Dear Camp Sports Alumni,
I hope this note finds you and your families doing well. It may seem late to be reporting in about our amazing summer at Camp Sports, but that is not how I see it.
Most camps end at the end of the summer and we move on to the beginning of school and then Yom Tov. Camp Sports starts in July but the affects continue for much longer. As you will see from this note about some of what happened in camp this summer, this letter is definitely not too late. The inspiration from the summer never stops, and infuses everything our alumni do throughout the year. There were so many great things that summer but I want to share with you some inspiring stories from our alumni.
For the first time ever, NCSY Camp Sports ran an alumni fundraiser. We conducted the fundraiser with very few current addresses, but with a lot of support from some great alumni. Ten of our dedicated alumni led a campaign with social media and we got responses from close to 80 alumni in just 3 weeks. In that short amount of time we raised close to $15,000 for NCSY Camp Sports scholarships, and created some amazing connections with our varied alumni from those that are married, single, committed to Judaism, still making their way to commitment and everything in between. What they had in common was a great feeling about their years in camp and wanting others to feel that as well. Thanks to the support of David Cutler, director of NCSY Summer Programs and Rabbi Yehoshua Marchuck, director of NCSY Alumni Connections, we accomplished this amazing feat and have many more plans for our alumni. Many of these alumni only came to camp because of their involvement in NCSY and from the generous scholarships provided by Ben Zakkai.
Summer 2015 Nachas
This summer we saw so much individual Torah growth from each NCSYer on his level. We had boys start masechtos and are still working on finishing them way after the summer is over. A young man from Warsaw has come back for three years to NCSY Camp Sports since camp is his main Jewish education for the year. We have had several campers who upon returning fromtheir year in Israel, come back to camp as advisors and create amazing connections with current campers. Here are a few (of the many) stories and quotes from Summer 2015:
“JK” lives in a community where the day school closed and after elementary school he attended public school through ninth grade. As the summer came to an end it was clear he could attend yeshiva. With help from NCSY he is in the dorm at the Talmudical Academy in Baltimore. The first few days were a hard transition, but our staff in Baltimore visited him and he is now doing great. His father applied for a job transfer to Baltimore to be in a more religious neighborhood and it looks like that may happen.
That last story is an example of some of the big changes that happen in camp, but each NCSYer has their own growth path. This is something we discuss at our meetings all the time, is to pay attention to the changes as they come and see how they can snowball into a big impactful change. A young man who attends an all-boys yeshiva but was spiritually uninspired came to camp. He did well at camp, but we did not think he gained much other than a kesher (connection) with staff. Two days after camp we got a call from his mom crying. She was so touched that for the first time ever, he went to mincha during the week on his own without being asked, and showed an interest and self-motivation to go to mincha on his own.
Here is another great story, that shows just the tip of the iceberg of stories of our campers gaining inspiration from their summer with NCSY Camp Sports: “E” and “A” are brothers who came from PS in Santa Rosa California, and this past summer was their second consecutive summer. The closest frum shul to their home is two hours away, and it takes a lot of dedication on their part to keep their inspiration from camp. Yet they came back for their second summer and spent the time learning about Judaism and asking so many great questions. One of the boys has already pre-registered for NCSY Kollel and one is deciding on the program he would like to attend.
“Because you invested in my learning by giving me the set of Mishnah Berurah’s and the audio Mishnayos, I thought I would give you periodic updates on how my learning is going. Today was the day I was incredibly nervous about for weeks; the day I had nobody pushing me to learn. I was very afraid I would be caught up in mundane activities and not make my learning a priority. I was mistaken. I learned the first perek of Mishnayos Shabbos (a book he “purchased” with tickets earned in camp) with a chavrusa at 7am after Shacharis. From there I learnt with Aharon Rubel (Advisor, 2015) the last perek of berachos, our room had been doing it with him all of camp. I also ordered myself a Gemara Rosh Hashana which I plan to learn over the next month, and I finished the 6th perek of Shekalim. I also learnt 15 minutes with Avi Okin (Advisor, 2015) on the weekly parsha from Rav Moshe. Best news was that I found out there is a Kollel 20 minutes from me. Although it’s Bein Hazmanim and everyone is on break, the Rosh Kollel found me a chavrusa and I’m going to start tomorrow, and hopefully learn with him for the next month! I’m going to try to do a perek of Rosh Hashana. The broken wrist is honestly a Beracha in disguise because it results in my inability to do a lot of my interest, so learning is pretty much my top priority. I hope we will keep in touch!”
This young man’s maturity in recognizing that not being able to do many of the things he finds entertaining can really be a “beracha in disguise,” is matched by his dedication and growth in Torah learning.
“I came to Camp Sports wanting a higher level of learning then what is offered at other camps. I was not let down camp sports offers shiurim and classes that grasp you by the heart and mind. Every Kumzits made you feel and understand the power you have as a Jew and the power of the Jewish people when we are united…I never truly understood what made us Jews so special, after camp sports it is starting to become a little bit clearer.”
“What I’ve learned from Camp Sports this summer is that I have the potential to be an amazing person. When an opportunity comes my way, I should take it, take advantage of it, because who knows how much it will change me, and lead me to grow? I shouldn’t waste my time, but use the time I have to change myself for the better. I want to work hard to be a good person, an inspiration to others, and a role model for future generations. We all can have the ability to be great people and accomplish amazing things if we take that chance, and learn how to be better people. I want to set goals that I can accomplish to see how much I have grown. This summer has taught me the importance of opportune times and places, and how opportunity does not usually knock twice. We need to take advantage of it while we can, to be good people, good friends, and the best me I can be”
“Another amazing quality of the camp was the questions. The rabbis were not afraid to answer any question no matter how taboo. I personally questioned the existence of G-d due to the overwhelming evidence of evolution, since I was afraid to ask anyone in my community the question. At camp the staff embraced my questions and after many learning sessions I can easily say Hashem is out there. This is an amazing understand that I will take home with me. I am very thankful for the opportunity I had at camp and for the fun I had.”
Words from Our Staff
Here is a note from a staff member who ran an early morning pre-shachris 15 minute learning group.
“I don’t really understand what motivated those teens to come so early every morning, but seven teens showed up 15 minutes before shachris every morning to learn. Regardless of whether anyone had bothered to wake these teens up on time and despite the late hour that they may have gone to sleep, they were always there. I myself was pretty tired at the time, and these teens came despite the fact that we didn’t promise them any incentive. But they pushed me to be at my best because they were so sincere and wanted to grow closer to G-d. I feel that the reason that these 7 teens came (and more wanted to join but had difficulty waking up early) is because the “pintele yid” that is inside of every Jew is always thirsty for Torah and craves being close to G-d.”
Alumni on Kollel
“M” went to camp for two years. He lives in Suffolk county New York and cannot attend yeshiva. Over the past two years camp has set up chavrusas for him during the school year, both on the phone or with the rabbi who does campus outreach near him. This summer he went on NCSY Kollel and his growth was exponential. The highlight for us was the picture we received of “M” with his daily half hour chavrusa with Rav Schachter.
The Next Generation of Alumni
“J” came to camp from the streets of Far Rockaway. He was one of the only Jewish students at his high school and was far removed from his Judaism. He came to camp, joined NSCY and even went to Israel for a year. He stayed in touch with some friends from camp and NCSY, and later he moved to California and married out of the faith. His connection with friends and his feelings for Judaism never went away and when he moved back to Long Island he reconnected with both his old friends and his Judaism. His wife and children converted and he got “remarried”. He has a 7th grade boy who is enrolled in a local day school and wanted to find out about NCSY and camp for him. Hopefully he will come to camp, as we always say Camp Sports for life…even if you take a very scenic route.
As always, thank you for your support.