Children today are raised in a society where the easiest way to connect with friends is via a device. Facetime calls, WhatsApp chats and Instastories are the tools in which today’s youth meet friends, cultivate relationships and stay up to date on what is going on in their friends’ lives. They study with each other, collaborate on projects, share joy and sadness all through a six-inch screen. Baruch Hashem, as Orthodox Jews we have Shabbos as a time where our children set aside their electronic devices and are able to have real face-to-face time with their friends. But is one day a week enough for our children to develop interpersonal skills that will guide them in the future?
Recently Google released a groundbreaking study which identified the seven traits of their most successful employees: (1) empathy towards one’s colleagues, (2) insights into others, (3) strong communication skills, (4) active listening skills, (5) being a good teacher, (6) making connections between complex ideas, and (7) being a good problem solver. While our schools do a great job in academic studies and teaching Torah, they don’t have the time in the day or the resources to offer the enrichment and focus to provide all of our children these much-needed skills and personal growth. How will our children cultivate these characteristics if that only leaves one unstructured day a week to develop their interpersonal skills interacting with their peers?
That is why the founders and staff at NCSY’s Camp Maor have designed the entire experience of summer camp to cultivate these skills and achieve personal growth for each and every camper. At NCSY Camp Maor, the premiere performing arts overnight camp for Orthodox Jewish girls in 4th-10th grades, the fun and freedom of summer camp is bolstered by the challenge to learn new skills under the direction of accomplished professionals. Camp Maor is a unique environment where girls learn improvisational skills in acting and dancing classes so they can become “good problem solvers”. Through character development, campers learn how to be empathetic through their characters’ eyes, and in our daily rehearsals, campers learn that the best way to succeed is to succeed together as a collaborative team. Campers can often be seen running lines together and working as a group to teach a more challenging dance step to a friend in between periods. They learn that in a play “there are no small parts, only small actors”. Every actress in Camp Maor plays a vital role in our plays, as our plays are written exclusively for us by an accomplished playwright so that every camper is an essential character that helps propel the plot forward and they learn to support each other understanding that our shows only succeed when we all succeed. Through our one of a kind “Big Sister Little Sister” program campers work with campers from across divisions to help develop their characters and interpret their lines. This creates an environment where all campers learn how to be a supportive and “good teacher”.
In addition to building these crucial skills, Camp Maor encourages personal growth through a camp theme that infuses both the Chinuch program and our experiential education program. For example, this past summer’s theme was “Believe” with weekly sub-themes of “Believe in Yourself”, “Believe in Hashem” and “Believe in Your Team”. During our daily Chinuch classes Rabbi Joshua and Rebbetzin Bethany Strulowitz develop this theme in a fun and experiential way, exploring Torah sources and engaging in group exercises that connect the Torah to our campers in a relatable way, meaningful to their lives. These themes are further infused through our camper-counselor bunk “pe’ulah”, a type of open forum meeting for each bunk, moderated by the counselor to help deepen their experience and provide a space to discuss what the campers have been thinking about and working on.
The final step in our summer camp evolution at NCSY Camp Maor is the building of self-confidence in all of our campers, not through simply telling them how great and wonderful and special they are, but through a process, we call graduated achievements. Real self-confidence is built by setting a goal, and working to achieve that goal. When our campers see their hard work has allowed them to succeed, they have the confidence to take on the next, harder challenge. We designed the summer to provide such graduated achievement in the form of different public performances, first in the supportive environment of camp, then through a chesed performance at a camp for campers with special needs, and then our final performance in front of parents and guests on the last day of camp. The rush of each successful performance builds the confidence and provides the energy to sustain the grit and perseverance it takes to take on the more challenging goal. And on that last day of camp, as they come out to curtain call to a standing ovation, they join hands and look around astonished at what they’ve accomplished in four short weeks.
Is our goal at the end of the day to create successful Google employees or Broadway actresses? No. Our goal at NCSY Camp Maor is to rethink they entire summer camp experience so that it becomes more than just a place to hang with friends and chill. We can use this time not only to have fun but to grow and build self-esteem in a safe and wholesome environment through the medium of the performing arts. We can do this all in a fully integrated summer program that doesn’t make you miss sports, swim or night activity just to be part of the play. All of this is built into our schedule to give our campers the complete summer camp experience while remaining focused on helping them grow into strong, capable women that will one day become active members of their community.
One Happy Camper scholarships available for first time overnight campers and need-based scholarships are available for all campers.
Come hear all about Camp Maor from Camp Director Sari Kahn, this Sunday evening, November 11th, 8:30 pm at the Skidelsky Home, 2851 Coyle Avenue and visit our website for more details: https://campmaor.ncsy.org