Nice is the Norm

at Camp Tel Noar

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We love asking current and past staff members about their experiences at camp to gain some insight and perspective on what makes Tel Noar so beloved. They tell amazing stories of lifelong friendships, memories about gamedays and Color War, and fun anecdotes about living in chugs (our connected-style bunks) and being a part of a small community. One counselor, preparing to spend his fourth summer at camp, said he would describe CTN this way: at camp, “nice is the norm.” 

Here’s what "nice is the norm" feels like, from a recent summer’s memories:

Two boys smiling

Camp is the place where you can get on stage with three of your best friends during Lip Sync Battle and make complete fools of yourself, but still be greeted with high fives and “good jobs” as you find your way back to your seat. A place where Brooke and Gabi can do a step dance duo performance, scared to pieces, in front of all of camp and get a standing ovation. Their nerves were reaffirmed by the hugs and cheers as they ran out to “lake it” with their step instructor, Sherman, proudly standing by on Saturday night. Sherm was new to our camp community but had stepped (see what we did there?) into his role here seamlessly. His gentle, steady nature brought warmth to his elective groups and to camp, an amazing addition to the kindness that we see every day here.

There’s one day every year where we end the afternoon being completely exhausted, but incredibly inspired. Prospective Family Day welcomes several dozen families, all future campers and parents, who join us at camp for an afternoon of s’mores, boating, swimming, BBQ and tie dye. We always hope that the intimacy and close-knit family feel of CTN won’t get lost in the crowd…and it rarely does. We typically pair up an older and younger current camper and assign them to small groups of 4-6 prospective kids. We see 10-year-old campers transform and take on the role of a “mini” counselor, making sure their new friends reapply sunscreen throughout the day–and even help them find the gluten-free choices at lunch. Tomorrow they might resume the role of needing to be reminded about sunscreen themselves, but today they rise to the challenge of new responsibility. 

Our campers show themselves to be kind, welcoming and enthusiastic. That’s a Tel Noar kid, and that’s the norm. The next day, a parent that attended sent us a Facebook message to say, “Thanks for such an incredible experience on Sunday. Jared said “I never realized my lifelong dream…now I know camp is my lifelong dream.” CTN campers create that and make CTN the place that it is.
Two girls cutting watermelon

The kindness and warmth of camp comes with us even when we travel and when we host. That same week, our Olim basketball team went to Tevya, Bogrim basketball traveled to CYJ and our Tsofim team welcomed five camps to CTN. Great sportsmanship and team spirit all around and even with no first place finishes, we had a blast. Our campers involved in the games shook hands and made intros at the beginning, and one of our water boys, Mitch, advocated for getting Gatorade for all teams and even took it upon himself to deliver the cold drinks to each team first before bringing a bin of them to our own bench. It was a great day of CTN pride and feeling the connection to our local Jewish camp community!

That Tuesday morning was filled with appreciation and lots of thank yous as our campers enjoyed a late, staggered wake up and then were treated to an omelet bar catered by our fantastic Senior Staff. The rest of the day was sunny and fun as everyone went about their regular schedules, except for our dedicated drama staff and Seussical cast members who spent 4th, 5th and 6th periods putting the final touches on what turned out to be a fantastic show. Drama Head Jess was patient, understanding and supportive of her cast members and staff and together they were able to pull off something amazing in just three short weeks.

Our Assistant Director that summer recalls, “At about 5am on Tuesday I was woken up by my walkie-talkie that I was needed in the Health Center, so I rubbed sleep from eyes and got ready to quickly leave my lakeside house. As I opened by door. I was surprised to see Bunk 8 and their counselors, more than 30 guys, lined up on the dock, watching the sunrise and listening to their counselor share with them the importance of this summer and their role here at camp. I took a moment to listen, was almost moved to tears, put my hood on and quickly snuck behind a bunk to take a longer, but more discreet, route to the Health Center so I wouldn’t interrupt. I love when this stuff happens, without our help, or our input or guidance. Our campers get a lot of credit for the kindness they bring to camp; our counselors are also unbelievable at bringing out that kindness and creating these perfect moments for their campers. If I had to be up before sunrise, this was the perfect start to my day.”

And that’s what we mean by “nice is the norm!”

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