It's Camp Day!
Today would be the day that I should be posting my poem, but I will save that depressing entry on Parshat Korach for tomorrow. Today is going to overnight camp day! It is a day on the calendar that should appear in italics and bold and in huge font. Today is the day that the kids have been waiting for for almost a year, or perhaps even more, if camp was forced to skip a summer because of COVID.
When you look at a camp's website, it will usually have a countdown clock on the site, to help count down to the 23 or 24 amazing days of dirt, popsicles and summer bliss. Camp for many campers is the place to find their independence, explore new activities in a safe spot and just hang out with 18 or more of their closest friends. It's a place to shine and grow, to scream, to sing, dance, play and flourish in a spot of organized chaos. Happy chaos. (a reference to my poem tomorrow)
I went to camp as a child but it is my experience as adult staff at camp that has ignited my passion for camp. For many years, when our own children attended Camp Yavneh in Northwood, New Hampshire, I worked producing and directing plays. From The Lion King to West Side Story, from Newsies to Annie, from Salah Shabbati to Wicked, I had the privilege of working with amazingly talented young people at Yavneh for thirteen years. Yavneh is where I learned the power of community and growing a play with the many talents that people possess.... When I produced a play, there were people who were fabulous with art, with music, with dancing, with choreography, lighting, organizational skills and acting. As a director, I just needed to find the people who had these gifts and their gifts made the productions come to life.
I'll never forget my time at camp. Never. It gave me the confidence to go our into the community and direct and produce many Purim Shpiels when I worked in Jewish education. Like camp, the model was the same. Find people who had passions and let them contribute those passions toward the final fabulous product. It still defines me today, even in this blog and even in this series of asking people to write about their passions. It's all the same idea.... Camp is a place that allows the seed of confidence to germinate, to grow and to blossom.
One last thought. Long ago, or at least it feels like long ago, it was my job to encourage children at my religious school to go to Jewish summer camp. Camp, in its own organic and very zany way, had a way of cementing Jewish identity that religious school could never do. To this day, when I peek at Facebook, I see those students, now older and finishing up their camp experience, still going to camp, still watching that moving clock and waiting for camp to begin.
Today three of our grandchildren are boarding buses to overnight camp. Two are heading up to Camp Yavneh and one to Camp Nesher for a month. I couldn't be more excited for them as they head toward these happy places and now as a bubby it is my job to write them letters and remind them that they need to savor every minute!
This has been a rather long introduction to Aaron and Esther. Both Aaron and Esther, who are siblings, went to camp Yavneh. Both married people they met at Camp Yavneh. Both felt so passionately about camp and its benefits that they started a business which helps to make placements at camp. Campers working at camp.
A number of months ago I listened to a podcast about how Aaron and Esther's adult professional lives were affected by lessons learned at camp. It gave me an opportunity to reflect about camp and the difference it can make in a child's life. I am sharing their message here because it takes us from camp and show us how it can change a life, years after the last day of flag-raising, of color war, of song fest and so much more.
“In our adult lives, we look for opportunities to recreate camp magic for our friends and family.” — Aaron & Esther
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN Our CampHire story begins in Northwood, NH at Camp Yavneh. Being siblings, our experience follows a similar path. We come from a powerhouse camp family with 42 (!) summers at camp between us. Our mom got a job looking after the day care center and swapped her salary for reduced tuition for her three kids. We were “Staff Brats”, and we took full advantage of the privilege. We’d send fake mail to our parents on letter-writing day and our dad would pop-up on weekends and swim around the lake in a Speedo (embarrassing!). Looking back, it was so much fun. Our parents are amazing and they really let us do our thing at camp. Camp continues to be a big part of our identity as a family unit. We met our spouses at camp (jackpot!), set the dress code at our weddings to “camp chic” (try to figure that one out), and maintain a tight knit group of camp friends. In our adult lives, we look for opportunities to recreate camp magic for our friends and family. Weekends at our summer home on Long Island are appropriately called “Camp Lyon”, where traditions of campfires, singing, communal meals, and talent shows are alive and well.
“I hosted singing competitions throughout the U.S., Europe, and India, inspired by lip-syncing contests from my camp days.” — Aaron
THE POWER OF CAMP IN OUR PROFESSIONAL LIVES Prior to launching CampHire we’d been out of the camp world for a handful of years, working on our careers, pursuing jobs in the corporate world and in education. AARON - I distinctly remember when it clicked for me that my camp experience was going to set me apart at work. Early in my career I was responsible for creating a sales training for 2,000 employees. Training classes are usually boring so I challenged myself to spice things up. Every 30 minutes I had participants play a goofy game based on activities from camp. One of the prompts was to split into teams and rewrite lyrics to a song. I hosted singing competitions throughout the U.S., Europe, and India, inspired by lip-syncing contests from my camp days. People. Freakin. Loved. It. We had teams come out of the woodwork with choreographed dances, vocal arrangements, costumes, and skits. We filmed the whole thing and premiered it at a company-wide meeting. The program won an internal award. My boss was in awe of how natural it all came to me. Her jaw dropped when I explained that half the activities I ran for my bunk of 12-year olds a decade back. To this day people tell me that was the best training they ever attended.
“I have never had a situation in my career that required that level of in-the-moment creativity and adaptation.” — Esther
CAMP VALUES ARE LIFE VALUES We built CampHire because we wanted to reconnect with camp, and help both camps and candidates create meaningful experiences for campers. People are at the heart of camp, so that’s been our focus. It’s a way for us to give back to the camp community, while keeping camp relevant in our lives. We are really proud of how the skills and lessons we picked up from camp are woven into the DNA of our business. Two core principles ring loud and clear:
We adapt fast, and are constantly making changes on the fly
We are serious about people, culture, and inclusivity
ESTHER - My first true test in adapting on the fly came as a Unit Leader. I was the sole person responsible for 60 campers and 10 staff on an overnight in the mountains of Maine. At 2:00 am I woke up to pouring rain and the collective screams of 10 year-olds as tents, sleeping bags, and clothes were soaked with cold rain. I remember the way my mind reacted at that moment. Panic, disbelief, laughter, action. Within seconds I had gathered my staff and together we got to work in formulating Plan B. Hotels? Tarps over tents? Drive back to camp? I woke up the bus driver who was staying at a nearby hotel and scrambled to find shelter for the campers while the bus rolled into the campground. We rallied the campers and encouraged them to embrace the madness! This would be an experience they would always remember. An hour later, 60 kids drifted off to sleep in the seats of a bus parked in the mud. By the time we started hiking the next morning, it had become a war story for the group to bond over. To this day, I have never had a situation in my career that required that level of in-the-moment creativity and adaptation.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY
AARON- I am a strong advocate of celebrating your camp experience in job interviews, and at work. No matter how removed you think you are from camp, the impact it had on you is likely everlasting. Talk about it. Shout it from the rooftops. Share with the world how camp has shaped you.
One of the key lessons I learned from camp is it’s cool to be nice. Mean people don’t survive at camp. Bullies don’t last. They either conform to the positive culture, or they don’t come back the next summer.
That’s a core principle I’ve carried through in my career. I am nice to everyone, always. It’s the biggest career tip there is. When I interview for jobs, I make it a point to speak specifically to how I treat my colleagues, and how being caring and compassionate leads to better results.
I received an offer for my dream job a few years back. When the hiring leader informed me I got the job she was complimentary of my skills and experience. But more than that, she was impressed by how I carry myself as a person. She could feel that I truly live and breathe my ethics and life principles. She told me that my positive mindset made me stand out from the other finalists.
My dream job hired me because of the values I stand for, and those values I got from camp.