The frigid winter months often elicit a longing for summer fun and a hankering for summer camp. Jmore recently caught up with Jen Silber, executive director of Habonim Dror Camp Moshava, a coed camp located on 267 acres in Street, Md., near Bel Air.
“Mosh,” which has served the Baltimore-Washington corridor for more than 80 years, is one of seven North American camps sponsored by the Habonim Dror International Youth Movement.
What is Habonim Dror?
Habonim Dror was one of several youth movements that played a role in creating a Jewish state by building kibbutzim and inhabiting the borders of the land of Israel. Originally, agricultural communities were based on socialist values of collective living. Every person in the community has something of value to contribute. People are made stronger by being part of the community, and the community is made stronger by the contributions of each individual. In this way, the experience at Mosh feels like a kibbutz in Israel.
Each day after breakfast, campers take care of the camp. Instead of hiring cleaning crews, groups of kids clean buildings. They feel a sense of community and have fun with their friends. It gives them a sense of ownership and that they can have a big impact on the camp community.
Is Hebrew spoken exclusively at camp?
No, but a lot of Hebrew is used at camp. All camp announcements are made in Hebrew. We interchange Hebrew and English all the time. For younger age groups, the counselors help a lot and translate. At the beginning of the session, announcements are translated to English. With the same routine, kids can follow along and understand what’s happening. They come back from camp and have a pretty decent vocabulary.
Is there time for fun?
Camp Mosh is so much fun! On one hand, we have all these goals and look to empower youth with social responsibility and to make changes in the world. But mostly, we make every day special and very fun. Every day, kids get to be creative and expressive in a way that is comfortable for them. There are also special days where age groups will go out together for off-campus trips. What’s most important to our campers is that Mosh is the place where they feel the most accepted. It comes from the idea that everyone has something to contribute.
Do you have Color Wars?
Instead of a typical Color War, which promotes division among campers through competition, at Mosh we come together to have a Revolution. “Revo,” as it is called by campers, is a special theme day led by counselors-in-training. Each Revo has a theme that transforms camp into an imaginary world in which the campers must work together to overcome an evil villain. The challenges they face range from obstacle courses to tube jumping in the pool to epic paint battles. At the end of the day, campers celebrate their accomplishments, feeling empowered as a community.
What impact does Moshava have on campers long-term?
Almost 100 percent of our staff grew up as campers at Moshava. That’s unusual for Jewish camps in North America. As adults, campers continue to be friends. These are the people they feel most connected to as adults.
An alumni study showed that Habonim Dror adults are far more engaged through their synagogue or Jewish social justice organizations. In addition to going into typical post-graduate professions, Mosh alumni become rabbis, scholars and leaders in Jewish federations. Many alumni attribute their careers and social justice passion to involvement in Habonim Dror as kids.
Another amazing occurrence is that each of the last four years, there’s been a wedding of alumni. There are a number of relationships that started at camp or after camp. I actually met my husband at camp, and we started dating while on staff. We even held our wedding at camp. Because Mosh is a small community, everyone knows everybody. Connections made at Mosh last a lifetime.
Linda L. Esterson is a Baltimore-based freelance writer.
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