By Yehuda “No ‘H'” Fenton
Camp Gan Yisroel. These words evoke emotions in thousands of people, from the young boy timidly entering camp for the first time, to the elderly Chossid reminiscing over his childhood. Every person that has spent time here leaves with the messages and values of this camp deeply ingrained in their hearts, and they are left with a deep impression of the wonderful times spent in the summer. One cannot know which of the many events in camp will stay with us, but it’s always something.
Although the summer is far from over, one cannot help but grow nostalgic as the first half of camp winds to an end. There have been so many brilliant moments this month that to leave it all until the end of camp seems unfair. I therefore feel compelled to present you with a glimpse of the first month at CGI.
Within the first few days of camp, we had already been treated to a phenomenal barbecue which even the most recalcitrant camper couldn’t help but love. As the campers slowly began to fall into the rhythm of camp, the first heartwarming Shabbos drew us all in. Shabbos ended with the beloved Shmaryunki, helping us to laugh and break the last vestige of nervousness from the beginning of camp.
Although it was easy to get lost in the first few whirlwind days of camp, I couldn’t help but notice the return of the beloved regulars of camp and a few welcome newcomers. Night Activity was still as side-splitting as always, the activities were just as engaging, and the sports was still intense, yet fun. As well, this year I got to meet a new survival director, head lifeguard, and arts and crafts team. As if that wasn’t enough, there was also a beautiful new grounds to delight in and explore.
Besides that, a new learning program was introduced, and we all got a chance to meet our learning teachers. Whether you’re in Bunk Aleph learning mishnayos, or Bunk Chuf-Aleph exploring the intricacies of Gemara, there was something for everyone. The far reaching expectations of the the Kiwi competition allowed for boundless growth among the campers and stirred much anticipation among the learning teachers
The first full week featured an inspiring Farbrengen from R’ Baras, and a spectacular trip to Skate Estate. The trip included something for everybody. There was rollerskating and laser tag and even a chance to get out of the sweltering heat in an enormous water slide. In short, it was the perfect first trip of camp.
With this wonderful beginning of camp, things just got better as we launched into the next week. Monday began with a breakout for bivouac. Within hours, we were off to an amazing camping trip. The bivouac included the bonfires, niggunim, and Baal Shem Tov stories that so characterize the Gan Yisroel bivouac. The camaraderie and unity that the overnight evoked were truly heartwarming.
Within days of our return, BOG war began. Teams of Tehillim, Tanya, and Chumash all vied for the lead. Although there was only one winning team, the scavengers, plays, and songs of every team have been rehashed ever since. It was an intense twenty-four hours, and as the head counselors announced Team Chumash as the champions, all the staff and campers went into Shabbos tired but satisfied.
With all the excitement of camp, the time really flew by, and before we knew it it was time for the Grand Trip. Death-defying drops, exhilarating rides, and addictive games filled the final trip for the first month. Although the rains closed down the park near closing time, they had no hope of smothering the fiery of spirit of CGI.
The excitement of the last few days of the first half electrified the atmosphere in camp. After a Shabbos imbued with niggunim and chassidishkeit, we finished of with the grand banquet. The meal was permeated with a sense of sorrow as we said farewell to the last month, and excited speculation of the next. Awards were given out to those who excelled in sports and learning class, and the best camper of each bunk was announced.
With this, the first half ended. We can unanimously say we had a great time the first month. With tremendous amounts of learning accomplished, thrilling activities and phenomenal trips, Camp Gan Yisroel has reasserted its prominence in so many hearts throughout the world.
For every one of us camp has always been a life changing experience, and if the first half of camp is any indication, CGI 5772 will be no exception.