by Jacob “Spike” Kraus, a Jewish singer songwriter who is spending time with us at Greene as a guest musician and educator.
I have the best job in the world. As a singer/songwriter, songleader, and Jewish educator I get to travel around the country singing and making memories with communities of all kinds. Over the summer I enjoy visiting different Jewish summer camps and spending time building relationships with campers and staff. I’ve learned that the connections you make in the chadar ochel (dining hall) or on the court are sometimes more meaningful than the ones you make during song session.
But I didn’t always know that.
Two summers ago I visited Greene Family Camp for the first time. I was serving on staff at the camp I grew up at (URJ Eisner Camp in Massachusetts) and doing a few “test visits” to other camps. I wanted a taste of what this job would be like; what would it mean to be a perennial camp guest – to not have a permanent home for the summer for the first time in my life?
The week before the scheduled visit one of the GFC Directors called me to confirm details for our visit. “We’re so excited to have you down in Texas,” they said, “but we’re sorry we don’t have so much for you to do: the two days you will be with us are our full camp color war. Our schedule is totally different and we’ll need to get creative with ways to insert you into our camp community.”
And that’s exactly what we did.
I spent my 48 hours at GFC using my songwriting skills to help a group of campers write their team’s fight song & Alma Mater. I dribbled a basketball between a counselors’ legs, I ate lunch with a cabin of rising fifth graders and debated the official ranking of the High School Musical Trilogy (It’s 1, then 2, then 3 for anyone who’s curious), and I even got to jump onto the stage and lead a ruach filled song session with Camp Director Loui Dobin. When I left I was completely changed as a professional, as an artist, and as a person.
Greene Family Camp was a place I learned how to get creative in using my skill sets to become another member of the camp community. I no longer see myself as a “guest musician” but as a guest “camp person”. Instead of asking “how can I bring music to your community,” I learned to ask “what does your community need and how can I help?” It’s an invaluable lesson that changed the way I travel and interact with all communities throughout the year.
I’m visiting a dozen Jewish summer camps this summer, and spending two full weeks at GFC. I’m grateful to begin my summer with a community that reminds me I’m more than one dimensional, and that pushes me to find new and creative ways to build relationships with others.