Showing posts with label Crane Lake Camp. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Crane Lake Camp. Show all posts

Sunday, July 28, 2019

I just returned from a week serving on the faculty of Crane Lake Camp in West Stockbridge,  MA. It is the third URJ camp I have been proud to serve, in addition to Eisner Camp and Olin Ruby Union Institute. I was asked to write a post for the camp blog, which is largely directed at parents of campers as well as the lay and professional leaders in the Northeast. 

Every day at Crane Lake Camp is filled with fun and engaging activity. Sports, arts, drama and just hanging out with friends – like most summer camps – are a part of every camper’s experience. At CLC, there is a Jewish context that takes those same experiences a little further.

Our all-camp middah (Jewish Value) of the week is Ga’avah – Pride. For much of the week, we have focused on learning to be proud of our Jewish identities, of our community and our actions in support of one another.

During Limud[i] the other day, a group of Bonim campers were at the low ropes course to explore the middah of courage or ometz lev. When they were not exploring it by attempting elements of the course they were talking about different aspects of courage with staff and faculty.

During one discussion, the topic was “Fear of Failure.” It was apparent that many of these young campers had wrestled with that one. They shared what it meant to them, steps they might take to overcome it and even some examples of when they had faced that fear.

One thing that stood out was that there have definitely been times in their very young lives that they have felt unworthy of even trying to succeed.They shared their self-doubt. And then they moved to dispel those fears in their friends. I have to say that they were all very supportive and encouraged one another to move beyond that fear.

The next morning, I shared a story during the “Words of Wisdom” portion of morning t’filah. Many of us know the midrash[ii] that suggests we should each keep two pieces of paper in our pockets. One should say “The world was created for my sake” and other “I am but dust and ashes.”
We often share this midrash in order to talk about humility, since we are supposed to read the second message when we feel arrogant or overly prideful.

Inspired by those Bonim campers’ words to one another I suggested that we all need to focus a little more on the other message, that the world was created for our sake. If you believe – as I do – that each of us was ultimately created by God – then we are created in God’s image. And God doesn’t make junk.

When we doubt ourselves, questioning our worthiness, we have to remember that each of us matters. Camp would be diminished and far less amazing if even one of us were not here.
Listening to our campers reach out and support one another, they taught each other – and me – that being proud also means that “YOU MATTER.”

[i] Limud means learning. At CLC, we spend some time specifically focused on learning about Jewish values – middot – through a variety of experiential means. It is still fun, but the idea that we are learning something in the process is clearly stated.

[ii] Originally credited to Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Pryszska.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Why Camp: Living Values L’dor V’dor

And...we're back! A lot has happened since my last post, including serving seven months as the content coordinator for

This is a moment of schepping nachas (Yiddish for taking pride in something someone has done) for me. The author of this piece, Sarah Stein is one of my kids. That is to say that her formal Jewish education was in my religious school, I recruited her to be a camper at URJ Crane Lake Camp and I have been her teacher and supporter all along. Of course she has done amazing things - nearly all of which I had no hand in accomplishing - and I am proud to have been one of the people cheering her on. The was originally published on the Crane Lake Camp blog.

by Sarah Stein, Unit Head Team Leader

This past week, I attended an evening program with Crane Lake’s Olim Girls, the rising 10th graders, our oldest campers. Many of them had been my very first campers when they were in Nitzanim, entering 4th grade, as our youngest campers. The program was about female empowerment, and I just sat, watching, listening, and learning from these young women I had once been a counselor for. Throughout the year, I had seen so many of them standing up and speaking out for causes that they are passionate about, embodying the values we live by during the summer. I watched in awe and admiration as they came together after a long, hot day, lifting each other up. They spoke eloquently about the struggles they face as teenage girls, and how camp is an escape for them. Camp is a place where they feel heard and loved, a place that is fueled by the value of Chesed, a place where we have created a Culture of Kindness; and a place that has provided all of these things for me.

My first year at Crane Lake was in 2006, the summer before entering 6th grade. I was a quiet child, but each summer at camp, I saw myself growing. I began coming out of my shell, finding my voice, stepping up as a leader, but still staying true to my inner self. I feel my most confident, my most challenged, and like the best version of myself when I am at camp.

Inside of our red gates, I always knew I was not only accepted, but celebrated for who I am. I came to camp from a town where the Jewish population at our school was pretty much just me and my brother. I attended Hebrew School and had Jewish friends from Temple, but I had never felt so immersed in a Jewish community. It was remarkable to me how effortlessly Judaism was infused into our everyday camp lives, our values present at every activity period. T’filah drew me in with the beautiful music and elaborate hand motions, and always has this energy that I find incredibly comforting. It made me feel welcomed and inspired.

At the start of Leadership Team training each year, the Directors challenge us to “discover our why” – our motivation for being at camp, the lasting impact we hope to create. My why is that I believe we can change the world by raising the next generation of leaders. I hope to share with the campers and counselors the important lessons and values I continue to take away from Crane Lake; the values of having courage and speaking out, of being generous and openminded and kind. During the year, I work at a temple in a shared position with the URJ, and I’m able to bridge the kehilah kedoshah, the holy community we create at camp, with the greater Jewish community. I hope to create spaces where campers, staff, students and teachers, feel loved and accepted, can flourish and find their confidence, discover who they are, and then share that with the world.

Sarah is in the dark blue shirt in the middle
At camp, we have the opportunity to find a spark in every child. Crane Lake’s mission statement declares “Hineini, I am here”. I have heard the phrases that follow this declaration read through the collective voice of our community year after year, at the start of every staff training and during every opening ceremony. When I leave the Berkshires at the end of the summer, I take those echoing voices with me. Throughout the year, I find myself constantly repeating a piece of Crane Lake’s mission statement in all the work that I do – “I am here to do as much as I can, in the time that I have, in the place that I am, and to inspire others to join me in this holy work.”

This statement, our mission, asks every counselor, camper, staff member, and guest to live to their fullest potential, to be present in every moment, and to take advantage of every opportunity. But it also acknowledges that there are limitations. While we may each strive to do as much as we can, in the time that we have, we are able to accomplish so much more together. To me, Crane Lake is a place where I feel loved, accepted and celebrated for who I am. At camp, I am in a place where I can lift others up, and invite and inspire them to fulfill their own potential. This is what I saw in the Olim Girls last week, and this, to me, is the embodiment of camp. I guided the Olim Girls when they were younger. I was able to show them the magnitude of their potential at camp, and all that they can take away from every summer. And now, I have the honor of watching them shine, of seeing them flourish as leaders in the camp community and then bring that courage and perseverance out into the world, inspiring their own campers, and creating their own future.

Sarah as a young camper
Sarah is so excited to be back home for her 13th summer at Crane Lake! She is looking forward to spending time at the lake, eating grilled cheese, and getting to know everyone on camp. Sarah is originally from Stratford, Connecticut. She studied Business and Anthropology at Brandeis University, and spent this past year working in Youth Engagement at Temple Shalom of Newton, MA. After the summer, Sarah is looking forward to moving to New York to become the Youth Director at Temple Israel of the City of New York!