The campsite’s empty, the locker rooms are still, and the phones are quiet. It almost looks as if camp is closed on Thursday afternoons, until you go out to the outdoor pool where the entire camp has gathered, cheering for their counselors. It’s the same scene on Friday mornings, except now all the campers are gathered in the gym cheering for an entirely different and delicious reason. That same afternoon, singing fills the halls of the JCC as campers are engaged in what is possibly the most quintessential Camp Yachad tradition. As campers grow up in camp, they become part of these camp traditions: campers get to cheer “Dunk the Whale” while they watch their counselor being thrown into the pool, campers vote for the counselor they think should be pied in the face on Friday morning with "Friday Pie Day", and celebrate with their camp friends and family on Friday afternoon during Rockin’ Shabbat with the Shabbatones.
Being part of these experiences is like going through a rite of passage, one which happens when campers reach 5 years old. As the Yeladim Unit Director, I believe that once campers are old enough to be in Yeladim, they are old enough to be part of the defining camp experiences. It is experiences like “Dunk the Whale”, “Friday Pie Day”, and our Shabbat celebrations that campers and counselors look forward to year after year. These are the moments everyone remembers for a lifetime. Trust me, as someone who has worked at camp for 12 years, sends her daughter to camp, and has been thrown in the pool and pied in the face more times than I can count, I still love to come back to camp every year to be part of these traditions.
It is also traditions like these that set Camp Yachad apart from all other day camps in New Jersey. We cultivate a sense of belonging and community through these traditions. After all, once campers see “Dunk the Whale”, “Friday Pie Day” or sing and dance along at our Shabbat celebrations; they know that they’re part of a family of hundreds.