Leaving My Legacy at Beber – Elissa Waller Biegen
My name is Elissa Waller Biegen, and I am proud to be a Beber Camp Legacy member. I became a camper at Beber Camp 38 years ago during Beber Camp’s third summer. I had been a camper at Perlman Camp for two years, but, at age 12, I wanted something a little different. Julie Tucker, one of my bunk mates from Perlman, and I decided to switch and go to Beber Camp in 1979, and it was the perfect fit for us!
During our first year, there were four girl cabins and four boy cabins. We didn’t have hobbies or cabin activities. With only 60 people in camp, everyone did everything together (it was kind of like “who wants to go skiing today?” and we decided on the fly what we would do). Sometimes our bunk got to go water skiing three times a week! Everyone in camp was friends with everyone – age was irrelevant for us. There were no units, it was just one small group and we became very close. During the school year, I would get together with my Beber friends every Thanksgiving in a different city (Cleveland, Louisville, New York).
I was a camper for three years, a CIT for one year (at age 15) and the next year I was a counselor at age 16 for the oldest girls bunk. It is amazing to me that for the short amount of time I was at Beber, it has had the biggest impact on my life. In those days, we had to really work hard for our friendships. Long distance phone calls were expensive, so you couldn’t call that much, and there was certainly no texting or email. You had to write letters. We would send each other tape cassettes of us talking and mail them around to each other. We put in a lot of effort to maintain those relationships and my Beber friends are still my closest friends today. I speak to many of them weekly if not more frequently. Our children grew up together and think of each other as cousins, not just friends.
My friend, Laura Gewurz (who was my CIT when I was a camper), and I started the first alumni reunion in 1993, before I even had kids. Actually, it was the year I started dating Matthew, my husband. We sat on the floor of Laura’s living room and tried to figure out how we were going to start finding everyone and getting in touch with them….this was well before Facebook and the ease of everyone having an email address.
Fast forward 14 years and in 2007 my husband and I sent our two children to Beber at ages 7 and 8. My husband always knew that there was no other option for our kids – they were going to Beber Camp. This past summer was their 10th summer at Beber. Our oldest was a counselor and our youngest was a CIT. Beber Camp and the friends they have made has become part of their lives and I hope that they will continue this tradition on to their families when they have them.
So, when it came time to think about where I might want to leave my legacy, it was clear to me. The experience at Beber is something that all Jewish children should have and making a commitment to Beber to leave a legacy is a way that I can help make that opportunity possible for other children. I’m pleased and proud to be a Beber Camp legacy member and know that even after I’m gone I will have created the opportunity for other children to have what I had (and still have) and what my children have!