What does it mean to have been a Jacobs camper?

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My name is Clare (Levy) Clarke, and I am the new Alumni Committee Chair for the Jacobs Camp Committee. I grew up in Memphis and now live in Nashville with my husband, Robin, and our three young children, Norah, Eden and Owen.

My first summer at Jacobs Camp was in 1989. I remember stepping off the bus the first day of 1st Session. My counselors, Frannie Millman and Kim Moses, were there to greet me. I was nervous, I was hot, and I had no idea that this day was the beginning of path to something so much larger than just a month at sleep away camp.

That path would lead me to 10 more summers as a camper and counselor in Utica. It would lead to shared life-cycle moments with camp friends–Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, high school proms, shared college memories, post-college roommates, weddings, raising children together. It would lead to my sending my own children to Utica each year.

This summer, while so many current and would-be campers lost the chance to make their memories at camp, I’ve been reflecting upon my own summers as a camper, and what it means to have been a Jacobs camper. When you’ve been a Jacobs camper, you know that:

• Fried chicken dinners are sacred.
• There will be times in your life that you’ll wake up in the morning, and you’ll have Sharpie marker drawings on your arms and legs. El Marco strikes again. It just happens somehow.
• No matter where or when, if someone calls out, “Today is a very special day,” a rhetorical response of “How special is it?” must always follow.
• Spending hours re-writing lyrics to popular songs is not only good fun, but it’s also a sign of a special level of creative genius.

While these experiences certainly connect Jacobs alumni to one another, we all know the deeper, more soulful connections are the ones we can’t really put into words. They are the ones that give you pause when you see a sunset that reminds you of Shabbat services overlooking Lake Gary. They are the ones that make you want to call your camp friends because none of your co-workers understand your re-telling of the “These beans are bad” skit. (“Is there a doctor in the house?”) And they are the ones that make you realize when you sing Hashkiveinu to your children at bedtime, Jacobs camp is part of your own family fabric.

Whether you spent one summer or ten at camp, Jacobs became a part of you when you drove through the camp gates. And that Jacobs Magic stayed with you when you drove out at the end of the summer. For me, an alum and parent of current and future campers, the Jacobs Magic continues to amaze me. I hope that all of you who have memories of your time at camp have the opportunity to reflect, to share, and to pass on the pieces of camp that changed you.