Looking Forward to the Joys of Camp
אושר – Joy
by Ellie Fishman

It is hard to put how much camp means to me into words, a similar feeling I’m sure many others share. I’ve found it difficult to explain Camp Ramah in Wisconsin to people unfamiliar with camp because of how it has shaped me as a person in such outsized ways. Peers talk about their camps as “living 10 for 2,” meaning that during the 10 “other” months of the year they spend their time looking forward to the two months of camp, which sounds like a cliché. However, after not being able to be at camp for the past two summers, I understand how Camp Ramah in Wisconsin can genuinely feel that way for myself and many others. One of the four pillars of Camp Ramah is osher (joy). Camp is an outlet that brings osher that cannot be felt anywhere else.

At camp I feel a kind of osher doing the simplest things, like sitting next to my friends on the kikar or being responsible, as a Nivonimer (11th grade), for carrying benches to set up for Friday night services by the lake. Setting up benches may seem like a small task, but it has greater meaning since it is a part of campwide Shabbat t’fillot (services) and provides joy for so many Ramahniks. And as an older camper and staff member, I appreciate and get satisfaction myself from helping others experience their joy.

The summer of 2020 I was supposed to be a Nivo counselor. I was heartbroken to hear camp wouldn’t be happening in a traditional sense, not only because I was excited to be back but also because I was so sad for every other tzevet (staff) member and camper who was not going to be able to get their two-month experience of extended joy. Every camper feels joy at Ramah differently and that is the beauty of the kehillah (community) that has been created. My favorite moments as a camper weren’t always the big events such as Yom Sport or the Rikudiah (dance festival) but it was the silly activities that happened in the moment.

I remember my Machon (10th) summer; our counselors planned a talent show for the banot (girls) and we got up to sing, dance, and show off different skills. At the end, we were so excited about how the show went that we walked around camp singing the songs our friends had just performed in the show. This was an unplanned part of the program, but it ended up being a memory we all share and bonded over. We often take parts of our lives for granted until they are taken away from us.  

Camp is joyous for me due to so many things, including the small details we often don’t notice and the random, unplanned activities that are like catching lightning in a bottle. At camp, catching lightning in a bottle happens more often that you would expect!  I look forward to returning to camp this summer not only to feel the joy camp has brought to me but also to help others create that joy for themselves.

Ellie Fishman is a senior at Indiana University where she is majoring in Information Systems and Business Analytics with a Minor in Spanish. This will be her 10th summer at camp and her first time as a Rosh Eidah.