A working professional’s advice on Jewish summer camp

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Click photo to download. Caption: Community singing in a circle at the Passport NYC Jewish camp in New York City. Jewish summer camp is all about the networking, writes JNS.org humor columnist Leo Margul. Credit: Andrew Sherman/92Y Passport NYC.

By Leo Margul/JNS.org

Camp was an amazing experience, and I remember it fondly. Looking back, there are a lot of things I would have done differently had I had the same skills I now use in my professional life. Jewish summer camp, just like any camp, was all about the connections, the friendships and romances that would last for years to come. How do I make new connections as an adult? Simple: networking. So listen children, apply my networking knowledge to your time at camp, and you’ll leave with some lifelong friends and some solid references for your resume.

Keeping you in mind

How do you cement any newfound connections you make? Like any adult, you hand out your business card. You should pre-print these before you go to camp. Make sure they highlight your skills in a brief and appealing way, something like “Leo Margul—Good at archery, O.K. at Frisbee, below average but passionate at soccer.” Then your contact info: "Cabin 4—left at the door, top bunk, large framed photo of parents.” They won’t forget you now.

Conversation starters

You show up at camp, you’re in a new environment, you know no one. What would an adult do in this situation? You guessed it: network. Go up to another a kid and just mention something going on around you like “heard it’s supposed to rain tomorrow.” Adults call that “small talk,” and that’s how we do most of our communicating. Next, give an opinion that no one could disagree with, like “they have food here, and I like food.” You’re in.

Be clear

Just like in business, when seeking advice or a referral, it’s important to communicate your intentions clearly. So after your initial introduction, say, “I would like us to be friends and play together, what is your schedule like during swim time?” End your interaction at a natural break in the conversation, and then shake hands while maintaining eye contact. If they say you’re “being weird,” that means you’ve made a lasting impression.

Stay in touch

It’s important to maintain contact within your new network. Interrupt your friends while they’re playing, and ask if they’re free to grab coffee to talk about your initial friendship offer. Remember to write a thank you note, to let them know that their time is appreciated. Then check in from time to time, and congratulate them on any positive news you’ve heard. “That was a cool beaded bracelet you made today, Benjamin.”

Bonus: romantic relationships

Meeting and interacting with romantic interests can start at camp. It’s important to approach these situations with a plan as well. Luckily, what works to get someone’s interest as an adult can work just as well for your camp romance.

—There is nothing more appealing than being mysterious. While everyone is playing sports, where are you? Sitting in the woods alone. “He’s so cool, he must live by his own rules,” the ladies will say, as they swoon. Also, make sure to answer every question with “maybe” and then a wink, so no one will ever know what you’re thinking and they’ll be drawn to you. That last part actually works in real life.

—Tweens love feeling like adults. Show them you’re mature by talking about grown-up matters, like the finer points of a fixed rate mortgage.

—Women love a man that stands out, so when Shabbat dinner rolls around and you have to dress formally, how do you go up a notch? Like they used to do in the 1800s, the sexiest century, add a cape, top hat, and monocle. You’ll definitely get a lot of questions. 

Approaching every situation like a professional is a skill that only comes after years of practice, and applying it to your childhood will at least make you friends, and at worst leave you with 497 business cards.

Posted on February 15, 2013 and filed under Camps, Humor, Jewish Life, Special Sections.