The following blog post was written by a writer for the TY Blog who expertly captures the sometimes inexplicable magic of a teen summer that evolves around Jewish life, Israel, and having an impact beyond ones own back yard. – DW
My son just spent a few days in Washington, D.C. with nearly 400 other Jewish high schoolers, learning how to talk to members of Congress about supporting Israel.
When I met him at the airport he was still wearing his suit, looking like a man. The first thing he said was, “On the flight home all I could think was, how do I get myself back to D.C. for good one day?” He continued with his fresh-off-the-plane ideas for next summer—volunteering in a political campaign, meeting local leaders, researching issues, and honing in on colleges. I swelled with joy that my 16-year-old had found his passion, and with pride that his future may not be entirely reliant on stern parental reminders.
But as I drove us back home, back to his life as a high school junior who has only taken a few baby steps along the lengthy college application journey, I started to panic.
Next summer? What about everything he still needs to learn? Responsibility and work ethic through a part-time job. The needs of others with community service. Connection and spirituality through youth group events. And all the catching up that his emotional and physical self need to do through good, old-fashioned down-time? And now he’s talking about all he needs to over the summer to jump-start his future career?
When he was little I couldn’t wait to see the man he’d become—wondering how he would contribute to the world. But now that he’s bigger than me, now that he drives himself wherever he needs to go, and now that his future plans don’t sound so futuristic, I panic. Is he ready? Will he be the best person he can be? I know that his years attending Jewish camps have created a strong foundation. He comes home lighter, brighter, and infinitely more connected to his community. Is that time already over?
I’m learning to let go of the boy he was so he can become the man he needs to be—but I’m not so sure that’s about him putting in a suit and tie every day. Not just yet. The truth is, rather than split him in all those directions, Jewish camp programs for older high schoolers can deliver what he needs, on all levels, including his desire to impact change in the world.
Whether he’s hiking, rafting, or even doing social action work in Washington, D.C with camp, working (and getting paid) as a junior staff member, or just hanging with his friends at the pool, I know that camp will help him get what he needs to have, so he can go where he wants to go.