2022 Session 2 Firefly Speech- Danny Stern

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In 2015, I came to The Six for the first time. Before I arrived, there was that big process of packing. You know, the checklist, the stress. The closer the day came to leave for camp, the more nervous I became. I mean, it was the first time ever that I was going to be away from my parents. As you might guess, the flight was terrifying, and I felt lonely away from my family. But, as I came off the plane, I met the kindest and most genuine person I could ever have met, Tyler Goldberger. As it turned out, he was also my Tel Aviv counselor. As I walked off the plane, he welcomed me with open arms. 

The community I found when I arrived that first day was the most welcoming and most supportive community I had ever found in my life. But, that didn’t stop me from missing home. I mean, let’s be real, raise your hand if you were at all homesick during your time here. (short pause). Well, I cried my eyes out that night. But, Tyler was there for me. He comforted me for a long, long time. He made me feel welcomed and loved. From that night on, I knew this place would be my home away from home. 

 While I was not thrilled about the early 7:30 wake-up the next day, my energetic counselors dragged me out of bed with some hype music. Even though this was 8 years ago, I can still remember how my mind was blown the first time I walked into the dining hall – the enormous room, the hundreds of people milling around the masses of tables, the extensive buffet, the rows and rows of cereal, and all the different drinks in the soda machine. I can still taste those huge cinnamon rolls they served that first day. 

But, the best part was yet to come. Electives. And I am going to tell you the most important thing that I have learned from my time here. Ultimate Frisbee is the best elective. I know, I know, many of you may disagree, but I’m telling you that it’s the truth. My brother convinced me to go on that first day of Frisbee, and it was one of the best days I have ever had. I had never even touched a frisbee before, but everyone was supportive and taught me to play. 8 years later, I still go to that elective every single day. Of all my time at camp, I have missed only 3 Ultimate Frisbee electives. 

That first session was incredibly special to me. I met so many amazing people, and I found a newfound love for both sports and Judaism. For weeks after camp, I continued to chant the Birkat haMazon because it was so much fun being able to bang the table, but more so because it reminded me of how much fun I had at camp. When registration for the next summer was available, I immediately decided I wanted to stay for more than one session. People like Tyler and Benji, sports like Ultimate Frisbee, and the Jewish aspects of camp continued to pull me back to camp. Each year I came back longer and by 2017, I was coming to all 3 sessions. But, the best year I ever had was my Be’er Sheva year. It was my fifth year at camp, and there, I found the best counselor that I could ever imagine, Daniel Pomerantz. 

Pommy, as we called him, made me feel so amazing about myself. He has this special way about him that you knew no matter what happened, everything was going to be alright. With Pommy’s infectious laughter, it’s impossible not to smile around him. No matter the problem, he was always my go-to guy – he was basically an older brother to me. He is the one who made me strive to become the person I am today. 

But, there was this one special night that made him stand out over all the others. Pommy knew we were all sad about the session coming to an end. So, after Shabbat, he told us that we were going somewhere, but he didn’t tell us where. He put us all in a line and said if anyone talked, we would turn back immediately. So, of course, we stayed in line, and we stayed quiet, as he led us through camp. When we got to our destination, we walked into a dark area with a ton of benches, and each of us took a seat near the front. With his arms out, Pommy announced that this was the outdoor sanctuary where services used to be held. I, personally, was in absolute awe because it felt like we had found our secret place. Somewhere that was meaningful just to us. We were the only group at camp to do something like this. I looked around at my friends, and each of us had our jaws wide open. It was phenomenal. Just as we thought it couldn’t get any better, Pommy pulls out our night snack and then tells us we were having our bracelet ceremony there. That night, we each gave out a ton of bracelets. There was one bracelet in particular that meant the most to me that night. It was given to me by my friend Jay Goldberg. 

Jay has been my friend since my second year of camp, when we quickly became friends. Through our years here, we have been dorm mates and even roommates. We keep in contact even during the school year, and each time we come back to camp, it feels as if no time has passed. 

I come back to camp each year because of the friends and relationships I make. But, the most meaningful relationships to me were my roommates. Evan Friedman, Noam Erez, Aaron Waldman, Jay Goldberg, you guys were the best roommates I could ever have asked for, and each of you mean the absolute world to me. Even though I met each of you in different ways and at different times, I cherish all that time that we spend together. Every late night chat, every meal, every joke, thank you guys for being the best friends I could have made. 

But, in 2020, everything changed. Camp was canceled. When I heard the news, I was in shock. I didn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that I wouldn’t be coming to 6 points. That summer was the most boring summer of my life. I mean, somehow I even got tired of watching TV. TV, of all things. I didn’t even know that was possible. I had so little to do that I signed up to take a summer class online. But, that summer of no camp did teach me something. It taught me how much this camp actually means to me. It taught me that each relationship I make here is special and unique and will last forever, no matter where we go in the next stages of our lives.

And now, camp is back at Asheville school. And now I am an Ashkelon Alligator who only has one night left as a camper. But, before I say my final goodbye, I need to thank one more person. The most important person to me. There has never been a session that I have been here, where he wasn’t with me. I come back each year with him, and he is the reason that I return to this camp year after year. Benji, you are the reason I love this camp so much. From Tel Aviv to Ashkelon, you were always by my side. I cherish every second with you here, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I love you more than you could ever imagine. But now, it is my time to go. Six Points, thank you for making every summer special. You are my home away from home. I will cherish every memory I have made here. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for all of us. Thank you.