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Camp Mountain Chai: A fast raft ride to strengthened Jewish identity

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Campers shoot the rapids (Photo courtesy of Camp Mountain Chai)

By Gary Rotto

Gary Rotto

SAN DIEGO — I really miss my daughter.  She comes home today from her first overnight camp experience – with Camp Mountain Chai.  I have to admit, I didn’t go to overnight camp as a kid – with the exception of a one week basketball camp.  It wasn’t until I actually became a camp counselor that I went away for three weeks.  So I’m delighted that she decided to go this year.  The program seems to be the same as when I worked at camp, the key concept being an immersion of living communally as Jews.  It’s a pluralistic camp that keeps kashrut so all denominations of Judaism are celebrated.

Camp Mountain Chai is not new to Kelila as we’ve attended family weekends in Angeles Oaks, enjoying the ropes course, archery, and the community ruach of Shabbat.  And the food is really, really good, which is surprising for a camp.  Well, at least it was really good over the family weekends.  I’ll receive the report, the comparison to serving a camp full of kids instead of a few families

So what’s changed since my time?  How we communicate with our parents when we’re away from home is the primary change.  And how the camp communicates with us.  Now, you can sign up for electronic messages through a program called “Bunk Notes”, where you receive messages from your camper, but you can also follow the general events on Facebook and Twitter.  Official weekly camp videos are posted on Vimeo.  The outbreak of the Color
War/Maccabiah was posted on YouTube

We elected for the old fashion way of communicating – just writing letters – which could have been challenging for my daughter over the course of only two weeks time and with a multi-day White Water rafting trip thrown  in.  But it’s nice to have received the cards that I can post around the house and I have a flavor of the activities.  In the first note, my daughter said that not much was happening and then listed about five different things.  And reflected at the end of the note that it seemed like a lot had gone on in one day once she wrote it all down.

Later in the week there was the Maccabiah, the rafting trip, her messy bunk (not her fault of course), Shabbat happenings and
other tales of summer camp.  She has  seen my camp photos and now I’ll get to see hers and relive the special time of her
summertime camp experience.

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Rotto is a freelance writer based in San Diego.  He may be contacted at [email protected]

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