Sol’leem: It’s More Than a Building, It’s In Your Soul

  • Camp Pembroke is built upon a foundation of sisterhood, friendship, tradition and openess. For generations at Camp Pembroke, there has existed a special group into which counselors and staff are initiated at some point in their Camp Pembroke career.  Once initiated, there is a ritual song and dance that takes place in a circle, at the conclusion of which the members of the circle call out the year in which they became part of this group, known as Sol’leem.

    Depending on the occasion, there could be anywhere from 50 to 250 women in the circle, dancing and singing together.  For me, and I have been at camp for almost 15 years now, every time I watch this, my heart swells at the incredible sisterhood that exists at Camp Pembroke; among current campers and staff, and all of our alumni.  Sol’leem is only one representation of that sisterhood, but is a tradition that has transcended many generations of Pembroke staff.  Observing so many generations of Pembroke staff coming together in this way is a constant reminder of how much Camp Pembroke has done for so many Jewish women over its 78 year history.

    For the record, Sol’leem in Hebrew, means “pathmakers,” or “those who make the pathways.”  It is a most apropos title for the staff who are the role models and teachers for our campers.  All campers aspire to be part of this group, and can’t wait for the day when they will be initiated and permitted to participate in the song and dance in the Dining Hall, in the Gym, in the Rec Hall – or wherever in camp it may happen to take place.  Actually, I have been in the local Walmart and witnessed a group of alumni running into one another and making a small Sol’lim circle right there, in the middle of all the other shoppers!

    The Sol’leem building, with its walls, floors, and furniture covered in the sprawling signatures of generations of young women, has been used by our staff in many different capacities.  For some it was where the Darkainu, our yearbook, was compiled by our CAs (counselor assistants) for distribution on the last day of camp, and in recent years it has become a place for our CAs to participate in coursework after returning from Israel.  A place many of us have viewed as part of our community has not always provided our entire Camp Pembroke family with the same sense of belonging.

    Although many of our counselors have grown up at Camp Pembroke, we have been recruiting counselors from outside that sphere.  We currently have counselors on staff from Israel, the UK, Australia, as well as from other locales in the United States.  At the same time as Sol’leem, the group, grew in number (which is wonderful), Sol’leem, the building, became an exclusive place, available only to staff who had either grown up at Camp Pembroke or who had been on staff for at least three years.  Exclusivity is contrary to everything we espouse at Camp Pembroke.

    We are proud to say that in our efforts to constantly improve Camp Pembroke, we have increased our number of bunk counselors and supervisory staff.  We want to be sure that our campers are well taken-care of, and that there is always adult staff available to them.  Our older campers, who live in the vicinity of Sol’leem, do not have supervisory personnel living in close proximity.  There is a definite need for supervision in this area of camp, and for adults to have living quarters there.  The obvious location for these residences is the building currently known as Sol’leem.

    Soon, we will be renovating the interior of Sol’leem in order to turn it into living space for two adult supervisors.  This decision was not an easy one to make, and although we completely respect the history that is represented in the interior of this building, we can no longer justify maintaining it in its current form.  The safety and well-being of our campers must take priority. Sol’leem will be used to house people who help us shape the pathways for our campers, to whom the campers look for encouragement, support, and advice.

    Out of respect for all of you whose names are painted somewhere inside Sol’leem, and to whom this building holds a special significance, we will open the building to you on October 28th 2012, from 1:00 until 3:00pm, so that you can take photos with your camp friends, or photograph your signatures and those of your mothers and grandmothers. Click here to access our Facebook event to let us know you’ll be joining us.  We will also make our own video of the interior of Sol’leem so that we will have those memories intact for generations to come.  In addition, we will be auctioning off the furniture that has been signed over the years – in case there is a special piece that would look just perfect in your family room or apartment!  Details on this will be available shortly.

    Camp Pembroke provided us with an incredible sense of belonging, not just to the physical place, but to a community.  I know that we will all remember the Sol’leem of years past, the memories made there, and the lessons learned therein.  We all know that Sol’leem is a part of everyone who is part of it; we carry Sol’leem in our souls wherever we go.  This is not the demise of a tradition, but rather the changing of a structure made of wood and cement.

    The initiation and maintenance of Sol’leem, and the group of special women that comprise it, will never change.  It will continue to grow in membership and will continue to represent the awesome sisterhood that it was born from.  I will continue to “kvell” every time the circle of Sol’leem forms anywhere in the camp or outside, and being part of it will always be an aspiration for our campers.  Sol’leem is truly part of the Brokie soul, forever.

    With love and respect,


6 responses to “Sol’leem: It’s More Than a Building, It’s In Your Soul”

  1. Not so.  The initiation to Sol’leem will continue to be the special situation that it always was.  The changes to the building will have no bearing on that whatsoever.  I agree that Sol’leem is one of the special traditions about Camp Pembroke and that will not change.  The dance, the song, the sisterhood that are at the core of Sol’leem will always remain, and the numbers of those initiated into Sol’leem will continue to grow.

  2. Sa82 says:

    i’m so sad, but we’ll just have to start a new tradition! <3 but i do still want to see sol. the dor' l' dor meeting is on the 28th, is it possible to come a different day?

    • Ellen says:

      Unfortunately, it is not possible to change the date. Please read my recent blog posts for a more complete explanation. Thanks,

    • Efelcher says:

      I am sorry, but there is no way to change the date.  For a more complete explanation of the reasons, please read my most recent blog posts.  Thanks,

  3. Bubbieof2 says:

    I was a camper from 1956…all the way to 1965…and I was asked back to be a CA….and then a JC and then a full fledged counselor.  Working on the yearbook was a memory of my life that I will never forget…as were all my years spent at Camp Pembroke…all thought about as some of the best days of my life.  But these are memories that will ALWAYS be part of us…and we need to protect them and have them with us always…in our hearts….change is always difficult..but that is what life is all about….gosh i was appalled when I heard that there were telephones in the bunks!!!!  So always look into your hearts for the wonderful memories…and keep making those changes that are for the good of all Camp Pembroke..

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