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A few weeks ago, I received an email from Anna Herman asking if I would be interested in a “virtual Solelim program” this summer. I, almost without thinking, said I was interested and that I would love that opportunity. This does, however, beg a question: why did I say yes? What motivated me to so quickly agree to a program when I wasn’t even sure how it would function?

In answering those questions, we have to go back to the last time I attended camp, Summer 2018, Chalutzim. Given the fact that I’m writing this, you probably assume that I loved my Chalutzim year, which is true, and you can probably guess that I really enjoyed all the camp activities and making new friends, which is also true. Those two things are true, but those past experiences don’t explain why I want to participate in virtual Solelim. After all, it’s a virtual program, there’s not going to be kayaking in the lake, playing sports out on the fields, or making new friends and reconnecting with old ones. So that brings us back to the question: why did I say yes?

After a bit of introspection, I’ve come up with a few reasons, but the one that stood out the most was that I want a sense of community. For the last three and a half months, I have been cooped up in my house, and occasionally going for walks in the park, or seeing friends in contrived, artificial settings where we have to stay far apart and don’t have any kind of activity. Getting that email from Jacobs Camp with an opportunity to connect these people that have been my closest friends since elementary school was such a contrast to the mundane world I feel like I’ve been living in. There was no need to think about “if it was really worth the time.”

Even without the outdoor activities and the hours of sitting together and joking around, that opportunity to really do something, to be with my closest friends and do something is so meaningful. I always feel more connected when I’m at camp, even when I’m mostly disconnected from the outside world, and that chance to feel a sense of community again is something I couldn’t just say “no” to.

There is another reason, albeit a less spiritual and more practical reason, why I wanted to do Solelim and why I still want to do virtual Solelim: I want to be a counselor. I have a good amount of experience dealing with camp-age kids, but there’s a lot more to being a counselor. In my two years in Talmidim and my year in Chalutzim, I started to have closer relationships with my counselors, and in doing that, I realized there’s a lot more that goes into being a counselor than meets the eye.

They have to plan programs, they have to build groups, they have to lead even in situations where they’re uncomfortable, and they have to be in touch with their Jewish community. That’s a lot more responsibility than most people are prepared for, and that’s why Solelim exists, to prepare campers to become counselors.

I am sure that if I took two years off of camp, I’d come back as a counselor feeling overwhelmed. There would be so much to learn in such little time. So I’m taking this opportunity to prepare myself for my next chapter at Jacobs Camp and give back to the place that has given me so much.

Gabriel is a rising senior at Homewood High School in Homewood, Alabama and was going to return to camp for Solelim this summer. He will now be participating in our virtual Solelim program after attending Jacobs Camp for eight years