Where do seasoned camp veterans go to learn more about camp? Why camp, of course! Camp Be’chol Lashon is the only majority multiracial Jewish camp in the world and more intimate than other Jewish camps but last week, Camp Be’chol Lashon (CBL) staffers Michael DeYoung (right) and Jonah Tobin (left with Rabbi Avi Orlow) attended the Foundation for Jewish Camping’s Cornerstone Seminar to be with hundreds of other camping professionals. We caught up with Jonah to hear about his experience and what he is taking back to CBL this summer –there are still spots available if you want to join us!
Welcome home Jonah, how was it living with 400 other Jewish camp folks?
It was great. I really did not know what to expect. I did not realize it would be at a camp. It was camp for counselors but instead of just having fun we also did a lot of learning.
Did you learn things that you will be taking back to CBL this summer?
We each had to choose a specialty track. I chose Israeli dance, which I’m looking forward to sharing with the campers this summer. But it was about more than just dancing, it was about engaging campers and getting them involved and that is what camp is about. We also learned a lot of new games and icebreakers.
Any particularly good new ones?
There was one with mirrors which I think really relates to CBL’s mission. First we looked in the mirror and had to write a reflection about what we saw in ourselves. Most people really concentrated on the external and lots of people highlighted insecurities. But then we worked with a partner and the partner had write about what they saw and mostly they wrote about our character and how we act in the world. It was connected to the Jewish text that teaches you are supposed to love your neighbor like you love yourself. This is a big part of CBL, how you see yourself, how others see you.
What do you see as the mission of Camp Be’chol Lashon?
I think the goal of camp is to teach kids that to strengthen the Jewish community it does not matter how Jewish you are or what you look like, the important thing is that we are all responsible one for the other and we all need to look out one for the other.
You recently transitioned from being a camper to being part of the staff at CBL how was that for you?
It is different being a counselor, is kind of like having a bar mitzvah. The torched passed on and you have to step up and teach even though you still are learning. I have set a good example, help the campers be their best self, take care of the younger ones. There is a lot of trust placed in me. The little ones are really looking up to me.
Were there other Jews of color at Cornerstone?
There were a few. As a Jew of color, I often stand out. One of the things I like about CBL is that I don’t stand out there. It is good to have a space where other people get you and can really relate to your experience. Jews of color are often in the position of educating others about our Jewish experience. Our goal at camp is for our kids to feel good about that.
What did the other Jews of color at Cornerstone think when they learned about CBL?
They were surprised. Most of them didn’t know there were spaces for where Jews of color are the majority. They wished they had had a place like this growing up.