My dresser is full of Szarvas T-shirts, and each morning, when I think about what I’ll wear that day, I’m usually choosing between them. For me, it’s a way to celebrate my many positive memories of Szarvas, the JDC-Ronald S. Lauder Foundation’s international Jewish summer camp in rural Hungary.
Wearing a camp T-shirt means I will have a good day — happy and optimistic. That little Szarvas feeling under my jacket will protect me and give me the energy I need to solve the situations that arise during my work day. As a science communications manager in Budapest, I use the tools I learned at Szarvas as a camper, madrich (counselor), and unit head each and every day.
Wearing a camp T-shirt means I will have a good day — happy and optimistic.
I still remember my first year at Szarvas, back in 1991, and that first camp T-shirt I wore featuring a boat, two Stars of David, and those three magic letters: J-D-C. Even now, so many years later, I love to look at the signatures and messages my friends and madrichim left me on that white T-shirt.
Starting in 2000, I was proud each summer to stand in the middle of the kupola (a central gathering place and multi-purpose facility at Szarvas) on Parents’ Day wearing my blue MADRICH T-shirt.
I met my wife Barbi at the camp, and Szarvas T-shirts are holy objects in our home — no different than prayer books, Shabbat candlesticks, kiddush cups, or Seder plates. Barbi is also a former camper, madricha, and unit head, and sometimes we compete against each other: Who has more camp T-shirts? She always wins.
The Szarvas T-shirt supply is much larger nowadays, as you can choose from different colors and graphics at the camp’s shop. Still, to have a Szarvas T-shirt means you can bring a little part of camp back home and conjure up the unique atmosphere of those special summers anytime and anywhere. That’s still just as magical as it ever was.
I hope you’ll join me in celebrating the ninth annual International Szarvas T-shirt Day on Oct. 22.
Originally from Komárno, Slovakia, András Paszternák is a chemist living in Budapest, Hungary. He works as the science communication manager of the Csopa Science Center and the STEAM program coordinator of the Lauder Javne School.