An Ozo Summer To Remember by Ariana Rosenfeld
Ever since I returned from my first summer at camp as a little fourth grader, I knew that I wanted to be an Ozo. Ozo or Ozrim (plural) means helper in Hebrew. Ozrim are Counselors in Training going into 12th grade. During the first session, Ozos go through extensive counselor training. During the second session, they are placed into cabins as counselors and given the opportunity to help create a magical experience for campers. After spending my summer at camp, I truly believe that Ozos are at the center of what brings the Ruach(spirit) and excitement to everything that happens at camp. Ozrim are the ones to set the table before Shabbat Dinners, scream at the top of their lungs at the Floval, and work tirelessly to plan what I believe is the best day at camp – Maccabiah (color wars).
During the first session as an Ozo, your day consists of a variety of learning sessions led by your Mama and Papa Ozo, special guests, or other staff. These sessions equip you with all the skills you need to be a successful counselor. You learn how to plan programs, deal with homesick campers, and build a toolbox of knowledge for becoming a good counselor. Some of my favorite sessions were learning about programs, role-playing different camper scenarios, and learning how to create Ruach (spirit) at camp. Additionally, the first session is a time to spend learning about different Chugim (activities), as well as participating in lifeguard training with the hope of becoming lifeguard certified. I was assigned to the 6th-grade cabin, Rebecca, where I would sit with them during lunch and help out with their evening programs. This was a time to put all of my skills into action and create my connections with campers.
During the second session, I was assigned to sixth grade girls – Cabin Gad. I was beyond excited to finally be a counselor who lives in a cabin with campers! The first night, a camper came up to me after bedtime rituals, told me that she was anxious, and began crying. I immediately remembered what it was like to have first-night jitters. I asked her if she wanted to come outside with me to get some fresh air and take a walk. As a camper, I recall this being my favorite thing to do when I felt uneasy at camp. Once she no longer felt anxious, we ended our night on our cabin porch where she gave me a big hug and asked me to tuck her into bed. She said, “Ariana, thank you so much. I feel a lot better now.” This was why I wanted to be an Ozo – to be there for campers when they need it most, like when my counselors were there for me.
On the first Shabbat of camp this past summer, I was told the news that I never thought I would have to hear: one of the sixth grade counselors had tested positive for Covid-19 and the two sixth-grade girls’ cabins would have to go into “Shadow Camp” which was our quarantine. This was the ultimate test of being an Ozo. We had to bring camp and all of its ruach and magic to the Floor Hockey Court, which was our home base during “Shadow Camp.” That Friday night, my co-counselors and I led services, Israeli dancing, and had our own little Shabbat Walk to bring the Shabbat atmosphere to our own, new village. When I look back to some of my favorite parts of second session, they happened during “Shadow Camp.” From singing Modeh Ani in the morning and lifting our imaginary flag on our fake Flovel, to having free swim in the lake almost every day, we tried our hardest to ensure that our campers had the best summer ever, even while dealing with a Covid-19 exposure. We treated our campers like royalty, making sure they knew how special they were. In “Shadow Camp” they got a later wake up time and their own movie night with a giant projector. It was our job to make sure that camp seemed normal. “Shadow Camp” was filled with many cheers, laughs, and cries but in the end, our campers had a great time, even if they had to listen to their counselors’ horrendous singing of Hinei during their very own lakeside Havdalah.
Looking back at my time spent at camp, nothing was normal about it, due to the impacts of Covid-19 combined with having to go into “Shadow Camp.” Reflecting on my time, though, I would not change a second of it. Over the summer I was able to gain new skills, knowledge, and grow my sense of identity that will be with me for the rest of my life. I am beyond thankful to call Camp Interlaken my home and had the opportunity to pay it forward to the next generation of campers through the Ozo program.
Ariana Rosenfeld, Bayside, WI, Staff 2022