“In the glimmering sparks of the campfire lie a thousand stories.” As a child, I recall my camp director starting each Saturday night campfire story with this line. Today, I’d amend that quote to say, “around the picnic tables, gaga pits and hammock swings of Camp Wise begin a thousand stories.” Walking through our camp’s villages in the summer we witness countless memories and friendships forming and stories taking place. As human beings and as Jews our stories – our narratives – carry the power to teach, heal and transform lives.
In the Camp Wise community, stories are often filled with energy, fun and life lessons: a trip to Israel; the first summer in Chalutzim; an unforgettable cabin reunion; being “COs” for a crazy cabin; the time Red team won Maccabia; or a friend who stepped up to help in a crisis. Camp is the safe and supportive space for these critical and life-changing experiences to form. It’s powerful because it’s a space where we can be face-to-face, a rare commodity in our world today.
This February, almost 60 Israel Leadership Summer (ILS) 11th and 12th grade participants gathered for a whole weekend at Camp Wise share old stories and begin new ones. Our goal was to reflect on last summer’s amazing ILS trip and pass the torch from one group to the next among future Camp Wise leaders. Storytelling is a core component to this process.
Our ILS campers experience Israel and Jewishness through the lenses of leadership and narrative. We explore what it means to know your story and share it and, just as importantly, to deeply listen and empathize with another person’s story that’s altogether different. This is how we learn about the complexity of Israel, our history and ultimately about ourselves. This is how we learn to lead. Our weekend retreat was profound; as one camper shared, “I never knew I’d care so much about a Jewish experience in my life.”
As we move through this Passover season – a season of the core Jewish story from slavery to freedom – we look ahead to Camp Wise’s 116th summer and remember: in the captivating energy of our campers, children and staff members lie the seeds of a thousand stories. May they each see light and life and joy.