By Melissa Reman and Nina Rose
On Memorial Day weekend, two Jewish Southern belles, Nina and Melissa, packed their bags and embarked on an eight hour car ride adventure they’ll never forget. Months before, they met at Moishe House in Charlotte, NC, where they quickly bonded. Nina grew up in Charlotte and was now back home working as a marketing supervisor and Melissa was brand new to the city, starting a new job with an accounting firm. As regular participants at Moishe House, they saw a new poster on the wall after a Passover pizza party that read, “Shed the 9 to 5 and return to your inner child.” It was a poster for Camp Nai Nai Nai – a four day Jewish summer camp for adults.
When we saw the poster, a spark ignited and our minds immediately flooded with nostalgic summer camp memories. We jumped at the exciting possibility of meeting like-minded Jewish young professionals, reliving the passion of our youth and strengthening our Jewish faith. We made the decision to attend the inaugural session of Camp Nai Nai Nai, not knowing what to expect, but hoping for the best.
When we arrived at camp, we were a bit nervous at first, but felt more at ease after playing a few icebreaker games with our cabin mates and counselors. A couple hours later, we welcomed in Shabbat and attended services with all of camp, which made us feel even more connected to each of the other 125 campers. Friday night dinner was amazing because everyone was genuinely happy to be there, bring in Shabbat and to meet each other. Plus, the matzah balls were the size of softballs! From there, things only got better.
During the day, Melissa was Queen of the Kitchen, crafting Star of David-shaped chocolate challahs, tie-dying challah covers and making unique culinary creations in her pickling class (I never knew making sauerkraut could be so soothing!). Nina was Queen of the Outdoors, riding the zipline, canoeing like an Olympic gold medalist and making a big splash at the creative dive competition during the color war. Together, the two of us soared to new heights with rock climbing, hiking in the rain and meditating in the serenity of the forest.
Luckily, we have tons of energy, because the evening activities continued the enthusiasm and excitement with songs by the campfire, an epic camp dance and live-band karaoke. Nina was lifted in a chair during the hora, people were dressed up in dinosaur costumes and animal pajamas, and the fun didn’t stop. But more than anything, the people, the bonding and the Jewish ritual made us feel at home. It felt like camp. And just like at camp, we didn’t want the weekend to end.
It was a life-changing experience that lifted our spirits, and connected us with like-minded Jewish young adults from all over the world. We have stayed in close touch with many of the other campers and are even planning a trip to Israel with a few of them soon. At camp, we relived our childhood, gained a stronger connection to our Jewish roots, and found a new Jewish community for ourselves. And we did it all with the “Nai Nai Nai” spirit and made a promise to bring that spirit wherever we go. We can’t wait for Memorial Day Weekend 2018 to do it all again!
Melissa Reman, 27, is a consultant for Ernst & Young in Charlotte. Originally from New Jersey, she didn’t grow up going to summer camp but can’t wait to go back. Nina Rose, 29, is a marketing supervisor for Wastequip. She grew up in Charlotte and loved reliving her camping experience.
Camp Nai Nai Nai is a Jewish summer camp for adults experience created and run by Moishe House through support from the Maimonides Fund. In its first year, 127 campers and 15 counselors joined together for Memorial Day weekend at Capital Camps.
To learn more visit: www.campnainainai.org.