Melissa Grossman’s (Grown Up) Jewish Camper Story

What is your favorite camp memory?
My favorite camp memories are of the first day and last night of camp each summer. Every summer for 11 years, I woke up on the first day of camp with butterflies in my stomach, counting down the seconds until I could reunite with my camp friends and counselors. The anticipation was the best feeling in the world and, once there, the joy and happiness lasted for the full eight weeks of camp. On the last night, as we stood down by the lake with candles in hand, those butterflies returned. Some of them were probably related to being nervous about my re-entry into “the real world,” but, mostly, I think it was the excitement of the receiving my five-year plaque or cheering my bunkmate on for being voted MVP. It was magical, and those memories would stay with me until the following summer.

Why is it important to provide more opportunities for local kids to experience Jewish summer camp?
Camp just makes being Jewish FUN. The traditional ways of being Jewish throughout the year always felt different. At camp, Shabbat was filled with singing and dancing, meals began and ended with hand motions to hamotzi and birkat hamazon, and art was making mezuzot. It was a fun way to celebrate being Jewish!

Do you think your time at camp influenced your work in the Jewish community?
Absolutely. Not one person in my life is surprised that I now work at a Jewish sleepaway camp. Since my first summer at JCC Camps Arthur-Reeta in 1989, I knew that camp would impact me for the rest of my life. No matter what career I had, all roads would always lead me back to camp. I started my career in the Jewish community working at Hillel International. After a 13-year hiatus in the law firm world running “summer camp” for law students (my closest attempt at getting back to camp until now), I’m back to my roots and could not be more excited to give my own wonderful Jewish camp experience to Jewish youth in our community.

Was there a memorable life lesson that you took away from your camp experience?
Camp shaped me as an individual and helped me build confidence and independence like no other experience in my life. I truly believe that camp is why I had the courage to spend eight weeks of my junior year of high school in Israel, why I studied abroad in London, and why I moved to Washington, DC, despite knowing only one other person. I learned to try new things at camp. That lesson has lasted a lifetime and I work hard every day to instill that in my own two children and all of the campers at Capital Camps.

Assistant Director, Capitol Camps & Retreat Center