The first thing my co-advisors and I wanted to do when we heard camp was officially cancelled was to be able to connect in some way with the Yachad of 2020. We knew how devastating camp being cancelled was for them, as they were so excited to finally be the oldest campers on the boys’ and girls’ sides. We were just as upset because we were so ready to spend the summer with such a unique group of people.
Our goal was to make sure our campers got some kind of camp experience in these crazy times. Luckily, the Yachad (entering 10th Grade) Leadership Program consists of the great Shevet Achim and Kol Isha programs — important conversations about personal growth, gender, and character, separated by gender identification. Because of this, we knew we had a great way to connect with this group.
Over the course of a normal in-person camp session, there probably would have been 10-12 evenings to have these conversations. With it being condensed to only 5 this summer, and in a new virtual format, we had to choose the topics that we felt were the most important, and would have the most impact. Each week, my co-advisors and I would meet and plan out the next week’s program. I am so fortunate that I got the opportunity to work with them this summer, even in this small capacity.
We knew this could not replace a summer at Alonim – nothing can – but we wanted to provide the comfort that comes from being at camp, even for just an hour a week. I was initially worried that it would be difficult to build the community necessary to have in-depth conversations about complex topics over Zoom, but my worries quickly evaporated when I saw how thrilled and involved the campers were. The key to our successful program was this particular group of Alonimers, as their love for camp–and desire to have a piece of camp at home–was what fueled their participation and allowed us to have incredible conversations.
One thing I took away from this entire experience was something that was beautifully written into the Yachad song of 2020: “home (Alonim) is in the people, not the place.” Our meetings on Monday nights really had the warmth and joy of camp, and everything camp stands for was brought into our conversations. Obviously, this is not what anyone wanted this summer to look like, but everyone involved made a tough situation into something wonderful and memorable.
This unique summer also taught me that I needed these five weeks of programming as much as the kids. It gave me the chance to build a community with this wonderful group of Yachad in a time where everyone wants and needs human connection. Seeing them smile when we played a get-to-know-you game, or when their Yachad song was played for the first time, were moments that made me so happy, and gave us all that camp feeling we all missed. I am so lucky this group of campers showed up every week — engaged and ready to have these sincere conversations — and even luckier that I got to be their advisor.
— Harrison B. (Yachad Advisor ’20, JCIT ’15)
This summer turned out to be something that none of us expected, anticipated, or could have ever imagined. The reality for most people, including myself, was that having a summer without camp was scary, and frankly unwanted. When first asked to be a Yachad advisor for this upcoming summer, before the COVID-19 Pandemic was even a thought, I couldn’t have been more excited to spend my time with such an amazing group of individuals (the Yachad ’20 campers) that I’ve come to know so well throughout the years. I was excited to spend every day yelling for toranut, running programs, and just be with one another throughout the blazing summer days.
However, when everyone’s plans suddenly changed, I was unsure of how to act. When first deciding to facilitate an online program, it was difficult for me to understand how we could create an online environment where our campers felt safe and open to participate in the challenging and important conversations of Shevet Achim and Kol Isha. However, this apprehension only encouraged my co-advisors and me to push even harder to create impactful moments of conversation for our campers. After seeing all the positive reactions and feedback following our first meeting, I knew that our virtual programming was going to be a success.
Throughout the five weeks of laughter, commentary, and self-growth, I couldn’t be more proud to have helped facilitate such a strong-minded group of individuals. The screen didn’t block the amazing ideas and bond the campers were able to share but enabled them to have the time to grow as a communal group. Although this summer wasn’t what any of us had expected, it turned out to be something so much more for every individual involved.
Getting the opportunity to make our own space and successfully facilitate a welcoming environment was truly an experience I’ll never forget. As the Yachad of 2020 say, this summer has truly proven that “home is in the people, not the place.”
–Becca G. (Yachad Advisor ’20, JCIT ’15)
Online Shevet Achim and Kol Isha has been a blessing. When first learned that camp was cancelled, I was crestfallen. Not only would hundreds of campers be unable to see close friends, make everlasting memories, and reconnect with Jewish culture, but I would also be missing the community I’ve grown to love so much over the past eleven years.
However, even in the midst of my heartbreak, I knew that camp is a progressive space for trying new ideas. I had no doubt in my mind that the directors would work with staff to make something happen for the campers in this unique summer.
And we did. I am so proud of our campers, my co-advisors, and Jacob and the Alonim directors for managing to recreate the camp environment online. As this summer has been an incredibly tumultuous time, we all felt that it was necessary to construct a safe space for the Yachad ’20 campers to analyze important issues & feelings they’re facing. While camp may not have happened in person, our Monday evening virtual discussions clearly illustrate that the experiences and insights gained from being at camp aren’t limited to the physical space of a few thousand acres outside Simi Valley.
Our Yachad song says “Home is in the people, not the place.” Thank you, Yachad, for giving us all a home – even without the place.
–Daniel G. (Yachad Advisor ’20, JCIT ’15)
Being one of the Yachad advisors of 2020 was a magnificent and heart-warming experience. When I first found out that I would get to be an advisor I was over the moon, but when COVID-19 became a problem for California I was deeply saddened when I realized that camp was not going to happen. Of course, the creativity and drive of the Alonim staff never ceases to amaze me, and when my co-advisors and I learned we could get the opportunity to do Shevet Achim and Kol Isha in an online format, that sadness quickly turned into excitement.
Putting the program together was interesting; having such a meaningful program like this online meant that additional planning needed to be done. Not to mention there were so many other things going on in ours and the campers lives besides COVID, so it was hard to fit every issue we wanted to talk about into just five sessions. Even so, with weekly meetings and guidance from the great Jacob Martinez-Raizman (our JCIT 2015 Advisor and current Assistant Director), the four of us were able to create a safe space for these campers to challenge social norms, share their experiences, and learn from their peers.
And let me tell you these kids are beyond impressive. Their knowledge and willingness to participate is inspiring, and they truly made this an amazing experience. There is a saying amongst Alonimers that goes “camp people show up.” The Yachad of 2020 really did show up, I am honored to have been a part of this program.
–Tessa N. (Yachad Advisor ’20, JCIT ’15)
(NB: Alonim’s Entering 10th Grade Teen Leadership Program Used to Be Known as ‘JCIT’ and is Now Known as ‘Yachad’)