After spending all day looking through old photos (wow I was tiny)(ok I’m still tiny) it’s time for a proper Na’aleh, holy cow, ilysm post. On and off from 2001-2008 I got to go to Na’aleh. In the ‘on’ times, I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to go there. In the ‘off’ times, I missed it pretty much nonstop. Time worked differently at Na’aleh. Someone once described it to me as a place where “the days are weeks and the weeks are days”, and I can’t think of a better description. I felt in the span of minutes I learned and grew and experienced enough for a lifetime, and yet in a blink 2 months would fly by.
For a long time I thought of Na’aleh as a great gift that summer would bring. But I haven’t been to Na’aleh as a chanichol for 8 years, and it’s still such a huge part of my life. My Na’aleh-born love of singing, of dancing, of nature, of ruach, of avodah, of making big ma’agals with everybody in it… that’s with me every day, all the time. I’m a pro at coming up with group activities that don’t cost any money and don’t need many props and sometimes come out pretty silly. I’m even better at sneaking in (okay, sometimes it’s pretty obvious) learning about Jewish culture and social justice.
Y’all, the world is hard sometimes, and Na’aleh gave me tools I could not have done without. Confidence, friendship, leadership abilities, an emphasis on tikkun olam and hagshama, ideals I try to live my life by. Na’aleh was a summer camp, but it is also a movement, a support system, a way of life, a beautiful lens through which to see the world. I’m heartbroken that kids next year won’t get to experience this in quite the same way, but I can’t be too sad because I have faith that Na’aleh lives on, in spirit and hopefully again in physicality.
15 years after being rained on in Shohola, I still get to see and hug and speak with my Na’aleh friends all the time. In the past couple years I’ve even reconnected with people- some of my best friends!!!- with whom I hadn’t spoken with in ages, only to feel like no time had gone by. Because Na’aleh is a family and family means we shared some pretty weird experiences growing up and I can’t wait to experience more together. I’m here forever for my fellow HaboHeads, and I encourage y’all continue to hit me up, because I’m always just a click away. Laila tov, Machaneh Na’aleh.