And finally, from Carnival Night!
The Best Camp In The Land
Here are some pictures from the ever-dramatic rock climbing Underway!
Here are some pictures from the scouts show on Israel Day! Caravan Shavit, making sure “Jewish friends are having fun”, (campers get that joke).
I’m sitting at a desktop in a climate-controlled room. My clothes are clean, I’m well-rested, and I haven’t sweated once today.
This is going to take some getting used to.
Me and about a hundred other people are going through the strange reintroduction back into the rest of the world after an amazing last few days.
It began on Shabbat where free swim was absent in exchange for the universally less popular packing time. This was followed by, unquestionably, the best staff production of the year, wherein the staffers teased each cabin one at a time, a tradition that’s been going on for the last weekend since around 2008.
Then we had the much-anticipated last Havdallah. It seems like this year had more intense crying than I’ve heard in a long time, which is a weird sort of compliment to the staff, assuring us that the kids had a good time. We moved from there to the waterfront for the closing ceremonies, where the wailing took a brief break to enjoy the romantic walk down, soaking in the image of the path illuminated only by candlelight.
There we found the mother of all bonfires. Our fire specialists, Scoop and Trout, seem to outdo themselves every year, and this twelve foot inferno did not disappoint. The fact that we had a fire at all was a mini miracle—because of the drought the county’s been experiencing, there was a ban on all fires for the week leading up to the last night for fear of causing Smokey’s worst nightmare. A fortuitous and rare rain the night before was all we needed, and the ceremony got to proceed as tradition demands.
The scouts revealed their fire sign, a message cutting bright orange letters into the dark of the night air, reading “Drums, drums, drums…CBF”, (it’s a camp thing). We sang songs then and the weeping resumed, which was fair—you’d have to be a corpse not to be moved by “Bless This House” or Dubb Nubb’s “Camp Ben Frankel”.
I had a special view for the whole event. Our Israeli shaliach and I were on the far side of the bonfire with buckets of lake water at the ready, just in case that bonfire decided to expand. From where we were, we could see the whole camp, standing with their cabins, arm in arm. We saw the surrounding trees, their undersides flickering yellow with the dancing flame, and the thousand orange sparks, like newborn stars, rising into the night sky to join their kin. We saw the moon hanging white over the dark lake, which lapped the sand gently, rocking the floating dock in the distance. And there were sounds of frogs, of bugs, and of birds joining in our songs in their voices elemental.
It’s in moments like these when I’m sure, when everyone’s sure, there was a good choice made this summer, and that there is only one CBF.
Compared to those moments, CBAF closed in a rush. Returning to clean the cabins, giborim staying up all night eating laffy taffys and drinking homemade Cabbage Fizz, (ask them about it), then eating a quick breakfast and riding home on a bus full of the quietest, sleepiest campers you’ve ever seen.
Now, Facebook is blowing up with pictures from camp, friend requests, mournful notes about being back in “the real world”. The staff barely got home before the counselors were arranging a bowling outings, trips to the movies, and late-night parties, (you’d think after five weeks, they’d be sick of each other). It seems we’re all trying to hold on to the afterglow of CBAF 2012.
Fortunately, at least for me, the season isn’t over. The senior staff has a long eleven months ahead. Plans are already in motion to make an even better season next year. A new siddur and gaga pit are in the works, staff training week is getting adjusted, and a new effort to connect with our alumni has been launched. While the campers and counselors uncomfortably adjust to normalcy, CBF will be ready and waiting (with a bug juice mustache) for next summer.
We’ll see you then, Camp Ben Frankel,
-Acting Rabbi Tayto
One of the off-season projects will be to collect photo albums from every year of CBF history to add to the website for the enjoyment of parents and alumni alike. This will be a continuing project that you and your kids can be a part of! You’ll be kept informed by email and by Facebook as that project develops. For now, here are the last official pictures for CBF’s 2012 blog!
The word “final” has been thrown around a lot this week. Final Hebrew class, final evening program, final cabin time activity, final canteen and staff production and campfire and final everything of 2012. Urgency grips us all now as we try to cram what we can into the final moments of an amazing season.
We had another big conclusion this morning—the Club Frankels, groups that stay together for the whole camp season, presented their final projects after breakfast. From the music Club Frankel, we heard a few songs from our camp bands, the Frankie Four and the Humdrums. Our drama club presented their rendition of “James and the Giant Peach”, which critics have praised all season. Our dance team showed us their moves, followed by the video club with their trailer to the upcoming “Frankie Games”, (likely a straight-to-DVD piece). (Our martial arts Club Frankel opted not to do a presentation—not a very visually entertaining art they said, deadly samurai swords in hand.)
The rest of the weekend promises to have some similarly dramatic closes to the season. Later today, the whole camp will go for free swim and cheer on the few bold who dare attempt to swim the entire length to the other side of the lake. While that’s going on, kids will be fighting to score the most prestigious volunteer positions during the last Shabbat, like lifting the Torah and lighting the Shabbat candles. And of course, tomorrow, under at least three stars in the sky, the emotion of the last Havdallah of the season will overwhelm some among us, and campers will start their traditional last Havdallah cry-fest.
They’ll dry those tears shortly after when the final dance begins. After the dance is the lock-in, where all of the older kids get to sleep in the Chadar Ochel and stay up all night. Some of them pass out intermittently, but by sheer force of will and sugar alone, some of them do seem to make it through the whole night. (The same can’t be said for staffers. We’re more of the wake-up-for-your-shift-and-immediately-pass-out-at-the-end persuasion.)
Then, before we know it, Sunday morning will be here, we’ll be arm and arm, and we’ll sing our camp song one more time:
“In the heart of our loved country
Stands the best camp in the land, IN THE LAND!
It is known as Camp Ben Frankel,
And we think it’s mighty grand, MIGHTY GRAND!
Good friendship, fun, excitement, in each long-lasting daaaaaay
We know we’ll always love you, in our hearts, you’ll ever stay…”
Enjoy the last of our Maccabia pictures, and stay tuned for the bonus pictures never before seen!
Every part of the camp season seems to have its own spirit. We open in the first week with an air of timidity as newbies to camp carefully navigate their way through the odd traditions and the craziness of the daily schedule. When they’re acclimated in the second week, the camp hits its stride and the intensity of everything is amped up—romances, friendships, enthusiasm in games and programs—everything. Week three brings a welcome reprieve, a comfortable meandering pace highlighted by familiarity and hominess. Now, in the middle of the fourth week, a new spirit has taken camp. Everyone has the end in sight, whether they live in a state of panic with the truth in front of them, or deny the impending end by keeping it in the periphery.
This weird new energy manifests in various ways. I’ve already had a couple girls asking me how many days are left, and, concerned when they hear the answer’s in the single digits, pledge how much they’ll miss each other. A younger girl of a less dramatic temperament told me calmly that she’ll be happy to see her guinea pig again when she goes home. And then there was the young boy who told me today that he plans on living in the woods outside of camp for the rest of his life, (though, knowing that age group, that may have nothing to do with camp ending and more to do with poor decision making skills).
Counselors have likewise been taken by the new spirit, fortunately in a positive way. Knowing they only have few days to do all the great plans they had at the beginning of the season, they’re moving in a frenzy to make all those last valuable camp memories. Senior staff has had requests for more t-shirts to tie dye, drivers to make last trips to Castle Park, and last-minute retellings of the Mad Myrtle legend. With this last big burst of energy on the staff’s part, the campers are sure to have a memorable last week.
Already we’ve had some pretty excellent memories made. Green team took the gold this year, with blue team taking second and red following in third. Athleticism was with blue for most of the morning, but it seems green team’s superior ruach, along with an excellent team skit and song closed the gap and won them the title. And though forty of the campers didn’t get to celebrate at the end of the day, I was personally glad to see that there were no hard feelings this year, and the campers were happy to go back to their cabins as though no one lost.
We also had a very fun surprise trip to the local skating rink last night, (where some kids tried on roller skates for the first time), and tonight we have the much-anticipated concert by the one-and-only Dubb Nubb! The folk duo is comprised of Hannah and Delia Rainey, twin sister alumni of CBF and long time instructors in our rock band club at camp. After a brief album tour out west, they’ve come back to the best camp in the land to share their talent once more. When we told the campers who had been in music clubs at camp that they were invited to play in the concert, they responded with (especially loud) excitement.
Upcoming is the final banquet, the last dance, the all-night lock-in, and closing ceremonies. We’ll cover that and more on Friday. As far as pictures go, we’ve got maybe three hundred more that have still gone unposted, and when we return to civilization (where internet speed is more akin to 2012 than 1912), they’ll all be uploaded here on this blog. For now, enjoy this next batch of pictures from Maccabia 2012.
Maccabia is here!
As far as our prank went, our campers are unfortunately clever. A good number of the older kids, as soon as they heard that yesterday was a minor fast*, caught on that we had moved Maccabia to today, (which they smugly reminded us of once we did the big reveal). The room still exploded with cheering though, and there were a few sighs of relief among the kids.
This year’s theme, chosen by the fangirls on the Maccabia committee is “Triwizard Tournament”, a reference to the fourth Harry Potter book. The judges are dressed like the wizard professors of Hogwarts, and each team name reflects references to the popular series. A fake Goblet of Fire has made an appearance at every event and Quidditch match was held on the field today, (though the committee didn’t find flying broomsticks in time for the games, and had to settle for representative wooden rods). Everyone was required to speak in British accents during breakfast.
Since last night, the craziness of Maccabia is in full swing, and it’s going to continue until the day is done. Last I heard, blue had taken a significant lead, to the distaste of counselors who don’t want our camp shirts to be blue two years in a row. Not to worry, though, because at this moment, it truly is anybody’s game. The athletics of the morning, including the yearly relay race, are only a part of the day. Points are also determined by the teams with the best songs, best teamwork and cooperation, best sportsmanship, best skits, best team flags, and the best overall spirit.
From a staff member’s perspective, the day represents a strange duality. Kids are simultaneously their most civil and their most savage. Half the day, they are paragons of politeness, offering to clear staff member’s plates, cleaning up litter, listening attentively, and getting quiet as soon as a new activity begins. The motivation is the meager brownie points they earn through their charade.
And a charade it is—for the rest of the day, campers lose their minds, shouting songs at the tops of their lungs, sprinting from place to place, and sporadically appearing in the middle of a game painted from face to foot in their team colors. (After a day like today, counselors luxuriate in the day after when campers are more subdued and relaxed than any other moment in camp).
I also want to give a congratulatory shout-out to our CITs. Maccabia is one of the biggest challenges our counselors-in-training face during their camp season. They’re responsible for captaining each team and controlling the mess of random kids they’ve been assigned. Staff members assist each captain, but they’re instructed to resist interfering as much as possible. By the end of the day, the CITs will ideally be totally pooped, but proud.
Now, I have to get back to the games, but stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion of Maccabia 2012!
*I have to say, I was pretty proud of our campers during this fast. Over twenty of them wanted to participate and all but one made it all the way until sundown, including three chalutzimers. Although considering how easy they took it during the day, playing quiet activities and watching a movie, one wonders how hard it really was…
Here’s the beginning of the pics. More to come!
This morning, the camp filed into the chadar ochel to find it a total mess. A large-scale raid was apparently pulled off late last night without clearance and was taken to an inappropriate level. Torn paper littered the floor, tables were flipped and tossed about, and the masks and accessories from the costume box were strewn everywhere.
Outside, the chairs from the beit knesset had all been rearranged a hundred feet into the grass. Hanging on the flag pole was a couple pairs of boxers and a homemade flag belonging to the guilty party, the self-titled “Pi-Rates”.
Our program director was pretty unhappy about the whole thing. He stepped out of the flag raising circle and promised that if no one came forward about the incident, there would be serious consequences.
Only he knew no one would come forward. Because the campers were innocent. The counselors trashed the chadar.
For those of you who don’t know, Maccabia is our crazy spirit-driven sports and games and challenges extravaganza that we have every year on the last Sunday of the season. And for those of you don’t know, every year around this time, the staff makes up a reason to pretend that Maccabia’s been cancelled. Sometimes we just say there was planning problems or that SIU took issue with the way we ran it last year. Sometimes we frame nobody and cancel it for infractions we invented.
As time has gone on, the campers have become pretty skeptical. I’ve confirmed that this fake cancelling has been going on since at least the late eighties, and the campers seem to have picked up on the annual cancellation during those twenty-five years. It’s a pretty thinly-veiled trick too— even a camper brand new to CBAF this year told me his theory that we were making it all up to freak them out.
2012 is going to be special in that regard because there really is no Maccabia this Sunday. A minor fast is going on and we had no intention of having such an exhausting day of outdoor running around and being in the sun when some of the campers and staff hadn’t eaten. So, for the first time on record, Maccabia will be on a Monday. Plus, on Sunday morning when the kids go to their weekday activities and it slowly dawns on them that they haven’t received their color assignments and that the chadar is decorated just as it always is, the staff will regain its pranking credibility for the first time in two decades.
And now, get those face paints and big foam fingers out… allow me to present this year’s teams!
Enjoy these pictures from our last big Sunday event, Israel Day! And check out the new video on our YouTube channel of the amazing Israeli Scouts Caravan show, called “CBF Caravan”: http://www.youtube.com/user/CampBenFrankel/featured
Enjoy this guest post from our one and only, Face:
“The fourth of July has always been one of my favorite days of the session. This year was no exception. The day started with a late flag-raising to allow for some extra sleep. After a rousing tefilot service and some of Donnie’s signature apple pastries, the All Star game was held on the upper fields. For those new Frankel fathers and mothers out there, the All Star game is an annual event where the campers, led by the CITs (counselors in training) attempt to dethrone the reigning champions, the staff, in a friendly game of softball. There was no upset this year, but shout-outs go to Jacob Cytron (8th grade) for being the first camper to get a hit and Zach Schwarz (7th grade) for being the first camper to cross home plate and score a run. Well, campers, I guess there’s always next year.
As always, the All Star game worked up some serious All Star appetites amongst the campers. In the spirit of the fourth of July, we had a cookout by the gaga court and listened to some of our country’s finest rock music (read: Credence Clearwater Revival). Following lunch was an extra long rest period and I have been assured that all of the campers slept quietly and not a single ruckus was made.
In the afternoon, camp-wide free swim was mandated to make sure that all campers stayed cool in the sweltering heat. Plus, what’s more American than freedom? We returned to the beach in the evening for a night of outdoor play and song singing. Unfortunately, we had to forgo a campfire due to the county-wide fire ban.
Staff has been doing a great job of making sure that campers are adequately hydrated. We are doing everything within our power to make sure that the heat does not interfere with the everyday programming here at camp. The trees across the lake from camp look as if it was early October and, though beautiful, they serve as a constant reminder of why water vigilance is so important. Prayers for rain are upon our lips as we inch ever closer to the final bonfire.
It is strange to think that two years ago, today would mark the beginning of the end of camp. You would never know by looking at the campers. They are just as energetic and excited for camp as on day one. Participation in Song Session is high as ever. You should look forward to hearing the choruses of “One Tin Soldier” and “Pharaoh Pharaoh” echoing off the walls of your homes for the rest of the summer.
Face, Song Leader”
Here are the pictures from the big day!
The third week has begun at the close of an amazing weekend!
Caravan Shavit, a group of teenage Israeli scouts, just had their annual show here yesterday. The show is a very family-friendly concert full of dancing, singing, and audience participation, and Camp Ben Frankel has made a long-time tradition of inviting them to Carbondale every year. Better yet, we had the special bonus this year of having Caravan Shavit stop at camp and spend the entire weekend with us! They joined in our song sessions, in our meals, in our free swims… by the close of the weekend, everyone had become fast friends.
Speaking personally, I think that this caravan visit was the best one I’ve seen at camp. Forgetting that the show was excellent, I loved seeing the Israelis loving camp and the campers loving Israelis. These teens genuinely enjoyed CBF, which came as a surprise to those who had never heard of Illinois, let alone Carbondale. And the campers had a blast—one of the sixth grade girls told me she wished she had an Israeli accent, because “they’re soooo cool!”
Following the show, the camp celebrated Israel day, our all-day Israeli-appreciation festival! The camp was decked out in blue and white, ribbons of flags hanging from tree to tree. Every meal we ate focused around classic Israeli cuisine, starting the day with jachnun, moving to falafel, and topping it off with a shwarma dinner. The kids moved around camp with personal passports to each activity, where they wrote songs, learned about the army, about the religious community, about the Bedouins… a little taste of everything! All in all, it was a wonderful day at CBF.
While we collect our footage from Israel Day, enjoy these pictures from our recent evening programs and an all-middle-school trip to our local favorite, Castle Park!
Also, our assistant song leader Yoyo has been writing blessings with each of the cabins. Following the pictures is three of our campers’ original prayers.
6th and 7th grade girls: Baruch Atah HaShem, Ruler of the Universe, for commanding us to be healthy and to have Dance parties!
6th and 7th grade boys: Baruch Atah HaShem, Bringer of Togetherness, who blesses our cabin with bro-time
4th and 5th grade boys: Baruch Atah HaShem, Creator of the Universe, for giving us glorious canteen!