Letter to CRS

Light and hope in divided times

Light and hope in divided times

The world is becoming more and more divided. In these difficult times, we need Camp Rising Sun more than ever, as a space to bring diverse individuals together and give campers a hands-on experience in navigating dialogue among people who share differing ideas and perspectives so that they are better prepared to lead our world forward.

Rick Richter's letter to all alumni/ae

To all alumni/ae of Camp Rising Sun: 

It is 12:00 noon, August 23, 2016. The boys at Camp Rising Sun are gathered in a circle for Assembly. The Sachem of the Day calls for tent reports: Byzantium, Parthenon, Buck Palace, Kilimanjaro, Eggcrate, Chateau, Tepee, Hades, Noah's Ark, Wildcat's Den, Dark Horse, Valhalla, Middle Earth, Chomolungo, Macondo, Igloo. Then the welcoming song:  "On the banks of the winding Sawkill, By the sound of the rushing falls..."      

But I have to explain something. The Jonas Foundation no longer has enough money to make necessary repairs at the old Red Hook campsite on the banks of the Sawkill, or to operate two campsites simultaneously, at Red Hook for boys and at Clinton for girls. The Red Hook campsite has been closed at least temporarily, and boys and girls have both had their camps at what was formerly the campsite for girls only, at Clinton -- boys in July and girls in August in 2015, and girls in July and boys in August this year. So the Assembly that I attended was held on the formerly girls-only campsite at Clinton.

The boys brought over from Red Hook the tent signs for their tents and attached each of them to a tent platform at Clinton, so now on the Clinton tent hill, each tent has two names.  I walked into Noah's Ark, which had been "Sator" during the girls' session, and found names that boys at Red Hook had written on the canvas walls in 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2012 when that canvas had been used at Red Hook.

In 1931, a CRS counselor who had been previously employed at Camp Henry introduced the Camp Henry welcome song into CRS. And for many years after that, CRS campers welcomed visitors by singing "Camp Henry Welcomes You..." even though none of them had ever been to Camp Henry. The boys at Clinton in 2015 and 2016 have continued this CRS tradition of welcoming visitors to the "wrong" campsite, singing to them about a campsite on the banks of the Sawkill that none of them has ever seen.

Many things remain unchanged despite the boys' camp's new location.  Campers still sing "Green Grow the Rushes O," "Dem Bones Gonna Rise Again," and "The White Dawn." In the Campers' Lounge, one can often find chess games in progress, someone playing the piano, and campers chatting. The old Thunderbird rug, once hung on the dining hall wall at Red Hook, is now hung on a wall at Clinton. And campers still say "how, how" to show approval of something and hold up two fingers to ask for silence.

The regular daily schedule is similar to what it was long ago, --- team work (once called squad work) after breakfast, project time (formerly called "Construction"), rest period after lunch, instructions, evening programs, several Assemblies during the day, and several free time periods. There have been many Instructions in 2016, some of them eagerly offered by campers. A random selection of topics: "Paper Making and the History of Paper," "Leadership in Sports,"Histoy of Paper," "Leadedrship in Sports, "  "Israel-Palestine Conflict," "Introduction to the Ancient Land of Finland," "Art: What Is It?" and "Swimming 101."

The shortening of the camp season to four weeks has brought some changes.  Catskill hiking trips are shorter than they once were. Camp operates on a 6-day week, with Formal Council every six days. Each day there are two Sachems of the Day. There are also sachems of new kinds -- an Instructions Sachem and a Projects Sachem each week, a Sachem of the Hike for each hiking group, a Vigils Sachem, and a Departure Sachem, who coordinates end-of Camp activities including arrangements for campers from distant places to stay in the New York area for a few post-camp days with host families.

But the shortening of the camp sessions does not change things as much as one might expect. because there has also been an enormous expansion of post-Camp activities. CRS alumni associations have been growing in number and size and are becoming more active. And, new modes of communication now make it possible for campers to remain in close contact with their campmates after they have returned home, in ways that could not have been imagined in Camp's earlier days.  In October 2013, two months after the 2013 campers had returned home, a boy in Hawaii asked his campmates what courses they were taking in school. Within a few hours he had received responses from his friends in Finland, Sweden, Poland, Italy, Egypt, South Africa, Singapore, Japan. Barbados, New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado and California, and each of them could see what each of the others said. Thus, camp-like discussions can continue long after the in-Camp experience has ended. No one could have imagined anything like this when I was at Camp in the early 1950s.

Now, a few announcements. If you would like a copy of the 2016 version of the camp history that I wrote, entitled "Camp Rising Sun, 1929-2016," send an email message to me at mauricerichter@gmail.com and ask for it. If you came to Camp from a country other than the United States, and if you or your child or grandchild might like to return to the U.S. for college, write to me at that address and ask for my college letter. If this letter that you are reading now inspires you to make a financial donation to Camp, that would make me very happy. And as always I would be very happy to hear from you anyway!

Best wishes,

Rick (Maurice Richter)  


Thank you from the Board President Damian Brennan

Dear dedicated Camp Rising Sun supporters,

Every now and then one has the opportunity to peek behind the curtain and witness the often unseen efforts of people who seemingly make magic happen. This year I had the often formidable, sometimes humbling, and overall agreeable opportunity to sit in Helene's chair one day a week while she was on maternity leave. This gave me a close-up view of the dedicated and talented staff that keeps the LAJF running. These are the people who, day in and day out, allow us to provide the distinct and life-changing experience we call Camp Rising Sun to promising young people from around the world.

This year the cast of talented members included:

  • Yena Purmasir - Yena is a poet. She is a New Yorker. She is a compassionate CRS alumna. She is an organizational warrior who labored for months to book flights, arrange visa interviews, field 2,001 questions from applicants, selectors, and government gatekeepers and to make sure that 120 campers knew what was required to get them to the buses for transport to Camp. She held the virtual hands of parents across the globe as they debated the merits of sending their children to a program they had never heard of until a few short months ago. She has managed it all with a sense of humor while consistently demonstrating grace under pressure. She joined our staff at Camp this summer with responsibility for evening programs. Thank you, Yena.
  • Savannah Hawke - P rior to Savannah's recruitment we relied on a series of accounting temps to handle the day-to-day bookkeeping and administrative requirements of the LAJF. This did not work for our organization. Savannah has consistently demonstrated a capacity to remain unflustered even as she worked to resolve problems that would have challenged the most stoic of souls. Due entirely to her hard work, talent, persistence, and attention to detail we have resolved longstanding administrative issues AND still found time to get our staff, vendors and F&I committee caught up on all the work that is required to keep lights on, staff paid and campers fed. Thank you, Savannah.


  • Ritam Mehta - Ritam has managed to wear many hats- so many, I have lost track. Ritam has transformed our web and social media presence. He has helped us to transition to modern email and phone systems, redesign our websites, take advantage of Facebook to involve alumni in the CRS experience and to support our recent campers. He did all of this while being a full-time student, part-time intern with the NYC Board of Education AND serving as a staff member at CRS this summer. Thank you, Ritam.


  • Cameron Rylance - Cameron is our longest serving staff member. He has devoted himself to sustaining the Clinton campus and his efforts are clearly visible to anybody who has the opportunity to walk down the path from the main building to tent hill to the pool to the pond and out to the woods that are the southern border to the Clinton campus. Cameron has gone above and beyond the call of duty, organizing alumni activities at Camp including the fall and spring retreats, tent weekend and our ever-popular maple syrup weekend. He has somehow managed to meet and often exceed the ever-changing requirements of local authorities, including changing out the hardware of all locking doors across the entire campus on what can charitably be described as "short notice." Thank you, Cameron.


  • Janessa Schilmoeller - Janessa agreed to take on what is understood to be a "big job." Being a camp director for 120 campers and a staff of 25 (including volunteers) over the course of a summer involves far more than most people who have never held the job can imagine. Selecting staff members to fill critical roles such as Nurse and Chef are usually the most challenging, but other positions are daunting in their own ways. Staff training must satisfy our program needs but also the health and safety requirements of a camp situated in New York and regulated by government thereof. Janessa brings with her years of domestic and international work in youth education, admirable professional and educational credentials and a can-do attitude that gets things done. Thank you, Janessa.


  • Elyem Chej - Elyem joined us in May after completing her Bachelor's degree in Spain. Her job was especially challenging as she stepped into the role just as Yena was transitioning to summer staff. Elyem had to take care of all the hosting and home visits for the boys, arrange buses for the trip to Camp, give campers tours of New York, work on 101 database projects, manage the mid-season Alumni Reunion AND handle all of the last minute travel issues that arise every summer. Did I mention all the work on Facebook? Thank you, Elyem

If I ever begin to wonder why it is that our volunteers are willing to devote thousands of collective hours per year on the essential tasks of fundraising, facilities management, budgeting and governance, all I need to do is look at the dedication of the staff. The commitment of young, talented, CRS alumni year after year continues to inspire me. Their belief in our mission and program is the best form of inspiration I can ask for.

Warm regards,

Damian Brennan

President, The Louis August Jonas Foundation