By: Madison Jackson
Dear Alonim 2020,
You probably don’t remember me but I was your live-in during summer 2015. You were Arazimers, going into 6th grade, and I was on specialty staff as the head of the creative writing chug (elective). I lived in the same cabin as you, ate every meal with you around our cabin’s square table in the Chadar Ochel (dining hall), and I read books to you at night time before lights out.
I remember you. How could I forget the energetic kids that used to jump and scream all around the cabin, beg me to take pictures with them and scream hello to me from across the Migrash (field). You signed up for my chug not because you necessarily loved writing, but because you loved that I led it. On a pretty regular basis your Shabbat dresses hanging on the rack above my bed would fall onto my bedsheets, but it was never an issue. You were my first summer of campers, and my only summer of campers, and I will never forget you.
You were tiny and filled to the rim with excitement for what camp days would bring. For some of you, you were just starting your camp journey that summer and for others, it was your 4th, 3rd, or 2nd summers at camp.
And now, entering 11th grade as high schoolers, almost ready to apply for college, you are in Alonim, your final year as campers. I have seen pictures of you on the camp website each summer, growing up, maturing. I have seen your Facebook summaries which say “Alo 20”.
Some might say you were supposed to be in Alonim. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the closing of summer camps including Ramah and abruptly ended the summer you have been most looking forward to for years, the summer that you most needed to close out your time as Ramah campers. Since you were just little children you have been shouting “Yom Sport Alpayim V’Esrim” (Yom Sport 2020) loudly in the Chadar, standing on the benches, holding the finger symbols for 20 up in the air. You waited patiently for your turn to be the leaders of camp, for your chance to plan color war and banquet and star in your Alonim play. And now, suddenly and without much preparation, camp has been ripped from your hands and my heart rips for you.
I know what it is like to need closure. Decisions are made for reasons that are necessary but I know from experience how difficult enduring those decisions can be. You are going to be remembered. Maybe not quite in the way you had hoped, but everyone is going to remember you Alonim 2020. Alonim 2020 will be spoken about for years. The year that camp was cancelled. Instead of shying away from that, embrace it. Even without diving into the agam (lake) and cheering loudly in the Beit Am Gadol (the gym), you are, and always will be, Alonim 2020.
This letter goes out not just to Alonim 2020 of Camp Ramah in Canada, but to all the campers at the different Ramah camps and Jewish summer camps across the country who are all hurting in similar ways. No matter where you go in life, in the coming years, remember that your camp friends will always be there for you. They are the ones who grew up with you, who have seen your flaws and your talents, who have been there to pick you up on your toughest days and to laugh with you until your stomachs hurt. Hold tight to those friendships and even if you lose touch, I encourage you to reach out and pick them back up. To this day my camp friends and I, from all over the United States and Canada, have had summer reunions and video call hangouts where we talk for hours on end and play games that are only funny with your camp friends. This will be you too.
It’s okay to cry. Remember how we all felt on the last day of camp each year, crying so much that it was painful, struggling to get on the busses to go home, not wanting to leave the hugs of our friends? I’m sure that is how you feel now, but to an even greater level. Years from now you will likely look back at this time and think how crazy it was. But for now, wallow in your feelings and know, the Ramah community will always be here for you.
Your 2015 Live-In