Building Stronger Year-Long Camp Communities with Video

by Eytan Graubart

Video can be an ideal tool for summer camps, those idyllic places that spring up in June bursting with energy and become ghost towns by the end of August.

Videos preserve camp connections among our most important audiences long after the last bunk is shuttered. Even movement camps like Habonim Dror Camp Moshava, which offer year-round activities for our camper/members, have difficulty keeping the camp spirit alive among current campers – and their families – during the school year. There are the prospective campers and their parents who are making camp-choice decisions during the middle of winter without the ability to see the camp in operation. Finally, there are our far-flung alumni and supporters who have fond but flagging camp memories and who are dispersed around the world.

Video not only allows camps to prolong the excitement of camp beyond summer, it can underscore the uniqueness of a camp – its market niche, if you will – in a way that may not be obvious to campers or parents who only see the arts-and-crafts projects or pool activities. A video can help articulate why campers should choose camp, its educational message, and even how it can benefit children for the rest of their lives.

Habonim Dror Camp Moshava is in the unique position of preserving the pioneering spirit of Israel’s founders in the 21st century, an era when our founding paradigm, the kibbutz, is as likely to have a computer-chip factory on its property as a chicken coop. Several recent videos enabled us to show prospective parents and alumni our educational approach as well as the continuity of our founding values: love of Israel, Jewish peoplehood, mutual respect, leadership development and devotion to tikkun olam. Oh, and the livelier, fun side of camp – what we like to call “Mosh magic.”

It helps to have a young camp leader who won an achievement award and scholarship from the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences at the age of 18. Avi Edelman, today an undergraduate at Columbia University, has put his filmmaking skills to work for camp to create several visitors’ day videos that have captured the youthful spirit of camp, delighting parents and campers alike. They keep the summer alive long into the dreary days of winter. In addition, Avi created a more serious recruitment film that captures our campers’ enthusiasm while exposing the dark underbelly of their experience: the educational framework that will help them become menschen and community leaders. This summer Avi will be the “rosh mosh,” the director of camp, and we hope that his intense daily supervisory activities will not stop him from creating another masterpiece.

Another recent video demonstrates that Mosh Magic is not a recent contrivance but part of longstanding tradition. Last September, more than 600 Moshniks from across North America and Israel converged on the camp to celebrate the camp’s 75th anniversary. Participants included an 88-year-old woman who was one of the founding campers in 1935, as well as current participants. Our YouTube video, filmed and produced by amateurs who are Board members, communicates the spirit of the day, demonstrates the continuity of our educational approach, and provides an opportunity for alumni to reminisce online. It is our hope that by strengthening their ties to the camp, our alumni will be motivated to provide the support to help it thrive for another 75 years.

An online video is, at best, a sterile surrogate for the camp experience: It cannot capture the sweat of a hot summer day, the smoke of a campfire, the taste of a camp meal, the biting cold of lake water in early June, the buzz of mosquitoes. Maybe a virtual, video camp experience is not such a bad thing.

Eytan Graubart is executive director of Habonim Dror Camp Moshava. All the videos are accessible on YouTube.