Traditions: The Building Blocks of a Community

  • According to, TRADITION can be defined as follows:

           tra·di·tion [truh-dish-uh n]

    1. the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice: the sense of pride a Tel Noar camper feels on the courts, on stage, or with their best friends is a rich tradition our alumni share with current campers
    2. something that is handed down: the final Shabbat tradition at camp is that services are led by our oldest campers, Bunks 8 and 18 (Nahariyah and Ein Harod)
    3. a long-established or inherited way of thinking or acting: The Running Man is a favorite evening activity tradition for second session at camp
    4. a continuing pattern of culture beliefs or practices: a popular tradition at CTN is that the color war break is always a surprise
    5.  a customary or characteristic method or manner: singing Hatikvah when we lower the flags each day is one of our traditions to show that we stand strong with Israel
    There is an idea that traditions in general, and camp traditions in specific, must remain the same in order to be deemed a “tradition”. And in some cases, this is true. But what makes a community robust and engaging is when it grows and adapts to the people who hold those traditions true. Camp alumni salivate at the mere thought of their Saturday morning tradition of Shabbos bread and share the recipe on facebook (as long as you are prepared to make it for a few hundred of your closest friends!). Today’s campers couldn’t imagine a Saturday morning breakfast without coffee cake and coming to the dining hall in their pajamas by bunk. Campers change; and so do their traditions.

    Camp Tel Noar has the privilege of leadership by many camp alumni — current staff who can protect and preserve camp traditions dating back to the 1970’s. But in today’s 20-teens, we know how important it is to foster this community and its traditions. We encourage the current campers develop their own hallmarks of camp. In summer 2012, we started the new tradition of Bunks 8 & 18 enjoying the Hampstead Town Fireworks to celebrate the 4th of July. This new tradition casts us into the future and we’re excited to see how it evolves.

    There are two camp traditions that have evolved over time, but have become traditions campers can share across the generations. No doubt you have your own memories (or have heard stories) about Color War and The Running Man.

    Color War is still an intense competition in camp, but will look a bit different in 2013 than it did in 1973. Today’s campers enjoy four straight days of Color War fun with two teams – Negev and Galil. In my day, Color War last the entirety of second session and the points were earned in daily “competition” periods. Before that Color War lasted all summer long and consisted of three teams. The tradition of the Color War “break” being a surprise remains, no matter how long Color War lasts and how many teams we have. You can see a video of last summer’s color war break when we broke it with a Hunger Games theme.


    In the late 80’s some staff members created an evening program based upon the (at that time, newly remade) movie The Running Man. While early on it was not an annual evening activity, it grew a cult following because of its incorporation of campers and staff in intriguing video (it even served as our Color War break in 2008!). What once was produced in video tape is now produced digitally and with great special effect — and the program has morphed into an annual, must have, second session program. Participation in it is highly secretive and the camp “fame” that comes with it is coveted. Counselors now pass down the “tradition” of writing, producing, and filming the evening program with as much fanfare as any true Hollywood production — watch the 2012 Running Man videos to see how that tradition has evolved. And like many traditions whose stories get lost a bit over time, this year’s counselors were genuinely surprised to learn that their beloved camp tradition was based upon a movie — just goes to show you how important traditions become, even if their origins are unknown.

    What are your favorite camp traditions?

    Alumni, were they a part of your entire camp career, or were you privileged to help start a camp tradition of your own?

    Current campers and staff, how do camp traditions make your summers special?

    Parents, what traditions have you heard about and are curious to know what they actually are?

    Stay tuned here for more CTN Traditions…we’re happy to share the building blocks of our community!

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