I was just at Camp JRF. Here is my report. The facility is beautiful:
- The Hadar Ochel (Dining Hall) is well lit, has great acoustics with a quality sound system, and is of proper size and structural soundness to accommodate our 153 dancing and stomping chanichim (campers) along with the 60+ tsevet (staff).
- The Beit Sport, our indoor multi-purpose space, is also of sound quality and space to accommodate the entire camp for a calm, spiritual Kabbalat Shabbat and, later on, raucous Oneg Shabbat dancing.
- The teatron (theater) has fantastic lighting and sound equipment and looked quite full for our motze Shabbat (Saturday night) Shabbat Unplugged performances.
- Three of the four pavilions have been designated as batei am (gathering places) for individual eidot (age groups), with the fourth and oldest eidah getting a refinished indoor space.
- The streams and rivers are all flowing nicely, creating a wonderful sight and sound throughout the camp.
- The footpaths are well lit and look quite pretty at night.
- The new mirpa'ah (health center/infirmary) is shiny and clean and provides the nursing staff with an attractive and well outfitted station for handling our sick and injured campers (k'aynahorah - keep away the evil eye).
- The pool is being used every weekday morning for swimming instruction (!).
- The lake (I've decided that it is of sufficient size to call it a small lake) is full of water toys - a slide, an iceberg for climbing up and sliding down, a trampoline and a catapult, a teeter totter, paddle boats, canoes, kayaks - all of which were used this weekend.
I can go on and on. The ruach (spirit) of the place is unmatched in my camping experience:
- All 11 Israelis on staff, including the security staff, have made themselves an integral part of the camp community, participating in t'fillot (services) and in staff events. Some of them have already found the experience transformative in building and understanding their own Jewish identity.
- Returning campers have opened their arms to new campers, some of whom were still finding their way while I was there but were beginning to find their social niche and become a part of the camp culture.
- As in past years, the staff nurture all of the campers and their various needs, caring for those dealing with homesickness, teaching campers new games to occupy the few minutes of down time they may have throughout the day, and guiding them as they explore new activities and learning.
- The kitchen staff is visible as well, finding ways to integrate themselves into the camp community and providing the best tasting and highly nutritious camp food I've every seen.
- In just two days, our oldest chanichim, the Avodah eidah, started at least four projects and are making a visible difference to the camp facility and its daily life, including managing a composting heap of food waste.
- A parent of a former chanicha turned madricha is volunteering on site this week guiding the Avodah chanichim in building a new Beit T'filah (prayer site) in the woods next to the lake, to be finished in time for Shabbat.
In short, the experience is amazing, particularly coming on the heels of over a week of uncooperative weather during the critical set-up phase. I offer my deepest kol ha'kavod (honorable salute) to the camp staff, most importantly our Director, Rabbi Jeff Eisenstat, for pulling together a kick-off on our new site that only bodes well for our future success. I hope you all get a chance to see the camp in action at some point.
Stream at Camp JRF