When thinking about adjectives that describe Camp Yavneh, a few words that come to mind are Masoret, Israel, and community. However, one phrase that would describe my experience as a Camp Yavneh madrich (counselor) is “full circle”.
As someone who did not participate in Na’aleh as a camper, it’s ironic to use the term “full circle”, but still, this precisely describes my experience this summer.
Going into Na’aleh, my mission was first to give the participants a true Israeli experience. Conversations about Israel in Camp last year were one thing, but showing the campers the land of Israel and its complexities was another. We debated politics and discussed the current situation, and I was glad to see my campers understanding its significance. Several nights a week Noam Borensztajn (my co-madrich and my personal Israel/Judaism/Life expert), and I would hold informal debrief sessions giving the campers a space to ask questions, react to speakers, or speak on whatever was on their mind.
Another goal of mine was to have the Na’aleh participants experience Israeli culture, not just its politics. Back in May I had the privilege of meeting Ishay Ribo, one of Israel’s most successful singers. He also is the artist of Leshuv HaBayta, the song that my campers sang for their Shir Yisraeli in Zimriyah 2019. While we were speaking, he told me about an upcoming concert in Jerusalem, which prompted me to immediately check our itinerary. Knowing we were going to be in Jerusalem during his concert, I knew that we had to be there. On July 14 we closed another circle with Na’aleh campers and staff, singing Leshuv HaBayta at Ribo’s concert at the magical Sultan’s Pool surrounded by the golden Old City walls. This sold-out concert, attended by religious and non-religious Israelis and Americans alike, demonstrated the common bond of our people across political and cultural differences.
Aside from spending the summer with this group in the land of Israel, I’m so grateful to have spent three summers with these campers and with Noam. The unique relationships that I’ve been able to build and strengthen with each of the 32 participants is something that I appreciate so much and know that I’ll take with me wherever I go. To see a group that respects and loves each other so much, one by one, combined with all their shenanigans and unmatchable humor makes me proud as I end this era as their counselor.
The Na’aleh kids as a group are extremely talented in many ways. But one thing that stands out to me is their singing. I’d do anything to have another night at a kibbutz in the Negev or another tisch on Friday night to sing with our campers (although most of the time there was a mutual agreement that I’d keep my mouth shut in order to avoid ruining the beautiful music.)
My initial hope as a madrich was that I could relay to my campers the wisdom that I received throughout my life. But ultimately, I learned valuable lessons from each and every one of them. I can confidently say that closing this full circle at Yavneh as a counselor is the best and most rewarding experience I’ve had in my life.
Kerem ‘21 and Na’aleh ‘22 (and Noam Borensztajn), I love you, I miss you, and I’m forever grateful to you for our singing, laughing, moshing, tears, and hugs.