Visiting Camp as a Committee Member

Written by Sydney Recht

Heading to Interlaken for Committee weekend was a thrill overall, and it was a special treat for me to have my former camper, huge Interlaken fan, 18-year-old daughter Ruby with me. Camp and I go way back. My first summer was 1970 when I was eight-years-old and the youngest camper on the Machaneh first session back in the days of Ateret Cohen. I met my husband Bob Appel there in 1974, and all three of our kids (Gabriel, Eli, and Ruby) have been Interlaken devotees.

Arriving Friday afternoon with the air filled with the excitement of the imminent Shabbat walk brought back a million memories of childhood Shabbats at camp. The committee gathered in the new mirpesset, a covered picnic pavilion located where the office used to be, to have a nosh, celebrate being together for the first time in-person since summer 2019, and get into the groove of just being at Camp. It was so nice to be together, and we were finally warmed up and ready for the weekend to really begin!

At 5:30pm sharp, the Shabbat walk began and started at the floval.  The song leaders at the front of the walk were enthusiastic, and the bucket of Hershey kisses that Toni passes out were full.  Some of the committee members joined the walk, and others snaked around the floval and waited to be greeted by campers and staff when they looped back towards the athletic field.  We were greeted with such ruach (enthusiasm) and warmth by the campers and staff; it was so welcoming. Having Ruby beside me as campers and counselors were greeting her with excited screams and hugs was heartwarmingly overwhelming to observe; the relationships that Ruby has made at Camp are exactly what a parent hopes for their camper.  Camp gathered together on the athletic field to light the Shabbat candles.  Everybody was excited for the beginning of Shabbat.  

The Shabbat service was sweet, and the connection between campers and the staff was so apparent that it was palpable. The songs, prayers, dances, and stories brought Shabbat to life, and I loved watching campers truly celebrating together.  Shabbat dinner was quite good, and I sat with Sylvia and Michael Winter (whose brother Rick I’d grown up with) as well as Elyse (Luck) Cohn who attended high school with both my younger brother and my husband. It was nice to do some Jewish geography and remember what a small world the Milwaukee Jewish community is after living in San Francisco for the past 30 plus years and New York before that. 

The night ended, of course, with dancing, and the energy in the room was as high as the volume of the music. It was so much fun to see all the campers and counselors dancing together. We returned to camp for both the Saturday morning service and a tour; the new cabins are absolutely spectacular, and camp in general looks excellent and much cleaner than I remember it from the past. Saturday night we got to join the lakeside Havdalah ceremony; the night was stunning, and it was extremely sweet to hear the old songs I remembered so well and some new beautiful Havdalah songs. The Camp Committee meeting Sunday was interesting and fruitful, and I was thrilled to serve this committee supporting a place that I deeply love.  I also loved spending in-person time with my co-committee members—most of whom I’d only met via Zoom in the past.  I hope to be able to attend the next Camp Committee weekend!