(Jewish News) – As an Arizona native, I spent many nights at Camp Perlstein, now named Camp Stein. There is something magical I feel each time we reach the entrance of camp that I have never been able to put my finger on. Whether it is the cool breeze and smell from being surrounded by beautiful trees or the familiarity of the cabins, buildings and paths throughout the camp, I can’t help but smile as a feeling of comfort and happiness washes over me those first moments after arriving at camp.
However, several weeks ago, that feeling was magnified beyond my imagination as I had the opportunity to spend time at Camp Stein with my family at PJ Library Family Camp. This was the fourth annual camp weekend for families (after an interruption for Covid) through PJ Library in Phoenix, and the programming was planned and run by both PJ Library director Marcy Lewis and volunteer coordinator Laura Drachler who spearheaded this weekend in April 2017 as a project of the Women’s Leadership Institute (WLI).
Laura’s goal as a mentee of the WLI program was to bring a family camp to the PJ Library community. Laura has a deep connection to camp and understands the importance camp has in creating long-lasting connection to Jewish life. Each year, the weekend has been either 90% filled or completely full to capacity, and the magic that is created each weekend is indescribable.
We were able to experience a weekend packed full of amazing camp experiences together as a family and had the opportunity to connect with each other and get to know other young families from our community in a unique and special way.
From the moment we arrived at camp, we were swept up in the camp spirit as we dove right into Friday night Shabbat services, a delicious Shabbat dinner and a fun night of both family and adult programming. Our kids loved being able to stay up late with some of their friends and the most incredible counselors, while we had the opportunity to hang out with other parents and get to know each other better over drinks and snacks before all heading to bed in our cabin.
Saturday was spent enjoying services in the beautiful outdoors, hikes around camp, numerous activity choices including ropes course, rock wall, art, music, cooking and so much more. With so many activities available it was hard to choose the ones we wanted to do as a family, but we easily found ourselves bouncing from one to the next. At night we were able to enjoy singing and smores by the campfire, a quintessential camp experience. And then headed into an evening full of laughter and fun as the adults competed in trivia and the kids spent time watching movies and having a dance party in another area of camp.
Normally our weekends are spent driving from place to place, so the fully-packed weekend was something we were used to. However, usually those full weekends can be draining, but this weekend spent together at camp had the opposite effect. I found myself exhausted but filled up with blissfulness, even as I did load upon load of laundry after arriving home on Sunday afternoon.
Weeks later, I find myself fondly thinking of the memories we made together at camp and remembering the look of pride on our kids face as they reached the top of the rock wall or end of the ropes course. They are still talking about the new friends they made and how excited they are to go back to camp for the summer. And I continue to beam with pride as I hear how connected they feel to the camp experience and Jewish life. PJ Library Family Camp was truly the perfect escape we didn’t know we needed, and I’m truly grateful for the opportunity to connect with my family in this special way.
This article was originally posted on Jewish News.
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