BY MICHELLE KOPLAN
Recently, inspired by a blog written by Jeremy Fingerman, CEO of the Foundation for Jewish Camp, I explored the Torah portion, Vayeitzei, where the Hebrew word “machane” (camp) is first mentioned in the Torah.
When Jacob journeyed to meet his brother, Esav, we learn that he encountered God’s angels and recognized that the camp wasn’t just a camp, but was truly Machane Elokhim Zeh, meaning it is God’s own camp. Jacob called the place Machanayim (Genesis 32:2). Commentators explain that Jacob used the word machanayim, rather than machanot (plural for camp), to signify two different kinds of camps – perhaps one camp within Israel and one on the outside, or a pair of “connected camps,” with one camp on earh and one in heaven.
Similarly, immersed in Jewish values, BB Overnight Camp and BB Day Camps serve our communities’ children as “connected camps.” This past summer of 2021 was extraordinary. Although the challenges were immense, the joy and connection to Jewish life and one another felt like our camps were both in heaven and on earth. We were in machanayim. As I reflect on the complexities of our summer of 2021, I’m reminded of our collective resilience, strength and dedication to rebuilding our community.
Late last spring, the governor of Oregon announced the reopening of overnight and day camps throughout the state. The cheers echoed in our BB camper families’ homes. As the CDC and Oregon Health Authority guidance continued to evolve, our agency was agile and dedicated to serving our community. BB Camp was thrilled to open our gates and doors to our community. However, with great joy came great challenges. Sustaining the agency and opening a shuttered business after the governor mandated overnight camp closure in 2020, navigating through a tight labor market and COVID-mitigating protocols, and most importantly, caring for the well-being and mental health of our communities’ children after 15+ months of isolation due to the pandemic was hard.
Although the challenges were persistent throughout the summer, I’m incredibly proud to share that Hineni – Here (BB Camp) stands. With health and safety our highest priorities, BB Camp successfully and safely served over 1,500 campers and young adult counselors in our BB Overnight Camp and four BB Day Camps. Implementing COVID-mitigating protocols and non-pharmaceutical interventions allowed for joyous Jewish experiences this summer at our camps. By using multiple prevention strategies to avert COVID-19, as evidenced by a recent CDC study, we created a safe place for our children to be kids again!
One parent shared, “After a year+ of isolation and staying indoors, (our daughter’s) camp experience was critical to her pandemic recovery. We are so, so grateful she got to detox from home, the indoors, screens and got to engage with life and people and new friends and experiences. A++++ summer, thank you!!!!”
And from another parent, “Thank you for providing a safe camp in spite of the uncertainty of how things were going to go with COVID. After an incredibly tough and isolating year, camp provided just the right experience for my child, and it came at a much-needed time. Our family cannot thank you enough.”
On top of the genuinely fantastic summer camp experiences, BB Camp is proud to have continued to prepare and deliver meals to food-insecure children and the Echo Mountain Complex Wildfire survivors due to the pandemic, wildfire disaster, and the unforeseen and increased need to feed families during this crisis. Thus far, we have provided more than 320,000 meals … and counting!
Summer 2021 truly illustrated BB Camp’s machanayim – our camps bring pure joy and community connections to Jewish life for campers and counselors. As we look toward the 2022 horizon, BB Camp machanayim are expanding programs and completing our capital campaign by building our new field house/gym. We can’t wait to see you again!
Michelle Koplan is CEO of B’nai B’rith Camp. For information on upcoming programs, 2022 summer camps and Second Century Centennial Celebrations visit bbcamp.org. As BB Camp continues to serve and engage the community, we thank you for your support. Contact Michelle Koplan at email@example.com.