by Hannah Sharron, current student at Birmingham University
On 9th June, I was one of several hundred people flying from London to California; I could’ve been anyone, going anywhere. By the time I made the journey in reverse eighty days later, I had become part of a new family.
What changed in that time?
I had been a staff member at Camp Mountain Chai.
There is a global community of camp counselors; within that community is the network of Jewish camp counselors; and within that network is the family that is Jewish Camps USA (JCUSA).
I consider myself a fairly fluent writer, but it is impossible to do justice to the magic of camp in mere words. I would need an accompaniment of music, dance, face paint and flour bombs (don’t ask), to convey a mere percentage of what camp is. And when I want to reminisce, my friends who completed internships or summer jobs look at me like I’m crazy.
That’s when I call my JCUSA family.
Whether it’s friends at Bristol, Nottingham and Leeds who went to Camp Mountain Chai with me, or others who are at Birmingham but worked at different camps around the States, the camp family just gets it. We know what song session is; why ‘blue or red’ is a label for life (b-l-u-e all the way to victory!), and why it’s so special to wear white on Friday night. We know what it is to stay up till 4:47 am preparing a programme – only to get woken at half past five because of a headache; to get ‘married’ three times in one summer… And to want to do it all again next year.
Summer camp memories and bonds are truly powerful; and our camp family allows us to keep them alive in England. Being part of JCUSA allows us to be part of something bigger than our individual camps, a network that brings the connection of camp back home and keeps the magic alive, long after the tans have worn off and the sleep has been regained – just kidding, the sleep can never be regained. But you know something? Going to camp was definitely worth it, and if you offered me back all the missed sleep in exchange for what I’ve gained, I’d say no thanks.
I will never forget my camp memories and the experience that I went through; it has helped me to grow and taught me so many things about myself. I am now continuing on my camp journey by furthering the teachings of camp, and giving as many other Jewish students as possible the same opportunity that I had and I can’t wait to return back to my second home next summer, Camp Mountain Chai.