The only movies they had at Camp Siwanoy, a boy scout camp in Wingdale, New York, were “Bridge Over the River Kwai” and “It Came from the Black Lagoon.” Camp Siwanoy only had one indoor building that fit the boys in attendance, and the only activity to do on a rainy day (a fairly common occurrence during the summer in Wingdale) in that building was to watch movies. As such, my father, a boy in attendance at camp Siwanoy, has seen each of those approximately 10,000 times.

I know the above fact as gospel because every time I told him about the cool stuff I got to do at camp, about water balloon fights and zip lines and campfire embers that crackled into the stars, he would smile, and shake his head, and tell me again about “Bridge Over the River Kwai.”

Camp was my mom’s thing. She grew up at Ramah in the Poconos; her best camp friends were bonus aunts and uncles for me, and it was certainly her passion for camp that pushed me back for a second summer after my first was less than ideal (the less said on that subject the better; suffice to note that my nickname that summer was “pee-boy.”)

When my mom died before my counselor-in-training summer, my dad could have insisted that I stay closer to home, could have turtle-shelled to try to heal the gaping wound in our family unit. His dad believed in learning a work ethic in the summer, so my dad spent most of his summer break caddying at the local country club.

Instead, my dad pushed me to continue, seeing the person that camp unlocked inside of me. When I was going through my darkest moments, battling with depression and anxiety, he continued to support my return to camp summer after summer; continued to hear stories of color war battles, of international friends bonded for life, of pranks and raids and all manner of shenanigans, and he continued to tell me about “It Came from the Black Lagoon.”

And so, when I fulfilled a life-long dream and joined the full-time team of GFC three years ago, a fun thought occurred to me: my dad should get to have a non-50’s reel-to-reel experience of camp. Last summer we got him to come run the mail room for first session. Unsurprisingly, his years of pent-up Jewish summer camp jealousy manifested in the form of being a spectacularly successful and popular member of the camp community. He posted daily positive mantras on the windows of the mail room; he found Taylor Swift’s fan mail address to encourage kids to write more letters. He stayed up late to work every Tavern with me and remains in touch with many of the international staff members to this day.

Eli and his dad, Jerry, in the Beit Kinneset at sunset

Most campers will never get to repay their parents for the vision and intention demonstrated by sending them to camp. How do you express gratitude for proactively providing you the backdrop for major formative moments, friendships bonded, adventures conquered? How do you repay the emotional cost of entrusting your children to teenage counselors, the opportunity cost of losing valuable summer break time together, not to mention the literal cost of camp?

Last summer, Greene gave me the incredible experience of repaying my dad. Each moment of laughter, each sunset over the lake during Friday night services sitting together, every second that we got to be together at camp; it’s a joy beyond any I could ever expect for my life.

This year my wife gave birth to our son; this summer I get to start embracing the blessing of camp with him. My dad will be back in the mailroom, and just like that three generations of my family will be sharing in camp magic.

Seeing my son at camp now, imagining the joy of watching him grow up here, I understand I never needed to repay my dad in the first place: seeing my son find his second home is more than payment enough.

Eli, Jerry, and baby Solomon
Shabbat Shalom,