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Dear CSL Community:

Welcome to Camp Seneca Lake 2016! It is with great excitement that we continue our 89th summer today with…oh wait, this is the end. Supposedly.

I am currently sitting in the Dining Hall at 7:30 am on August 21st, 2016. It says on the Master Calendar that this is the final day of CSL 2016. It says in big letters in the box for this day “SESSION 2 ENDS”. Immediately around me, tables are being set for the final meal. In and around camp, baggage is being picked up for the various buses. In Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse, Binghamton, New York City, Maryland, and other places around the country, parents are preparing to welcome their children home. Chances are good that by the time you read this, parents and their sons or daughters could very well be back together.

This is, of course, a bittersweet day at camp. The staff will very sadly say goodbye to the campers, who will almost definitely be extremely emotional upon departure. At the same time, the staff all have lives to which they are all anxious to return. In fact, many staff have departed over the last week or so for college orientations and so forth. Immediately after the buses depart this morning, the remaining staff will continue the process of packing down camp. Since the 2006 construction of “Susie’s Place” or the T-Rec, a group immediately moves over to Tusc after bus departure and packs every single bed, mattress, bed board, shelf from the village into that space until the doors can barely open. Then, staff will depart this afternoon for their various life endeavors. I will be in my office at 8 am tomorrow morning. Sure seems like the end.


A mosaic is a collection of images that serve together to create a larger, cohesive, encapsulating image. It was the main Long Term Project in Color War X, requiring every single camper and staff member to produce a tile. This summer very much operated with this mantra. The many images, small to large, merge together to form what the community feels about the summer, and in turn, the larger arch of their Camp Seneca Lake experience. I have seen a lot of growth in ways that are difficult to adequately describe in this space.

On Sunday during the 5th Annual Campstock Festival, there were 40+ acts, the most we have ever had. They included over 200 camper participants, so nearly every camper. There were several acts featuring our youngest campers performing original songs alone…original songs written about their love for Camp Seneca Lake. A nine-year-old writing something from scratch, then performing in front of 400 people.

On Wednesday, Tuscarora participated in the Seventh Triathlon Culmination, and for the second year, the entire camp was on hand to take it in. The 40 Mishpacha, featuring campers from each village were all assigned to assist with the Tusc campers will various parts of their course – counting laps in the pool, holding bikes, holding the finish line, giving water. The eternal Rabbi Vogel attended and explained the inherent value of support and just how far it goes. Every single camper who started the Triathlon course that day completed it. Even a relay of four injured campers completed, the four briskly walking together with hands held to the finish line together to finish the day, 400 around them understanding the gravity.

Just 48 hours later, the Senior Campers of 2016 made history in producing the entire Shabbat experience for camp – the music, the pieces, the Shabbat candles, the challah, and of course the soul. The group approached services the way we have learned to approach this summer camp, with deliberate, methodical, and cohesive participation. A mosaic. Each of the Tusc campers recited a translated line from this week’s Torah Portion, Va’etchanan (Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11). This parsha fittingly reflects on critical pieces of the Torah. Most of the Tusc campers used their lines as launching points on their own reflections of their experiences this summer and over the course of their lives. Meanwhile, two Tusc campers played their guitars and several others walked the Fire Circle and Golden View to lead the camp in the weekly prayers and their chosen songs. It was not perfect, but the feeling it generated certainly was.

Then, last night, the camp attended The Final Banquet, receiving yearbooks entitled “The Mosaic,” the cover graced by an illustration of the Totem Pole. The inside pages ranged from blank (for signings of course) to collections of images from the summer. This, while hovering in the region in front of the dining hall, eating dinner all around a 12-foot wood-carved CSL Logo right in front of the timeless big tree that graces the entrance of the Dining Hall. Throughout the evening, Tusc groups and village staffs assembled in front to pose for photographs in addition to many random assortments. And throughout, the “background” featured thousands of the summer’s images on the front wall of the Dining Hall. All to the classic camp songs. Campers and staff signed each other’s yearbooks. Then, the camp went through its traditional closing ceremonies, including Final Campfire.


Now it is 8:07 am and the campers flying home have already departed. The rest of the campers will arrive for breakfast very shortly. It is raining lightly. The sky is gray. The tables are set. The photos are still covering the wall of the Dining Hall. The baggage has been packed around camp, successfully avoiding the heavier rain that is imminent. Apparently, the end of camp is also imminent.

Don’t leave.

As the images of our mosaic continue to be added, I take solace in knowing the full image never fully culminates. So I will conclude this message the way I began it by welcoming you all to Camp Seneca Lake and expressing excitement about us continuing on. Summer 2016 definitely ends today. But camp continues. And our mosaic will continue being formed, one image at a time. Forever.

It’s time for breakfast now.

Sincerely, Ari Baum (1992 – 2016)


1992 – C1

1993 – C2/C3

1994 – C2/C3

1995 – C4/C5

1996 – M1/M2

1997 – M3/M5

1998 – M5/M6

1999 – Tuscarora

2000 – CIT C2/C4/M1

2001 – M3/M1 Junior Counselor

2002 – M1/M5 Counselor

2003 – Tuscarora Counselor

2004 – Tuscarora Counselor

2005 – Mohawk Unit Head

2006 – Mohawk Unit Head

2007 – Tuscarora Unit Head

2008 – Tuscarora Unit Head

2009 – Program/Assistant Director

2010 – Program/Assistant Director

2011 – Program/Assistant Director

2012 – Program/Assistant Director

2013 – Program/Assistant Director

2014 – Program/Assistant Director

2015 – Program/Associate Director

2016 – Program/Associate Director

©2016 Louis S. Wolk Jewish Community Center of Greater Rochester

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