There is no room for second place in Capture the Flag. When the whistle blew, the two teams squared off, feinting across the line toward the opposing teams’ side and darting back again until player Beth Newman, bedecked in a blue bandanna and face paint, made a reckless dash across the grassy field.
Alas the doughty defenders were prepared for this and quickly tagged the luckless runner, sending her to the jail in the corner of the field, the bandanna marking her allegiance flapping vain defiance in the breeze.
Newman was one of the approximately 60 young professionals from the greater D.C. area who traveled last weekend to the Pearlstone Retreat Center in Reisterstown, Md., for “Camp Sixth & I,” run by the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue. Participants spent the weekend recreating their Jewish camp experience or making their first camp memories in services and learning opportunities, as well as activities like the Color War games (including Capture the Flag). They were even treated to live stand-up comedy from Louis Katz.
“The Color War was great, really high energy,” camper Aliza Epstein said. “People weren’t afraid to get dirty.”
“I wanted to come here to redefine my camp experience,” camper Lisa Kaneff said. “When I saw this, I signed up immediately, I was super excited.”
“It was a great opportunity for connection,” Sixth & I’s Rabbi Shira Stutman said, who helped lead and run the weekend’s events along with Rabbi Scott Perlo and most of the rest of the synagogue staff.
“D.C. requires, or we think D.C. requires, a lot of armor. We walk around with it all the time,” Stutman said, explaining how relaxed people became in the environment of the weekend. “At the camp people were willing to make themselves vulnerable and take off that armor.”
One of the ways the staff added to the “away at camp” feeling was by encouraging people not to use phones and electronics all weekend. Participants could make cellphone sleeping bags to decorate and keep their phones in while at camp, and there was never a ring tone to be heard for the entire Shabbat.
“I really liked being disconnected for a while,” camper Seth Gorenstein said. “It’s been a rejuvenating weekend. It’s nice to get away and not have to network and just meet people.”
There were many fond farewells made while waiting to load onto the bus Sunday morning to those traveling separately and a lot of promises to meet up again soon.
“It feels just like going home from camp,” Epstein said.
Although the camp was originally thought of as a one-off winner of the synagogue’s yearly Next Great Idea contest, Stutman said the overwhelmingly positive experience makes it very likely it will happen again, something that many of the campers would enjoy seeing.
“This whole weekend brought back memories of camp,” Newman said. “I’m really grateful it happened.”