All Roads Lead to CTN by Shy Ashkenazi

  • Growing up in Israel, I never had a summer camp experience. summer camp was that thing you see in the movies, with the lake shy 3and fields and loads of fun. So when I was done with my army service I applied to take part in the summer Shlichim program of the Jewish agency for Israel. I was getting ready to be an Israeli staff member in a Jewish – North American summer camp, and to bring my Israeli story to the camp community.

    Within a few months I found myself in Hampstead, NH, in an unknown place that was about to become my home away from home.

    The summer of 2006 was my first summer at CTN. I found myself surrounded by amazing friends, great campers, a beautiful place and a loving community. Camp turned out to be that place where I could be whatever I want to be, and for me it was a place that opened a door for me to the next stage of my life. Camp challenged me in many ways – adapting to a new culture, making new friends, becoming a real part of camp staff and community to the point where I was leading the Israeli delegation and other staff members in creating activities and becoming a part of camp, finding the small educational opportunities to bring myself and my story to my peers and campers, educational challenges and personal ones. All of that (and more) was what I went through my first summer at camp.

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    At the end of that summer I made up my mind – I would be back! And I knew exactly what I wanted to do when I come back – for my second summer I wanted to have bunk 8, and already planned my third summer – A Dor’L’Dor counselor. And so I was. And in 2010 even returned as the assistant boys head counselor and head of Israeli delegation.

    But camp didn’t only give me some of my most amazing moments of connection to Judaism, to my Israeli self, many moments of pure fun and joy with great friends- both staff members and campers.  Camp was only the beginning of the path I started walking on.

    When I returned home at the end of my first summer, in 2006, knowing I want to go back to camp, I started working as a staff member in the screening and training process of the Jewish Agency for Israel, helping other Israelis experience the joy of camp.

    Choosing my education studies in Hebrew University, in which I incorporated my experience and knowledge writing papers regarding leadership development at camp and other educational key components of camp, working for the summer Shlichim program, surrounding myself with people who live and breathe camp- all of those are the result of that first summer.

    I became a camp professional. In the last four years I have been a full time member of the staff that screens and trains the Israelis going to camp, creating the content and the way we train them. I have been leading courses for Israelis who are returning to camp for 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th year, heads of delegations, and also American staff who are in Israel for a year.

    From being a part of Tel Noars’ A-Staff and bunk 1 counselor, I found myself in 2011 being a part of a staff that opened a new Israeli-American camp in upstate NY, creating a new camp culture and community.

    For the past 8 years I got to expand my knowledge about the camping world, get to know over 200 other camps and visit may of Camp Tel Noar - Summer 2007them, Screening and training thousands of Israelis going to different camps, and through all of that, if anyone asks me “What is camp for you?”, my answer still remains –

    Camp is that feeling I have driving down Main Street, right before you turn into camp for the first time that summer.

    Camp is the smell of mulch in that spot between the office and the basketball court.

    Camp is one bounce on the office court.

    Camp is music on the dance platform.

    Camp is having a party in your chug lounge on a rainy day.

    Camp is “Sheket Bevakasha!”

    Camp is NEGEV vs. GALIL.

    Camp is dancing in the dining hall on Friday night.

    Camp is failing cleanup inspection.

    Camp is MTV night/Talent show.

    Camp is bunk beds and cubbies.

    Camps is step ball.

    Camp is Olim/ Olot, Tzofim/Tzofot and Bogrim/Bogrot.

    Camp is the all-call sound in the morning.

    Camp is the G store.

    Camp is my days off with my friends.

    Camp is spending time with my campers.

    Camp is sitting during services, looking around, and knowing that I am surrounded by a strong and loving community.

    Camp is leaving at the end of the summer all teary eyed, because you know that what you had with those people that summer is something no one else could ever understand.

    Camp is the families I got to know.

    Camp is my friends, who until today share some things with me that others will never relate to.

    Camp is my happy place.

    For me, camp is, and always will be, Camp Tel Noar.

    (Dedicated to my camp friends, and for the best summers of my life)

     

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