By Lisa Langer, RJE – URJ’s Strengthening Congregations Team and HUC-JIR’s School of Education

It is such a joy to be part of the URJ Camp Newman Nitzanim, rising 5th and 6th grade campers who arrive as buds (as the name Nitzanim translates) and blossom full of color each day!

Each child in this eidah, first time campers, along with those here for a second, third or fourth summer, has tried something new – a long hike, sleeping in a tent, zip lining, wearing white to pray, sing and dance on Shabbat (along with 1,000 other people), sharing personal reflections during t’filah (prayer), using Hebrew, braiding challah, keeping track of their belongings, and so much more.

While it may not be surprising that kids try new things every day, it feels unique at Camp Newman because it happens in a bubble of love, support and enthusiasm.  I have seen how staff and fellow campers cheer on others by offering words of encouragement (you can do it, keep it up, let me help) and gestures of support (thumbs up, snaps, hugs, smiles – lots of smiles).

As this two week sessions came to a close, we asked campers what made their time at Camp Newman kadosh (holy). Their reflections emphasize the impact of camp:

My time at camp is kadosh when I sit by the campfire with my friends.

My time at camp is kadosh because I feel that I am in a community that understands me and makes me feel special. 

My time at camp is kadosh when I make new friends and share special moments with other people. 

My time at camp is kadosh because I feel like I belong.

Buds open, and that is what I have witnessed this summer with URJ Camp Newman Nitzanim campers who have opened themselves to new Jewish friends, new Jewish adventures and new Jewish ideas.