“Live the good you learn here.”
Some of the wisest words and a motto I learned at Camp Louise, a Jewish overnight camp in Cascade, MD. These words describe how camp has transformed and shaped my life as a friend, mother, partner, colleague, and contributing member of society. I’ve been one happy camper ever since my early days at camp.
I grew up attending elementary and middle school with few other Jewish students. When introduced to Jewish camps, I was drawn towards the communal-feel. I immediately felt like I was part of a community rooted in values, rituals, friendships, and fun.
My 11 years at Camp Louise was lifechanging. I was hooked from the start. Camp was a welcome escape from stresses at home and a place where I felt like I could be myself in a world where many teenagers struggle to navigate life. Camp provided a safe and judgement-free environment. We would sometimes step out of our comfort zone, try new things, explore Judaism in an experiential way, all while feeling secure among good friends by our side.
Because of my camp experience, I felt more connected to being Jewish. I became a “lifer”. After being a CIT (counselor in training), I continued to work at camp and strived to curate immersive and transformative experiences for campers that would build up their self-confidence and strengthen their Jewish identity and sense of belonging.
Camp remains an integral part of my life and my family’s. My sons have grown up going to JCC day camp and, like me, they now count down the days for their summers at Camp Airy, the brother camp to Camp Louise. Every year, I spend one weekend at Camp Louise for a reunion with camp friends, past counselors, campers, and lifelong “framily” (friends who have become like family). My husband and sons attend Family Camp at Camps Airy & Louise, which deepened our connection to the camps and our family’s Jewish life.
The benefits of Jewish camp are endless. Whether day or overnight camp is your jam, the experience can drive lifelong Jewish connections and life skills.
Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned from camp: