[As part of FJC’s summer blog series on 21st Century Skills, we are featuring personal stories from camp alumni and professionals across the field exemplifying how Jewish camp provided the ideal environment to become the best version of themselves. Follow along all summer long, and share how Jewish camp impacted your growth! Tell us your story in the comments, on Facebook or tweet @JewishCamp using the hashtag #JCampSkills.]
By Paula Rose
Jewish summer camp is the reason that, with the exception of Shabbat, you’ll never find me without a writing utensil. Or more accurately, you’ll never find me without a handful of writing utensils: one for me, and several to share. I developed this habit while working as a rosh edah, a unit head, at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires, and while it might sound like a small thing, my preparedness with writing utensils is actually part of a much larger leadership skill set that I had the opportunity to develop at camp.
My camp friends and I joke about being a “rosh for life,” poking fun at the ways that our experiences have turned us into not only leaders at camp, but translated into “real-world” responsibility as well. After summers full of schlepping benches and setting up programming spaces, we instinctively arrange the desks of our graduate school classrooms into a circle, or straighten them into rows. Instead of relying on and constantly checking our phones, we wear actual wristwatches to know the time. We keep our apartments clean, carefully assigning and sharing chores with our roommates and spouses.
In addition to all of these type-A organizational skills, camp gave me the space to develop into a leader, in a way that I can only appreciate now, in hindsight. After spending each morning facilitating tefillot and making announcements in Hebrew in front of one hundred people, giving sermons in front of large congregations is totally comfortable. After programming for dozens of children and teenagers, teaching and working with youth groups is second nature. After attentively listening to counselors’ frustrations, I was well prepared for chaplaincy work.
Without even noticing, I grew immensely over the course of my summers at camp. Responsibility became acquired behavior, and the habits I built at camp began to permeate my life year-round. Immersed in a loving and fun environment, I became a responsible adult and a leader, one who will, God willing, earn the title “Rabbi” in the coming year. I am deeply grateful for the skills and lessons that I learned at camp, and should I ever be moved to journal about that feeling of gratitude, you can bet that I’ll have several pens, pencils, and markers on hand, because camp taught me that you can never be too prepared.
Paula Rose is a fifth-year rabbinical school student at the Jewish Theological Seminary in NYC, where she is also pursuing a master’s degree in Talmud. Camp Ramah in the Berkshires has been her second home every summer since she graduated from high school, and both there and in the city, her favorite things to do include Israeli dancing, teaching Torah, and anything that involves being in close proximity to natural bodies of water.