This speech was given by counselor and GFC alum Sammi Donchin at our GFC Shabbat at UT Hillel. That night, Sammi was Hillel’s “Student Spotlight” and got the honor of delivering this dvar in front of the entire Texas Jewish community.

In the parsha Tetzaveh, God lays out the instructions to Moses to build the Tabernacle. In the portion, there are lists of things to wear, how to adorn the temple, and how to build up from nothing something new and beautiful.

Now when I read this, my mind went straight to 4th or 5th grade Sunday school reading about the different colored wools and threads, and thinking to myself, why is this building so important? So now using my college brain, I still have the question. Why is this place so important?

But today my mind goes to GFC. I have gone to Greene since I was 8 years old. It has helped my mind grow creatively, expanded my Jewish knowledge and encouraged me to always keep questioning.

When I read through this parsha, I was really struck by one word. Build. Camp has always been a place of growth, building us up for its entire existence.

When I think of camp building people up, one memory comes to mind. If you’ve been a Kibbutz camper before, I’m sure you’ve had similar stories to this one:
So there is a wall in the ropes course at camp that only the Kibbutz kids get to climb. What makes THIS wall so special? Unlike the rock wall, there is nothing to hold onto on the wall. And it happens to be 8 feet tall. Your mission? You just have to get your whole unit from the bottom to the top. Even from age 8, campers go to the ropes course and have fun on the various elements, but the prestige of the wall is left for us cool Kibbutzniks.

So we get to “the wall,” and we gather in a circle. Our ropes instructor reiterated what we already felt so strongly. That Kibbutz is a family, and we have learned to be there for each other and build each other up. So one by one, we lifted our friends up over the wall. And as a 15/16 year old, it can be a little embarrassing. We had people of all shapes and sizes participating. But you know what? We didn’t think anything of it. One of our friends was afraid of heights and really having trouble getting over the wall, but of course, we threw her up there. We encouraged her and let her know that we had her back. When we had all gotten to the top, we cheered. We didn’t know it at the time, but looking back, what a remarkable community we’d built.

Even though I am no longer a camper, being a counselor has allowed me to not only return the favor to camp, but I have been able to watch these next generation of Kibbutz kids build their own community. I know that next year new campers will experience the wall, and the tradition of building camp families will continue. I have been with this incoming group of Kibbutz campers since I was an Avodah, and I have been so lucky to feel like such a part of their community and watch them climb the Kibbutz wall as their own team.

Through good and bad experiences, these kids are there for each other like a true kehillah. I think of the path that my camp counselors have built for me, and am so thankful for my counselors that were there for me.

But that’s what it’s all about right? Building that community. Lifting each other up. Like the tabernacle, when it comes to building anything, GFC has a lot of heart, a lot of spirit, and a lot more building to do.