It’s hard to find something to say about HSJ that hasn’t already been said. For every camper who walks through the gates, Jacobs is a place of comfort: somewhere they can grow, play, learn, and exist without fear or judgement.
As a former camper turned current staff member, it takes me little time or effort to identify the elements of myself which were fostered in me at camp. One such element is a passion for justice and equity, a passion which also constitutes the very fabric of Jacobs. Within our own walls, campers and staff members alike strive to make every day more fun than the last, and push each other to become more inclusive and understanding. As a kid, this was something I cherished about camp, but when I was a kid the world was very different. In 2018, the passion for justice emphasized at Jacobs camp has been wholly re-contextualized.
In 2018, the gift of camp is magnified in innumerable ways. The divisive nature of the current American landscape is simultaneously exhausting and inescapable. Camp, on the other hand, is the perfect anecdote to an overactive and over-connected world. Even in the few weeks I’ve been at camp this summer, I’ve been able to note the differences between the vernacular of my campers versus myself at eight years old.
The disfunction of our current world is not lost on them, but instead it influences their world view in ways which we can only wait to uncover. Our job now is to attempt to counteract the feeling of insecurity that surrounds them. HSJ provides the perfect environment for this task. Jacobs Camp lives perfectly at the intersection of embracing childhood and encouraging independence. As today’s children are bombarded with media which forces them to grapple with mature topics, the fact that we provide a space that not only caters to but inherently values the magic of childhood is priceless.
Beyond that, HSJ’s focus on inclusivity in a time where communities rarely intersect encourages understanding beyond what can be learned in day-to-day life. The maturity campers gain at HSJ, combined with the values impressed upon them prepare them to become advocates in their communities and beyond. The simple lessons of sleep away camp, like learning to live with others who are different than you, becoming comfortable with compromise, trying new things, empathizing, innovating, and building lasting bonds, are all ingredients so lacking in the current toxic landscape.
While any camp experience can provide these lessons to some extent, Jacobs incorporates our shared Jewish values to create the most lasting impressions possible. Not only does HSJ allow its campers a reprieve from the hectic environment of the current world, it prepares them to navigate the world successfully.
I’d be foolish to attempt to posit any valid suggestion on why America’s political climate has become what we know it to be now. Many individuals exponentially smarter than I have proposed myriad explanations, many of which stand in conflict with each other. I can, though, confidently speak on the influence HSJ had on me and the development of my personal ethics.
Camp was the place where I grew into myself, as a human, a Jewish person, a young woman, and a citizen of the United States, particularly the American South. It exposed me to a diversity of ideas and experiences which varied so wildly from those which I had known at home, and yet also provided me the comfort of a community in which I knew I shared a common faith with everyone around me. As I look to the future, of our nation, our world, and even just myself as a 17-year-old attempting to understand her place, I feel certain the skills provided to me by HSJ will empower me to competently and passionately seek answers.