By Ira Miller, Director of Informal Education at the Washington Hebrew Congregation
I had the honor and privilege of visiting the newest URJ 6 Points camp, the Creative Arts Academy, during their staff training week to lead two professional development sessions, one on creating inclusive environments and one on professionalism. Beyond the beauty of the campus, the quality of the food and the treat of finding a “Philly Pretzel Factory” less than 10 minutes away (I LOVE hot pretzels, and these were fantastic), what I was most impressed with was the commitment each and every staff member had to the shared goal of bringing this new camp to life in the best way possible. Here are some of my takeaways from my 24 hours at CAA…
  • You will never find a more beautiful and harmonious hamotzi than you will at CAA. There is so much musical and vocal talent among the staff that the simplest one-line prayer evolves into a multi-part harmonic overture that sends shivers down your spine and makes you wish there was more singing to be done before eating. But, not to worry, as the beautiful music continues after the meal, during morning rituals and throughout the day.
  • The staff is really committed to this camp as both a place for children and a place for artistic expression. Every staff member has incredible talent in one (or more) areas that make them a valuable addition to the overall team. But each of them also is there to share their love of the arts with the campers, and so many of the discussions that I observed dealt with how to make sure every camper has the experience of a lifetime.
  • If you didn’t know this was a new camp, you wouldn’t be able to tell. Kudos to Jo-Ellen Unger and Kara Hoffman, the leadership team and everyone involved for thinking through all the little details. Signs guided me from the main road into camp, each with one of the four core values of the institution. I was greeted with a beautiful banner and handed a tie-dye wrist band to be identified as part of the camp community. My name was on a sign on my sleeping quarters, and inside I found the daily schedule, a map and some souvenirs too.  While there are last minute preparations going on, they are the same preparations that take place at every camp the week before campers arrive. The only way to really know that this is a new camp is to listen to the conversations amongst the staff about the incredible opportunity, and responsibility, of creating a camp culture for the first time.

I have no doubts that this will be an incredible inaugural summer for the campers and staff at CAA. I can’t wait to see what happens this summer, and beyond!