Jul 18, 2019

Posted by: Emily Reilly

Tradition Old and New

Just as there is a first time for everything, there is a last time as well. Yesterday was one of those days, the last opening day of a session for the summer. Though it may seem to some, such as campers who come to camp for multiple sessions, that the end of the summer is all too close, the start of school too soon, the end of this most beautiful of seasons was the furthest thing from everyone’s mind as the front gate swung open to welcome the third session campers! The sounds of the crunch of gravel under the tires of buses and cars, the release of air as the doors swung open, and the cheers and shouts of excitement fell on ears like a symphony, the music of a community finally together. The song went on throughout the rest of the day as campers settled in. With cabins traveling together to take a dip in the pool or try on boots at the corral, the property was truly alive with the people who make it Ranch Camp.

This session is the largest one this summer, a fact that was evident as the group gathered before lunch for the opening circle. With so many members of one community, the opportunities for bonding and friendship skyrocket, and as everyone sang the Ranch Camp song, the spirit and enthusiasm in the words were such that the boy scouts on the bordering property must have heard every line. This energy, the beginning of what will stay with everyone through the session, did not abate in the afternoon, carrying through bonding games and unpacking time to Bombardier, the trivia-tag-teamwork evening program that has quickly become a camp tradition.

By the time the community gathered together the next morning, camp already felt like home, the rising morning sun a perfect way to awaken from such a good night’s sleep. Soon the voices of camp were waking up as well, birds chirping in trees providing a backing track to the songs integral to the morning circle. Modeh Ani comes first, welcoming our souls back into our bodies. Then comes both the American and Israeli national anthems. The circle is finished off with Shigaon, energetic and fun, to learn a new Hebrew word each day – today was “agvaniot” for tomatoes! Though the first three songs are tradition, Shigaon is newer, but equally as loved.

The combination of old and new is part of what makes Ranch Camp such a unique setting. Tradition is part of what keeps members of the community coming back for summer after summer, passing down the heritage of camp from one generation to the next. Even many of the staff members grew up here, now dedicating themselves to keeping the spirit of Ranch Camp alive. But just like the Shigaon song, or the introduction of exciting new activities such as Bombardier, the new parts of camp are just as important. And just as these new aspects of camp come to fit perfectly into what may be more traditional, it doesn’t take long for new members of the Ranch Camp community to realize that they are in a place where they belong. Returning campers take the hands of the new ones, showing them the ropes, teaching them the words, making sure they are included and involved. By the end of the day, old and new campers are nearly indistinguishable, all equally comfortable with the knowledge that they will be cared for and accepted unconditionally. Everyone in the community stands on an equal playing field, hand in hand, ready to spend the next two and a half weeks together as one.