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When Will It Be Time to Stop Returning to Camp?

Jon Adam Ross has performed his one-man shows in over 90 cities around the world. His newest endeavor is the ambitious inHEIRitance Project, which has Jon writing and performing 5 new plays in 5 cities over the next 3 years. Jon lives in NYC where his stage credits include: a dog, a bird, a horse, a goat, an elderly orthodox Jew, a spurned wife, a British naval officer in 1700’s Jamaica, Jesus Christ, a lawyer, a hapless police chief, and a cyclops. Jon holds a BFA in Acting from NYU/Tisch and is a founding company member of Storahtelling and the Northwoods Ramah Theater Company


This morning I sat in a circle with a dozen or so 11-year-olds answering questions about “the olden days.” I’m 35 years old. Nowhere else in the world does my experience qualify me to talk about “the olden days.” But I’m not anywhere else in the world, I’m at summer camp; Ramah in Wisconsin to be specific. And I’ve been here a loooooong time. My first summer as a camper was 1992. My first summer on staff was 1999. The 11 year olds ogling me like I was some 3000 year old man living inside an oak tree? They were born in 2005. I was already bald in 2005.
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Jon (right) pictured with Judah Schvimer (left) at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin

I recently had a conversation with someone about THE existential crisis of my life: when will it be time to stop going back to camp. I’m not a kid anymore, I don’t work year round for the camp in a position that would make it more logical and convincing to my wife (or more importantly, my in-laws). And in all honesty, camp would be just fine without me. It’s bigger than any one person (or personality) and while I feel I bring certain unique talents to my position in camp (overseeing experiential educational programming), I am fully self-aware that my most valuable asset is my knowledge of the place, the culture, the individual blades of grass outside the porch of the cabin I lived in when I was, you know, 11.


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So why am I still here? One of the campers asked me today what my biggest regret was in all my years at camp. I told her, honestly, that I had none. I told the campers that I’ve made mistakes every single day I’ve been at camp from 1992 til now. But I wouldn’t trade those mistakes because camp has taught me how to be an adult, a human being, a member of a community, a Jew. Here you can make mistakes without embarrassment, try on different personalities, become a new version of “you.” I am who I am the rest of the year, in the rest of my life, because I learned how to “be” here at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin. Why I’m still here? Because I’m an incomplete project and always will be. And as long as I’m learning how to be me, I feel the pull back to camp to keep trying, keep making mistakes, keep growing. נער הייתי גם זקנתי. I have been young and old at the very same time.