Sharon Rich loved her summers at Camp Tevya in Brookline, New Hampshire. She was never without her baseball glove and credits Tevya with preparing her for life. Summers with her fellow camper, Barbara Abrams, turned into lifelong best friends 30 years later, when Sharon realized that the now Barbara Schneider (a former Jewish Journal publisher) was her childhood bunkmate. Sharon loved the camp’s Jewish atmosphere and one of the proudest times in her life was when she was named Sabbath Queen.
Her husband, Howard Rich (who serves on the Journal’s Board of Overseers), also loved his eight summers at Camp Samoset in Gilford, New Hampshire, starting when he was 8, and later as a waiter, counselor in training, and junior counselor. He enjoyed all sports, especially Color War. Many counselors had experienced the World War II years and greatly appreciated nature and freedom, something Howard carries with him. While Samoset was not a “Jewish camp,” his fellow campers were mostly all Jewish and 60 years later they remain active friends. Until the coronavirus, they have had reunions in Florida and, remarkably, over half of his camp peers show up.
Kate Urman attended Camp Matoaka in Smithfield, Maine, for seven summers followed by two years as a counselor. “At camp you learn to address anything that comes up directly and in “live-time. I learned perseverance and pushed myself beyond my comfort zone to try new things and to accept that I may not always win.” The counselors and friends from that developmental time in her life are still her friends.
Particularly with today’s pressures, Urman feels strongly that camp is the place kids can “really unplug, be outdoors, make friends and that camp was “truly one of the best gifts my parents ever gave me.”
The epitome of the “happy camper” was, and still is, Karen Robinson. She started camp when she was 5 and her parents worked at Camp Pembroke on the South Shore. On to Camp Tel Noar and then to Camp Yavneh, both in New Hampshire, when her mother was camp director. It was only natural when Karen returned to Tel Noar to work for “seven magical summers” while her three daughters were campers. Karen still tears up when recalling the collective sense of peace and warmth every Shabbat. She learned “how to really share, be respectful of others, and how to live with those who are different, and that being part of a community is meaningful and makes for a richer life.”
Jay Goldman was both a camper and a counselor at Camp Bauercrest in Amesbury, and has served on their board of directors. He began at age 12 and regrets not having started younger. “Camp taught me independence, the value of relationships, and was probably the first chance I had to stand on my own,” he recalled. When looking back at the counselors and campers that he grew up with, “Everyone is well educated, professional, and successful in adult life. Being Jewish just felt natural and Shabbat at Bauercrest was something I had never experienced. For us when we get together, there is an instant bond as if time has stood still.”
Helaine Hazlett attended the Jewish Community Center of the North Shore’s Camp Simchah when it was at its original location on Market Street in Lynn. When she was 8 years old, she joined her brother at Camp Naticook in Merrimack, New Hampshire, then later to Camp Aquila in Raymond, Maine, along with Lynn/Swampscott native Lesley Stahl and her brother. She also found a second home at Camp Milbrook in Marshfield, first as a camper, then waiter, CIT, counselor, and finally head counselor. “Judaism was reinforced with the Motzi before meals and Friday night services,” she recalled. She attributes her ability to get along with various groups from those formative years. “Camp made a young girl from Swampscott independent and resilient.”
For eight years, Julie Newburg attended Camp Nokomis, a YMCA nondenominational camp in Meredith, New Hampshire, first as a camper, and later as a CIT. She loved all sports and the community activities, but most of all, Julie loved the “feeling of acceptance and not being judged.” At Camp Nokomis, the counselors and staff stayed for many seasons and Julie attributes them with “undiluted kindness, enthusiasm and cooperation,” qualities that have become part of who she is in the world.
Ariel Berger started working as a camp counselor at Camp Tevya in Brookline, New Hampshire, when he was a junior in college, and later became the boys’ head counselor. He learned “the power of community, treating people fairly, if you do for one, be ready to do for all, managing a staff, and becoming a leader.” Though they did not meet at Tevya, Ariel credits mutual camp friends for introducing him to his wife, Carrie. And now, both their children will be continuing the tradition of becoming Tevya campers.
Camp is where campers and counselors become a family, not of blood, but of shared history.