Dear Gesher 2020 Parents,
As it became clear that we were not going to have the summer in Camp we imagined all year long, Rabbi Linden and I met with you to discuss our plans for a virtual Gesher 2020 experience. At the time, we recognized that your chanichim (campers) were the ones most disadvantaged by Camp not opening. As a former Gesher chanich myself, I cannot imagine what my reaction might have been had someone told me that the kayitz (summer) I had been dreaming about and imagining for years would not be happening as expected. As a result, we shared with you our desire to provide your chanichim with an authentic Gesher experience replete with classic Gesher opportunities. Each summer our Gesher programming provides a mix of fun and leadership programs for Gesher chanichim. I’m happy to report to you that this summer was no exception. Through a robust #CampTime program, Gesher chanichim had the opportunity to take part in unique Gesher experiences, spearhead initiatives for their edah, and emerge as leaders for the entire camp.
Throughout the month of July, we offered 3-5 programs each week that catered directly to the Gesher chanichim. Starting with our first program — the traditional Gesher Initiation — it was clear that we intended to provide as many Gesher experiences as possible. From harga’ot (stories) provided by cherished former tzevet (staff) members, to weekly pre-Shabbat edah gatherings centered around shirah (singing), we created a space for authentic Camp programs and edah community building. Each week, I looked forward to our Friday “night” shira on Friday afternoons. I was impressed and energized by the way that the Gesher chanichim sang — unmuted — at the top of their lungs, replicating the Friday night ruach (energy) of the Chadar Ohel (dining hall).
One of the parts of the kayitz that significantly heartened me was the number of Gesher chanichim who, from day one, agreed to contribute to the planning for the edah programming. Between the kayitz committee and the school-year committee (which we hope to utilize in the future), we had nearly 40 chanichim sign up for leadership roles. During the kayitz, we had chanichim working on peulot erev (evening activities), pre-Shabbat gatherings, harga’ot, banim/banot (boys/girls) bonding, and much more. We even had a group of chanichim produce the official Gesher song for the edah. To have the Chanichim taking initiative and taking the reins of their Gesher experience in this way really emphasized to me the talent in this edah and the love for Camp they each have. In some ways, these opportunities better encapsulated the leadership development that we hope all of our chanichim will experience in Gesher, and that in this specific situation, paralleled the programs that would have happened had Camp been open as planned this past summer.
One of the great achievements of the kayitz was being able to offer a Counselor-in-Training (CIT) program for our chanichim. Over 1/3 of the edah participated, crafting fun and meaningful Camp memories for younger chanichim. By attending Chadar-from-Afar sessions and participating in A-Side peulot erev, the CITs were able to transfer their love of Camp to the youngest (including Ta’am!) echelons of camp. In addition to CITing, Gesher also showcased its ability to be leaders of camp by bookending the kayitz with personal tributes. At the beginning of the kayitz, the Gesher chanichim conveyed a sense of hope to the Camp community. At the end, they reflected on the wonderful community that had been created virtually. Despite not being at camp, Gesher 2020 came together in ways they had never done before and displayed a true sense of Gesher leadership.
Although Gesher 2020 was unable to have an in-person Gesher experience, the chanichim did have meaningful Gesher opportunities to celebrate and honor their time as chanichim. When all was said and done, Gesher 2020 embodied the vision set forth in hayom yom (today’s the day), our Gesher theme. Despite challenges and hurdles, Gesher 2020 rose to the occasion. It was an absolute pleasure for me to be the Rosh Edah of your chanichim this kayitz. Seeing the ways they have grown and matured since I was their Rosh Edah in Solelim 2017 was a true delight. Although they are no longer chanichim, I know that this group of chanichim from this edah will continue to leave their mark on Camp Ramah in the Berkshires as they make their way through Seminar, tzevet, and beyond.