Standing next to two strangers in the middle of Shabbat song session, our arms wrapped around each other, it hit me, I was back, I was home. We were belting the CMC song, and I got goose bumps when I looked around and felt I was once again part of the community.
To be honest, I was nervous to come back. I had worked at camp for two years as the 2014 SIT Director and 2015 Program Director. Coming back just to visit without having a staff role at camp was different, what would I do with myself and my time? The first moment I arrived up the tall green mountain it felt familiar yet strange. I saw old faces that I instantly felt reconnected too, like no time had really passed. With a new camp season there are always new staff, campers, procedures, programs and jokes. Yet with such an inclusive group of people and positive ruach (spirit) from the entire camp it took very little time to feel not just welcomed but like I had never left. It reminded me of why I love CMC so much, and why, even though I may not physically be at camp all the time, it would never really leave me and I would never really leave it.
Camp Mountain Chai is a place that I hold close to my heart because it’s a community and space where everyone can find their true selves. From campers climbing the rock wall for the first time and facing their fear of heights, to the staff members wearing tutu’s, giant hair bows, and onesies, camp is the safe space away from the pressures of the “real world” where you will be accepted no matter what. The nature of the supportive atmosphere fosters lifelong friendships and memories.
While walking around camp and taking in my last view for a while, I was overcome with joy. Seeing campers make new friends while connected with old ones and watching the most supportive staff really reiterated the power and impact of CMC. It is hard for me to put into exact words what my time at CMC meant to me. It has impacted my life in such a positive way and has inspired me personally and professionally. As cheesy as it sounds my time at CMC continues to make me a better person and I will be forever grateful.
CMC forever in my heart,
Molly Okun is currently the Director of Youth and Teen Engagement at Temple Sinai in Atlanta Georgia. And a professional S’more maker.