By Sunny Rafaeli
I cannot think of a better way to spend two and a half months of my summer than being at camp. This is why choosing to return this summer to Camp Mountain Chai in the San Bernardino Mountains of California was one of the easiest decisions I have ever made.
It is extremely difficult to depict in words the experience that camp has given to me, so this will only give a minuscule representation of what it is like to be a counsellor. To say that being a counsellor at Camp Mountain Chai has changed me would be an understatement. As cliché as these next few sentences will sound, I cannot explain how accurate they are, and one is only able to truly understand once they experience it for themselves.
Working at a Jewish summer camp gave me the opportunity to express myself like no other place has ever, and probably will ever, be able to do and I cannot describe enough how grateful I am for this. Returning to England after camp had ended was extremely emotional, but I was happy knowing that I had created friends for life, and that I had come out as a more confident, independent, and open minded person. I never expected that being a counsellor and enabling campers to have the best summer would actually change my life.
The 24 hour long days are of course exhausting, but I can honestly say that the strength, confidence, and memories that they have given me is something truly magical and completely irreplaceable. Although camp only lasted two and a half months, the challenges, friendships, bonding experiences, song sessions, cabin activities, meal times, (I could go on forever) that we all partook in will stay with me for years and years to come.
It was during the first Friday night’s song and Israeli dance session that I told myself that I had to return to camp next summer. I am unable to do justice to the incredible atmosphere created on Friday night where all of camp dresses in white, and unite together in song and dance, but I can say that it made me feel a part of something much greater than myself. The fact I am joining many other returners this year is a testament to this fact. Forming a huge circle consisting of everyone at camp in it, singing a song which consisted of the lyrics, ‘I feel my eyes are tearing and I know my heart is proud’ gave me such a powerful surge of emotions. I believed every single word I was singing. It enabled me to realise how fortunate I am to be in this place, creating the most amazing memories with the most incredible people.
Camp has enabled me to learn so much about myself. I have become more independent, culturally aware and confident. The camp experience also taught me the importance of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, going above and beyond what is expected of you, and how to work effectively as part of a team.