! Our cabin bond is stronger than ever going into the last few days of camp! We feel happy that we had the summer together but are sad the session is ending soon.

O5 – This weeks highlight was Maccabiah. Ohalim had our pool party Wednesday night and everyone was just having fun and enjoying themselves. Campers grew through the week by being able to work together and build better connections. We feel sad about our cabin having to split up in under a week and hope to see everyone next year…

O8- This week our highlight was Squidward’s Tiki Land Carnival! The funniest moment of the week was when we were all talking and telling jokes before flashlight time! Our campers have been a lot more silly and outgowing this week. They are really coming out of their shell. We feel excited to see family (and pets), but we will also miss our friends.

O9- Watching the amazing 4th of July fireworks was the highlight of the week. The SITs did a skit for their tiki carnival and it was Spongebob themed – we will always remember this. Our campers found an appreciation for the nature around us. We feel excited to see our family but we will miss our counselors.

O10- Representing our teams in Maccabiah is a highlight we won’t forget! We laughed so hard when we had “nail trimming” night! We are proud that we showed kindness to one another and sad to leave but excited to see friends and family.

N1 – This week our highlight was playing late night basketball for Hunters birthday! The funniest moment of the week was the boys pranked Ethan by spelling out his name in cards right next to his bed for when he woke up. Our cabin had a really deep conversation this week about inclusion and differences, and how to help one another feel included in the community. My campers overall are feeling bummed that the session is ending and felt like time passed very quickly, but some are counting down the days since they are excited to see their families!

N3 – This week our highlight was participating in Maccabiah! The funniest moment of the week is when Edward (our counselor) scored in the July 4th soccer game! Our campers grew this week by learning how to communicate better as a team. We feel sad that the session is almost over but excited to make more memories as a cabin during the last 5 days!

N4 – The boys were all vibrant this week in Maccabiah. Everyone had a great time representing their teams. The boys were having a great time on the lake chilling on the trampoline. We’ve had such a successful and well-bonded cabin for the summer!

N6 – Maccabia was the highlight, of course! The girls participated and took active parts in their groups! They really got into the spirit! Sitting down as a cabin before bed helped us reflect on the week. They had so much fun, they’ve grown and evolved during the session. They connected with us and each other.

N7 – This week our highlight was mac-n-cheese for lunch. The funniest moment of the week was receiving grilled cheese sweatshirts in the mail for everyone! All the campers grew this week by taking a risk at the leap of faith! They are sad for the session to end.

N8 Having a Taylor Swift dance party with assistant director Ezra – was a funny highlight of the week. We learned about other countries at the world fair carnival which was super fun. We are sad to go but so happy to have made so many amazing memories and forever friends.


When Solel had a Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) listening party on the deck – it was the best! We had late night encounter with a mouse in a girls cabin and bonded by sharing beds to stay safe!! We started making our big Solel plaque to put on the shower house, coming together to make a design for our telletubbies theme. We are sad that camp is coming to a close but excited for Solel Shabbat and to do all the special moments and traditions with this conclusion.


It’s the end of an amazing week for ILS. After 5 exciting days exploring the modern city of Tel Aviv, we headed up north for an outdoor adventure. It was a challenging three day hiking and camping excursion in through Mount Meron and other parks.

Afterwards, we traveled to Beit Shean to experience some Israeli kibbutz life with our host families! We’ve been volunteering, cooking, and chilling with other teenagers from local kibbutzim.

We are heading into our final 9 days with a group that is closer than ever. We can’t wait to travel down south next and explore the desert. Shabbat Shalom from Emek HaMaayanot!

SIT – In the past week the SITs planned and ran our all camp carnival which was amazing for all involved. We build benches for the new ropes course using wood from the old climbing tower. To relax the SIT’s enjoyed watching a dive in movie at the pool.