by Ashley Rosen, an Avodah camper (Counselor-in-Training) from San Antonio, TX. She is also the  NFTY-TOR Regional Board Communications Vice President.

Throughout this past year, I remember impatiently waiting for the opportunity to return to camp. After not seeing many of my camp friends for the last two years, I was beyond excited to have the opportunity to be a part of the Avodah unit at GFC and strengthen my identity as a Jewish teen.

Already, being an Avodahnik has allowed me to achieve my goals and more. Even though we’ve only been together at camp for less than two weeks, I can confidently say that this program has already made an impact on myself and my peers by building a sense of community that we are now able to pass down to the next generation of campers for years to come.

Three days before opening day, the Avodahnikim came up to camp early for orientation and team building exercises. We participated in numerous low ropes activities that strengthened our trust in one another.

One moment that resonated with me was an exercise that challenged the group to hold a rope taut while one of us walked across it. At first, it was really scary for everyone because we all had assumed that we wouldn’t be able to successfully complete the task. But to our surprise, we all worked together and were able to hold each other up safely. The activity taught us a lot about teamwork, as everyone needs to put in effort in order to achieve a common goal. If even one person was slacking, our goal could never be reached.

In addition to these structured team building exercises, other informal activities helped us bond as a unit. On our first night together, we were brought into the kitchen and were told that we would be cooking a fancy Italian dinner. It was a perfect way to begin our summer together. With the help of our counselors, we made a delicious meal and enjoyed eating together as a cohesive group. That night really made an impact on myself and the rest of the unit, and we were truly able to get an insight of what it would be like to work together and how fulfilling it is when we can accomplish something with the help of each other.

Spending time with one another also helped us develop relationships with one another within our unit. Most of us had already known the other Avodahnikim from past years at camp or by participating in Jewish youth organizations. However, coming to camp early reminded us of how special our relationships are with other Jewish teens, and we were able to meet the other Avodahnikim that we may have not yet known. The few days we had together were long and tiring, but also incredibly rewarding. Whether we were participating in team building exercises, learning about the basics of what it means to be an Avodah, or even bonding in the cabins late at night, it didn’t take long for us all to become incredibly close to one another. Avodah orientation allowed for us to build a community within ourselves so we may spread that sense of community to everyone across camp.

The skills we learned throughout the orientation were put into action the moment the GFC gates opened. On opening day, the Avodahnikim were in charge of being the smiling faces that welcomed over 300 campers to their summer home. We excitedly jumped around as cars entered the gate and also worked to organize luggage to ensure that every camper’s belongings were brought to their cabin. The weather outside was brutally hot, but seeing the campers’ excitement as they entered the gates made all of the sweat and tiredness completely worth it.

Since then, being an Avodah throughout the past week and a half has been an incredibly worthwhile experience. Not only have we had the chance to spend time with each other and make countless memories, we’ve been able to create the GFC magic for hundreds of campers. Working with the younger campers has been an amazing experience for myself and the rest of the Avodahnikim, and we are all really enjoying our time with the bunks we were assigned to work with throughout the session. The community we built amongst each other allowed us to accomplish this, and I am truly grateful for the family we’ve built that I will consider to be my backbone for the rest of our summer together and even for the rest of my life.