Monthly Archives: May 2016

Hiddur: Deepening Jewish Experiences at Summer Camp

Camp Judaea is proud and grateful to have been chosen to participate in the first cohort of the Hiddur Initiative. In the article linked below, eJewish Philanthropy describes this new program that will enhance the Jewish experiences of eight overnight Jewish summer camps including Camp Judaea…

Hiddur: Deepening Jewish Experiences at Summer Camp

Think for a moment of nearly any activity you associate with Jewish camp. Whatever comes to mind, chances are that the experience is communal, engaging, and fun. Now, more camps increasingly recognize that any camp experience can also be a quality Jewish experience for their campers and staff – if designed in a thoughtful, intentional way.

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A Special Message from our Executive Director and Board Chair

Dear Camp Judaea Family:

cj 2nd day 3-1850

It is with a heart filled with emotion that I write to let you know that I am resigning my position as Executive Director of Camp Judaea, effective October 4, 2016, to become Chief Executive Officer of the American Camp Association (ACA). I am extremely proud of the work we have accomplished together during the last five years. Camp Judaea is stronger for it and will continue to grow. Leading the ACA will allow me to extend my passion for the power of camp to children and families across North America.

Since 1990, I’ve devoted my career to enriching the lives of Jewish children, youth and adults through high quality camp experiences. I believe that the camp experience is essential to every child’s growth and education. Through it, children learn character, courage, responsibility, resourcefulness, and cooperation. My work as CEO at the American Camp Association will focus on elevating the field of youth development and camp nationally through outreach, research, accreditation, professional development, public awareness and public policy.

In just a few days, I am heading to Camp Judaea to direct my fifth summer season, and I can’t wait! The year-round and summer leadership team have planned an outrageously fun, adventurous and meaningful summer for our campers. I look forward to leading the very best Israel-focused, pluralist Jewish summer community where life-long friendships are kindled and everyone learns to share, care, collaborate, think, lead and wonder! I also look forward to breaking ground on our beautiful new Chadar Ochel at the conclusion of camp this season. Plus, I am already working closely with the Board and staff leadership on an executive transition for the fall.

In nearly five years together at CJ, we have:

  • Expanded camper enrollment by over 50%;
  • Increased camper scholarships by more than 60%;
  • Raised nearly $4 million to modernize our facilities;
  • Built new cabins, aquatic facilities, athletic courts and have more in the pipeline, including our soon-to-be-completed new Chadar Ochel, additional new cabins, a new Arts Center, an expanded Beit Knesset and other needed improvements;
  • Adopted a strategic plan that envisions gradually increased enrollment, highest quality program innovations, strengthened organizational capacity and sustainable facilities;
  • Invested thousands of hours in creating the most innovative and progressive programs in which future Jewish community leaders are inspired and encouraged;
  • Been the recipient of over $1,200,000 in grants from the Foundation for Jewish Camp and its partners to advance strategic planning, Judaic and Israel programming, professional development and recruitment efforts for which we are deeply grateful.
  • Strengthened a small summer camp community where everyone feels understood, valued and nurtured and we are celebrated for our focus on communal kindness and respect and on accommodating the needs of each individual camper.

Today, Camp Judaea offers the very best Israel-focused, pluralist Jewish camp experiences anywhere. This will continue, l’dor v’dor, for generations to come. Camp Judaea is a healthy, strong and vibrant organization and I look forward to watching it grow from strength to strength.

Pam, Daniel and I will continue to live in Atlanta and our love, commitment and dedication to Camp Judaea will continue, too. We will always be with you as we carry you all very close in our hearts. Thank you for the opportunity to be part of this amazing community!

Shalom, ahava, v’CJ l’netzach, (Peace, Love and CJ Forever)

Tom Rosenberg


Dear CJ Family,

micheleThe Camp Judaea Board of Directors is deeply grateful to Tom Rosenberg for his significant contributions and outstanding service throughout his notable five years with Camp Judaea and twenty-seven years serving the camping community. We believe his passion for overnight camping and relentless focus on excellence have made Camp Judaea a leader in the Jewish overnight camp industry. With Tom’s departing in early October, the Board of Directors will work diligently with passion and commitment to ensure a seamless transition as we begin the process to hire a new Executive Director.

Under Tom’s leadership, Camp Judaea has elevated its programming, creating a culture that fosters innovation and supports the development of new ideas. We have celebrated enrollment growth and facilities improvements and expansion under his leadership. The internal management of our business is strong and sustainable. An outstanding professional team and summer staff will work with Tom through the summer to ensure a smooth transition as we celebrate our 56th season.

As Camp Judaea continues to evolve, we are focused on aligning our resources and programs to best serve our campers, staff members, and families and are excited about the opportunities ahead. We are fortunate to have such a knowledgeable and capable leadership team already in place that can execute on our strategic initiatives while we identify the right individual to lead Camp Judaea into a new era.

The Board will continue to be actively engaged with the leadership team to drive Camp Judaea’s future success and will manage the transition. We will announce our transition plans and begin a comprehensive search process in the next 3-4 weeks. The Board is confident about our strategic position and plan, and we view this transition as an opportunity to drive Camp Judaea forward and accelerate our strategic efforts.

We are profoundly grateful for the visionary leadership Tom has provided our camp and our industry. Tom will be a strong partner to Camp Judaea in his new capacity as CEO of the American Camp Association. We will always consider Tom, Pam and Daniel members of the Camp Judaea Family.

Michele Burger, Chairperson
Camp Judaea Board of Directors

Tzevet in the Spotlight: Matthew Kaplan

Meet Chalutzim Merakez: Matthew Kaplan

Matthew returns for his fourth summer as a Camp Judaea staff member. Former positions at CJ include madrich, drama activity counselor, and Rosh Drama. This year he will take on the roles of 10306321_10202043852377102_660407853288269704_nMIT Coordinator for first session and Chalutzim Merakez for second session.

He was initially drawn to CJ as a senior in high school after hearing all of his sister’s entertaining camp stories and wanting to experience something new before setting out to college. But during the last three summers, Matthew says Camp Judaea has become the place where he feels the most comfortable, the most empowered, and the most challenged.

“If you had asked me four years ago if I would still be a staff member be at CJ, I probably would’ve said no. If you would’ve asked me four years ago if I would voluntarily lead a group of teenagers on a ten-day excursion in the woods, I would have said no. But here I am. Because of Camp Judaea, I have learned how to push myself to my limit, and this summer I am going to do so even further.”

Matthew is originally from Fort Lauderdale, FL, but now lives in Atlanta. He enjoys walking along the beach, reading, spending time with friends, and binge-watching Netflix. He has had the nickname “Ralphie” since he was a freshman in high school when someone pointed out that he resembled a character from “A Christmas Story.” Additionally, Matthew claims to be the biggest Disney fan there ever was!

“I can’t wait to begin yet another adventure at Camp Judaea this summer!”

Tzevet in the Spotlight: Samantha Hertzig

Meet Tsofim Merakezet: Samantha Gayle Gross Hertzig

Sam began her Camp Judaea career when she was just eight years old! As a camper, she idolized IMG_2960 (1)her counselors and hoped to one day be able to give more campers amazing CJ summers just like the ones she was lucky enough to experience. Over the years, she has participated in many Young Judaea programs including Tel Yehuda, Machon, and Year Course.

With two years as a counselor under her belt and such a full history with CJ and YJ, she felt the need to return this summer with the opportunity to complete her Young Judaea circle and fulfill her childhood dreams of being a merakezet.

“It’s also just so hard not come back. CJ is my home and it’s impossible to imagine a summer without it.”

Sam was born in Washington D.C. but grew up in Mandeville, Louisiana, a small town outside of New Orleans. Now she is a student at the University of Georgia where she spends her time going to her classes and working two internships—one as a photographer and marketing intern for a local non-profit that sends funds to children in Ghana for education and the other as a member of the marketing team for My Athens, a social enterprise that celebrates the Athens, GA community through events, social media, fashion, photography and food, etc.

In her free time, Sam enjoys attending concerts and music festivals and cooking!

“I can’t wait to see everyone at camp and have the best summer ever!”

Tzevet in the Spotlight: Jackie Hajdenberg

Meet Oranim Merakezet: Jacqueline Claire Hajdenberg

(but call me Jackie!)

Jackie grew up in Maitland, Florida just outside of Orlando and has attended Camp Judaea since herSayarim summer in 2007. After completing Bogrim in 2010, she attended Tel Yehuda and 12072602_1187284481285597_1084600044583818069_nthen came back to CJ to participate in the MIT program in 2013.

“That summer (2013) inspired me to continue working at camp, and later to go on YoungJudaea Year Course in Israel. Every summer working with these kids has been a privilege, and I love seeing how much everyone has grown over the course of the school year and over the course of the summer.”

Last summer, Jackie had an amazing experience working with Offarim and Oranim, and wanted the chance to take on a new leadership role at camp. She is working hard to revamp the educational curriculum for Oranim as the new Merakezet, and she’s excited to see what this summer will bring.

Jackie has just completed her first year of college at Barnard College at Columbia University where she worked as an Opinions columnist for the Columbia Daily Spectator and was an active member of the Columbia/Barnard Hillel. She also volunteered in the pediatric ward at Harlem Hospital Center almost every Friday. She enjoyed overcoming the challenges the first year presented, learning from her difficult classes, and creating a new network of friends.

“I’ve been waiting to come back to camp all year!”


Tzevet in the Spotlight: Elli Friedman

Meet Returning Counselor: Elli Friedman

Elli is from Norfolk, Virginia, and is now a Finance and Accounting student at James Madison University. She is a brother of Alpha Kappa Psi business fraternity where she works on the 10501712_10204967977666686_1320359297095262293_nCommunity Service committee. She has been a member of the Camp Judaea family since her days in Offarim in 2006.

“CJ played a huge role in forming my Jewish Identity and my love for Israel. I wanted to come back to camp to give campers an amazing summer at one of my favorite places in the world.”

When Elli says that CJ is one of her favorite places in the world, it really speaks volumes— Elli recently traveled to India this year with the Joint Distribution Committee to explore Jewish Life in Mumbai and its suburbs. We’re glad she has chosen to spend another summer with us!

Tzevet in the Spotlight: Leon Faigenblat

Meet Sayarim Merakez: Leon Faigenblat

Leon was born in Bogota, Colombia but now resides leon nowin Hollywood, Florida. He currently attends Barry University where he is majoring in Business Management. He enjoys playing soccer and basketball, spending time with his friends, and meeting new people.

Leon’s father was part of the first group of Puerto Ricans to come to Camp Judaea, and after hearing his dad’s stories, Leon was eager to begin attending Camp Judaea as a Sayarim camper. He has attended CJ every summer since then.

Having had three amazing summers as a staff member, during which he made great connections with the campers, Leon decided that not returning to CJ for summer 2016 was not an option for him!