“I pledge to be funny.” Those are the words my son Joshua wrote several years ago when he was asked to sign a behavior contract before going to sleep-away camp. Not satisfied with just committing himself to respecting others and following the camp rules, he made a commitment that to keep himself and those around him in good spirits was just as important. I have no doubt he fulfilled his pledge. He came home from camp that summer with a huge smile, an endless repertoire of catchy camp songs, and lots of newly acquired knowledge of Jewish ideas and principles.
Last week, we dropped Joshua off at Camp Ramah New England where he will be participating in its special needs Tikvah program for the first time. After being home with his parents for the last 15 months, we feel blessed that Joshua can once again spend time with his peers and participate in fun, age-appropriate activities in a Jewish setting.
Sending a kid off to camp in 2021 is a very different experience from other years. Joshua had to have two COVID tests before camp and another one before he could even get out of the car on drop-off day. For months now, the camp has been sending weekly e-mails outlining COVID procedures and policies. Staff also held several town hall Zoom meetings to answer camper and parent questions. Luggage this year had to be sent weeks in advance via FedEx because parents are not allowed to step foot in camp. There will be no packages sent to camp this year because the staff needs to focus on other things and there will be no field trips outside of camp.
As a person who appreciates good communication and planning, I have marveled at the enormous efforts the camp administrators underwent this last year to create not only a safe space for their campers, but a joyous place where they could come together and share their pride as young Jewish people after what has been a very difficult year. It has been an inspiration to witness the camp staff solving each challenge for the greater good of the young people in their charge. In some ways, Federation has the same mission: we are committed to creating a meaningful Jewish life for the people of the Binghamton community.
There was no behavior contract for Joshua to sign this year, but I am certain there is a bunk somewhere in the woods of the Berkshires where a young man is upholding a commitment he made several years ago to be funny and share his good spirits with others. I am wishing you all a meaningful summer filled with laughter and joy.