Happy 20th Summer, Tova!
Written by Toni Davison Levenberg
At the end of each session, we recognize milestones that our campers and staff have reached based on the number of summers they have spent at Camp. For campers or staff who have just completed their third summer (if you were enrolled in 2020, it counts), they received a 3-year t-shirt, and the milestone gifts get better from there: 5-year tie-dye long-sleeve, 10-year windbreaker, and 13-year bathrobe.
After lunch on the last full day of Camp, we gather together in Makom Ha Lev (the amphitheater) to begin the countdown of our Top 10 songs of the summer. After we sing songs 6-10, the milestone recognition begins. We start by calling our 3-year campers and staff to the stage. We give out their shirts, and then we take a photo of the group before sending them back to their seats to recognize the next group. We repeat that for the 5-year campers and staff. Before we recognize our 10-year staff or Ozrim (8 years of being a camper if you started in 3rd grade, 1 Israel trip, and 1 summer as an Ozo), we ask the 10-years to join us on the stage and stand together. We then turn to the audience and ask them to stand if they have been at Camp for more than 10 years.
We go around the amphitheater and ask them to share their name and how many years they’ve been at Camp. We end at the stage where the fresh 10-years state their names and that they have been at Camp for 10 years. They receive their windbreakers and take a photo. We always have a few people who are celebrating their B’nai Mitzvah summer at Camp, and they are always super eager and excited to receive their bathrobes.
This summer, we had the privilege of honoring and recognizing one of our assistant directors, Tova Blasberg. This summer was her 20th. Tova started attending Camp in 1999 as a rising 4th grader; she was an Ozo, a counselor, a unit leader, Mama Ozo, and currently is a full time assistant director. It was a challenge to think of the perfect way to honor Tova’s time at Camp. After doing some Etsy and Google research, we found the perfect gift for Tova: a canvas with a “20” on it that was made up of words and phrases that had meaning to Tova and her camp experience.
Sometimes there are things that randomly happen that are truly beshert (meant to be). Tova was an Ozo in 2007. Benjy Bar-Lev and Sarah Kornhauser were Ozo ‘07’s Mama and Papa. It just so happened that Sarah was visiting Eagle River for the week with her family, and I heard through the grapevine that she was in town. I reached out to Sarah via text to confirm that the rumor was true, and it was. I said, “Tomorrow, I’m presenting Tova with a gift for her 20th year. Want to come and present it with me? As her Mama?” Sarah replied, “Ohhh! What time? I’d really love to!”
We snuck Sarah into Camp, and she stood unnoticed in the back of Makom Ha Lev. When I started talking about Tova, with her standing next to me, I shared with Camp that there was a very special guest to help present Tova with a gift to honor her 20th summer. Sarah started to walk down the stairs towards the stage, and our campers and staff gasped. They have immense respect for the Mama Ozo position in Camp, and they knew that because Sarah was a mama that she must be a really special person.
Shocked and teary, Tova couldn’t believe it as she and Sarah shared a hug and a beautiful moment together on the amphitheater stage. It was truly meaningful for everybody as they saw the impact of Camp Interlaken’s l’dor v’dor, from generation to generation, manifesting in front of their eyes. Sarah toured her 5-year-old son around Camp that afternoon; we hope to see him living his best life on the shores of Lake Finley in a few years!
While we don’t expect everybody to spend 20 summers at Camp Interlaken, we are grateful for every milestone that our campers and staff achieve, and we do our best to celebrate each one. Camp, as you know, makes an indelible imprint on all of our hearts, and we can’t wait to celebrate the milestones and achievements of our family in the summer of 2023!