by Alyson Bazeley
I was a sophomore at Florida State University the first time I heard about Crane Lake. I chose to work at a Reform overnight camp, submitted my application to the UAHC and was assigned to Crane Lake. I remember the moment that Jon Shapiro called me for the interview. He explained that the camp was still forming its identity because it was recently acquired by the UAHC. I was excited to take part in helping the camp grow.
As the camp van drove me through the red gates, I eagerly anticipated my first view of camp. I did not know anyone, but immediately felt connected with the campers and staff. That first summer, I learned a great deal about working with and living with others. In the summers that followed, I learned more about life, love, and relationships than from any other place or experience. One of those summers, I met my future husband. We fell in love at camp, became engaged at camp, and eventually got married in the outdoor sanctuary. Throughout the years we returned to Crane Lake for Alumni Day and eventually when our two young sons were born, they joined us for these trips.
Ten years after our wedding ceremony at Crane Lake I returned to camp for a week as a Faculty member and mother of two. As we drove through the same red gates, my six-year-old son was bouncing with excitement. He wanted to go on the ropes course, swim in the lake, and see my name on the color war banner. Our 3-year-old was excited to visit the garden and the animals. I found myself feeling nervous. I hadn’t worked at camp in over 10 years and began to worry, would camp feel different? Did the traditions change? And would I still feel comfortable here? We got out of the car and began to explore camp. My kids ran around the main lawn, excited to play in the gaga pits. Then we joined the rest of camp for rib night in the dining hall.
The next morning as I walked to the outdoor sanctuary for morning tefilah I thought about the . conversations I had as a staff member with camp leadership about the vision for Jewish life for camp. I remember we dreamed of having songleaders that grew up at camp, a deeper level of engagement during services, and an organic connection to the Jewish values. As tefilah began I realized that so much of that vision had come to fruition. I watched in amazement as 6 songleaders who grew up at camp stood leading tefilah and I saw the campers eagerly participating.
Later that day I had an intense discussion with the Chaverim boys about whether the Chaverim Fight Song in 2004 was “really that good.” (It was!) And, I suddenly had star status amongst the Olim campers when they found out I was a General and they wanted me to share my experiences.
Camp felt different in all of the right ways. There was so much growth. I witnessed the power of transformation that comes when shared vision comes together and a community works hard to make change. More than anything, I saw that life, love, and relationships form the triangular foundation for what Crane Lake Camp really means. I look forward to having the opportunity to continue to help the camp grow from strength to strength.
Alyson Bazeley is the Director of Youth Engagement at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in Short Hills, NJ. She is married to Rabbi Philip Bazeley and they have two young sons, Gavin and Matthew.