by Rabbi Erica Asch, faculty
As I stood in my faculty shirt, wearing my nametag and welcoming families to Crane Lake on Opening Day, I saw more than a few worried faces. It wasn’t only the campers that were nervous, so were many parents. Seeing their anxious faces, I couldn’t help but think of my own experience dropping off my oldest daughter at camp four years ago. I remember driving through the gates and watching as the luggage was quickly unloaded from our car. I recall the warm welcome we got from the counselors at the bunk. I certainly remember having a hard time saying goodbye and walking out of the cabin. As a first time parent, I drove my car home, waiting for pictures to be posted and for a letter to be sent. I knew that my daughter loved her first summer at camp, but I had no idea how she went from a nervous and shy camper, to someone who felt a part of the Crane Lake community.
Now, as a faculty member working during the first week of second session, I get an inside look at how campers, new and returning, are welcomed to Crane Lake and become a part of this community. I see the amazing energy and spirit that the staff have as they unload luggage all day in the hot sun. I see the care that goes into making signs for each bunk, cubby, and bed so campers will feel at home. On the first day at camp, I witness counselors leading their cabins around camp, explaining camp culture and nomenclature. (Did you know the mirpa’ah— health center– is also known as the “mirps?”) At the first t’filah of the session, our songleaders bring together our community with tunes old and new and counselors and machonikim stand in front of campers, enthusiastically teaching the tunes and hand motions to newer campers. Specialists encourage campers who are new to their sports and make sure everyone feels comfortable. At lunch, the entire Leadership Team is introduced and the kitchen staff come out and are thanked by our camp community. I see full session and returning campers go out of their way to include new campers and get to know them. I could go on and on about how campers are welcomed to CLC.
It is so fitting that our value this week is hachnasat orchim, welcoming guests. We have expanded that value to focus on welcoming not only guests to camp, but welcoming everyone. The amazing culture of welcoming and kindness at CLC isn’t an accident. It starts with our directors, it is reinforced during staff week and it comes to fruition as we open the gates to welcome our campers. This culture is a large part of the reason my husband and I chose CLC for our family. When you walk onto camp, whether for the first time, or the eighth time or the eighteenth time, you are greeted with the phrase, “Welcome home.” If you are here for just a few hours dropping off your kids, or two weeks, or a full summer, this is your home. We say this week, and every week, welcome.
Rabbi Asch has served as the rabbi of Temple Beth El in Augusta for the last three and a half years. She has been instrumental in the creation of the local interfaith group, the Capital Area Multifaith Association. Rabbi Asch graduated Oberlin College then joined Teach For America before becoming ordained as a rabbi. She is the parent of three children and this his her fourth summer on faculty at Crane Lake!