Category Archives: Alumni News

Camp Judaea Camper Pursues Eagle Project to Help Rebuild Puerto Rico

For his Eagle Project, Ethan Klein (Bogrim 2016) is collecting new and used tools that will be shipped by the Urban Paradise League to Puerto Rico to help rebuild after Hurricane Maria. Please consider supporting Ethan and his efforts.

Here are some easy ways to help him!

If you live in the South Florida area, you can donate new or used tools anytime between now and Sunday, 11/26, at the Home Depot at the corner of Stirling and University (5801 University Drive).

Just look for Ethan’s donation boxes or come by on 11/26 between 10a and 4p and Ethan will be there with his troop collecting donations.

For those who live further away but wish to help, Ethan also has an Amazon wish list with a variety of tools at different price points that you can access here.

Items purchased from the wish list can be shipped directly to Ethan by using the wish list delivery address. It’s that easy!

If anyone has questions or needs more information, they can email Ethan at

Thank you for supporting Ethan and the people of Puerto Rico!

Kol Hakavod to Ethan, a true mensch!

Hurricane Maria: Help Our Families in Puerto Rico

Dear Camp Judaea Family,

L‘Shana Tovah to you and your family. As many of you know, the Puerto Rican community has been an integral part of the Camp Judaea family for over 50 years. Almost two dozen families from Puerto Rico currently send their children to CJ and many other CJ families are originally from or still have family living in Puerto Rico. We have been in touch with all of our families affected by Hurricane Maria, and fortunately they are all safe. However, many of our families are reporting significant damage to their homes, may not have electricity for an extended period of time, and are considering relocation so that their children can attend school. Simply stated, this hurricane has devastated the entire island, and it will take months (or possibly years) for the Puerto Rico community to rebuild.

We want to assist the Puerto Rico CJ community in any way that we can, so we have created a new scholarship fund called the CJ Hurricane Maria Scholarship Fund. This fund will go towards assisting Puerto Rican families in need of scholarship money to make sending their children to CJ a little easier while they rebuild their lives. Donate today to the CJ Hurricane Maria Scholarship Fund

In addition, we want to share with you some of the many ways that CJ families are currently assisting the relief efforts. We encourage you to reach out to them directly to provide assistance.
To name a few:

  • CJ Alumni David Solomiany, the Shub family, and other members of the CJ community are working with the Jewish Community Center of San Juan to help rebuild two local towns that were devastated by the hurricane. They are collecting and delivering water, food, and essentials for families located in these areas. Contact David ( for more information.
  • CJ Alumnae and camp parents Jennifer Zeuner and Vicky Cohen are working together with a group in Boca Raton, FL that is flying essential goods to those in need. You can click on this link to obtain a list of what supplies are needed most: PR Amazon Wish List. Contact Jennifer ( or Vicky ( for more information.

The CJ community is strong and committed to helping one another. After all, we call it the CJ family for a reason! Thank you for your continued support of Camp Judaea and for your help with our Puerto Rican families in need. We hope that you will consider making a donation to the CJ Hurricane Maria Scholarship Fund or reaching out to our alumni who are already coordinating relief efforts.

If you have any questions please contact our office or e-mail Walter (

Camp Judaea

8 Ways to get to Camp Judaea’s Alumni Camp

August 4-6, CJ young alumni are invited back to camp for a weekend of nostalgia, friends, and fun! For many of our participating alumni, it has been a while since they’ve had to fill out transportation forms and make their way to 48 Camp Judaea Lane. To help them make their arrangements, we’ve put together this list.

Camp Judaea Alumni ages 22-35, Don’t miss: Kabbalat Shabbat overlooking the lake, a hysterical oneg, late-night basketball, watching the softball game from the pool, Shabbat shira, an epic rikkud party, s’mores around a fire, bagel cheers, and more! Your favorite camp memories with all your camp friends in ONE weekend.

Bring your counselor, bring your bunkmate, bring your banquet date, bring your BO, bring your spouse (but don’t bring your kids!) and tell your boss you’re #GoingBacktoCJ2017!

Click here for more information about Camp Judaea Alumni Camp
Click here to register for Camp Judaea Alumni Camp– $199 until May 31st! After this date, price will go up to $240.

Contact Elana at with questions or for more info.

The Truth Is…

Written By: Bryan Spiegelman (Bogrim 2012)
Article Originally Published by The Times of Israel

As a Jew raised in Miami, Florida, I was taught to believe that Israel was perfect, and so I did. For about 18 years of my life I built my Jewish foundation on Israel’s perfect nation. The Land of Milk and Honey was exactly that, strong, pure and sweet. The State of Israel is a place that acts as a safe haven for Jews from all around the world, thrives in business and economy, and maintains a people with a sort of hospitality that you won’t find anywhere else in the world — it’s like everyone is family. Here you will find some of the “nicest” people, some of the most beautiful views, most amazing cities and most importantly, you will find a country full of history.

It’s hard to find a more compassionate country. Israel has made a strong effort to be the first responders at disasters worldwide, including the earthquake in Haiti, the avalanche in Nepal, and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Israeli scientists and researchers have made progress in the cure for cancer search. The IDF is a strong and prideful army that does whatever it possibly can to protect the civilians of this great nation.

From Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Haifa to the Golan Heights, Eilat to the Dead Sea you will see things, those of a dream, and meet people that make you feel like you belong. It’s a melting pot. Jewish people from all over the world and all sects of the religion come to Israel to feel familiar and welcomed. There are Jews from every hemisphere who come live here because it feels safe and warm, not only because of the temperature. But just like there’s warmth, there’s also cold.

There is a bitter social and religious divide. We know about the Palestinian-Israel conflict, but wait, there’s more. The Haredi Jews don’t consider secular Jews as Jewish. The homosexual people who live in Israel don’t have the right to get legally wed because a homosexual union is against Jewish law. There is racism directly pointed at Jews from Ethiopia, Eritrea and other African countries who only want a safe place to live and this was there only option.

Look at Israel through a wide lens, not a narrow one. Open your eyes, because if we continue to be narrow-minded then this won’t be fixed—it must be fixed.

To truly love Israel fully, love her for real. Love her for her beauties and her flaws, just like any relationship. The Jewish people are in this for the rest of eternity and in order to keep Israel moving forward, the racism must stop, the dilemmas must calm themselves and the divide must not be so bold.

Never forget about the Israel that we already know and love, but don’t be naive. It’s time to step up and make the change.

Bryan Spiegelman is from Miami, Florida. He is a proud Jew and he has been involved in the youth movement Young Judaea for twelve years of his life. He was raised in a family that luckily was able to go to Israel on vacation, twice. Bryan is now living in Israel for nine months on Young Judaea’s Year Course, experiencing the real Israel life.

Four Atlanta-Area CJ Alumni Receive Prestigious Impact Grant

Four Camp Judaea alumni were chosen to be participants in the The Shirlye Kaufman Birnbrey Alexander Muss High School in Israel (AMHSI) Impact Fellowship Program. The prestigious program provides Atlanta Jewish students in the 11th grade with the extraordinary opportunity to connect to the Jewish people and the land of Israel by attending a fully-funded semester of Alexander Muss High School in Israel. The applicants of this program endured a competitive application and interview process, and we are so proud to announce that four of the five Fellows this Spring are former Camp Judaea campers.

MIRIAM PANITCH, North Springs High Schoolimage1-6

Miriam attended Camp Judaea for seven summers and credits CJ with teaching and allowing her the space to be herself in any situation and find acceptance. The AMHSI semester will be Miriam’s fourth time in Israel, having been with her extended family to celebrate the Hadassah 100-Year National Convention, on a school trip, and for her brother’s Bar Mitzvah which will take place this winter. At Camp Judaea, Miriam most enjoyed learning from the Israeli Scouts and making pita, and she looks forward to delving deeper into understanding and experiencing Israeli culture. She enjoys attending school football games and spending time with her friends, but is very excited for the opportunity to meet new people and study in a different learning environment. She is confident that her upcoming semester in Israel will provide her with strong leadership skills and encourage her to continue forming her Jewish identity.

AMY KAPLAN, Allatoona High Schoolimage1-5

Amy is so excited for her first trip to Israel and has been dreaming of having this opportunity since her first summer at Camp Judaea. Each of her six summers spent at CJ began with her walking through the front gate knowing that she is home where she was accepted and celebrated, and she looks forward to being in a place where being Jewish is not considered “different” but rather “just a part of life.” This program appealed to Amy because of her passion for seeing the world, as the curriculum includes a significant amount of experiential teaching and learning. Before Amy embarks on her big journey, she will compete with her school’s drama troupe with their one-act rendition of The Miracle Worker at the state level. Her involvement with drama continues with Miss Firecracker which will keep her busy up until the day before she boards the plane to Israel! In the future, Amy hopes to travel the world and help people and animals.

BENJY NADOLNE, Alan C. Pope High School14713557_10154679193197888_2906603450951839557_n-1

Benjy, a soccer player and involved USY member, will travel to Israel for his third time. His first experience was with his 8th grade class while enrolled at The Davis Academy and the second being with his family after his sister’s Bat Mitzvah. Benjy spent two summers at Camp Judaea where he learned how to live and work with a team, developed confidence and maturity, and worked towards being independent and able to care for himself. His favorite CJ activity was Tzofim, scouts, during which he was exposed to how Israeli children and teens spend their time. For his upcoming semester in Israel, he is looking forward to the experiential aspect of the program; transferring what he learns in the classroom to the physical historical and cultural locations. Benjy aspires to work in the field of engineering or for AIPAC.

ALEX CREATH, Lakeside High Schoolfb_img_1478476419913

During Alex’s four summers at Camp Judaea, she appreciated the time spent with the Israeli Scouts, as they brought a unique sense of personality to every peulah (activity) and entertained campers with hands-on activities and souvenirs to take home and cherish. In fact, Alex can still be seen wearing some of the Israeli Scouts T-shirts she received! Her experiences with the scouts at Camp Judaea made her “a little more brave.” Alex also loved the art program at CJ. She felt at home with the exceptional art staff and was inspired by the projects and the way they were tied to Judaism. Alex knows she will benefit from soaking up her entire AMHSI experience; however, she most looks forward to meeting new people and bonding with them over life-changing memories. Alex spends much of her time in music and the arts; she is a member of both concert and marching band where she plays the flute, piccolo, and the baritone. In addition to her love of music, she is also a writer and a member of SKALD at her school. Alex hopes to attend college in the mountains where she will study nursing, women’s studies, and psychology.

Michele Burger of Camp Judaea Receives Outstanding Board Leadership Award at National Camp Conference

This month, JCamp 180®, a program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation (HGF), hosted more than 450 leaders from non-profit Jewish camps and other organizations during its 12th annual conference. During the event, top individuals and camps were honored for their growth in managing their daily operations and for their collective efforts in raising $90 million through HGF’s matching challenge grant campaigns to support Jewish children’s camps across the country.20_gmp10076

Michele Burger, was presented with the Outstanding Board Leadership Award for her significant contributions benefiting generations of Jewish children. Ms. Burger is the President of the Board of Directors of Camp Judaea, in Hendersonville, N.C.  During her term as President, the Camp Judaea board has strengthened its governance practices, revised its by-laws, recruited new executive leadership, developed and implemented a new strategic plan, and inspired new levels of philanthropy.  As a result of Michele’s commitment to strengthening the board, CJ’s enrollment has grown by over 50% and over $4 million has been raised in capital and scholarship campaigns.

“With this award, Ms. Burger joins a distinguished group of board leaders who have made significant contributions to the world of Jewish camps,” said JCamp 180® Director Mark Gold. “We are thrilled to have been able to recognize her contributions through this award.”

21_gmp10082To date, JCamp 180® has contributed more than $15 million in matching grant funds and $14 million in consulting services, which equates to more than 80,000 hours, for Jewish children’s overnight and day camps. The result: Jewish camps have raised another $225 million on their own to be used for capital improvements, expansions, and endowments, helping Jewish camp attendance grow from 43,000 in 2004 to 73,000 campers across the nation today.

Today, JCamp 180® serves 115 camps. The goal of the program is to engage Jewish camp leaders in utilizing best practices, helping them to grow attendance by improving their facilities, better using technology and social media, and raising funds for scholarships, capital improvements, and endowments. JCamp 180® staff work onsite with camp professional and lay leaders to help with board development, governance, strategic planning, alumni outreach, and other personalized organizational, recruitment, and fundraising initiatives. Participating camps take part in successive matching grant initiatives led by JCamp 180®.

“JCamp 180® has played a major role in transforming camps into more professional and sophisticated organizations,” says Gold. “This program has helped these non-profit Jewish camps raise more money in the last ten years than they had in the previous four decades, thereby enabling them to better compete with other non-profit and for-profit camps.”

During the 12th annual JCamp 180 Conference, participants took part in training sessions, workshops, networking opportunities, and speaking programs geared to help non-profits better manage their operations. Speakers included Cara Greene Epstein, Steven Meyers, the author of Personalized Philanthropy: Crash the Fundraising Matrix, Rabbi Marc Baker, Head of Gann Academy in Waltham, MA and former Pomegranate Prize winner, and Peter Himmelman, the Emmy and Grammy nominated singer-songwriter and author.  These speakers and dozens of workshop leaders led discussion on the conference theme “Open, Generous, and Connected.”  Other topics covered included fundraising, board development, strategic planning, enrollment, and technology.

About JCamp 180®:

JCamp 180® is a program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, located in Agawam, Massachusetts. JCamp 180® provides training and support to the Boards of Directors of non-profit Jewish overnight camps and selected educational institutions in the areas of Board Development, Strategic Planning, and Development. In addition to this Board support, JCamp 180®also provides these institutions with technology assistance ranging from Web-related services to donor databases and social media. For further information about JCamp 180®, visit

From Strength to Strength

tomOur Executive Director, Tom Rosenberg, finishes his term with us here at Camp Judaea and takes his role as the CEO of the American Camp Association. We are very proud of Tom, his hard work, dedication, and leadership for Camp Judaea, and we wish him all the very best in his newest endeavor.

A search committee was formed and has been working since early in the summer to find the perfect fit for a new Executive Director. Until then, Leah Zigmond will assume the role of Interim Director and continue to lead the CJ team.

Leah joined the Camp Judaea family last November as the Associate Director and has been working tirelessly to enhance our program and take our Israel and Jewish education to new heights. Leah, her husband, Simon, and their two sons moved to Atlanta a few years ago after living on Kibbutz Lotan in Israel’s Southern Arava desert for 13 years.

leah“The family feeling of Camp Judaea reminds me very much of Kibbutz life, which I experienced firsthand for 13 years. I love how much campers and staff care about each other and the feeling of community that we have at camp-wide events. We will all miss Tom so much. He has been a wonderful mentor to me in my first year at CJ and has prepared us well for our next steps. I look forward to working with the entire CJ family to really look at what it means to be a Pluralist Egalitarian camp and how best to serve our diverse population. I am excited for the opportunity to mentor staff, dial down into our Zionist Education curriculum, and make sure that we are offering our best version of a modern and experiential approach to teaching a love and appreciation for Israel.”

We have full confidence in Leah and the professional team at Camp Judaea in their ability to help transition us seamlessly from strength to strength!

As the search process continues, we look forward to updating the CJ community along the way.

tom-and-leahSee, even camp directors have fun sometimes!

The MIT Program at Camp Judaea

13569927_10206765951163109_1396437973_oThis week, we are proud to send off a group of our Madrichim in Training (MITs) from Camp Judaea to Young Judaea’s summer in Israel program, Machon. These incoming high school seniors spent Staff Training week and the first two and a half weeks of camp shadowing the in-bunk counselors and learning what a position of a full-time counselor looks like. They have made irreversible bonds and unforgettable memories with their chanichim and the staff members all while learning what it means to be a junior counselor, leader, and role model.

“My favorite thing about returning as an MIT this summer was coming back to camp and finally seeing “the other side” and being able to help make a camper’s summer amazing just like my counselors did for me.” –Lauren Solomiany, 2016 MIT

The participants of the MIT program are usually former campers who dream of working at the place which gave them so many wonderful summers. By providing this extra summer of training, it is our goal to prepare them for long-term success, not only at Camp Judaea– beginning as in-bunk counselors and working towards supervisory positions– but eventually leadership roles within the Jewish community and organizations around the world.13523789_10206765951283112_2017854475_o

“The most important thing that they should have learned is that there are a lot of duties that go into being a counselor since it really is a 24/7 job. Even though it might get stressful at times, it’s important to remember the balance between work and fun at camp!”
–Matthew Kaplan, 2016 MIT Coordinator

We hope that they will take the lessons they have learned from this experience and apply them throughout their senior year of high school and again when they return to CJ next summer as full-fledged staff members.

“Participating in the MIT program was an introduction to being a full blown counselor that let me explore different approaches to dealing with situations before taking full responsibility for the situations themselves.  Coming into this summer, I felt confident in my abilities to be a successful camp counselor.” –Michal Pollack, 2015 MIT


“The best part of being back at Camp Judaea as an MIT after two years is finally being able to see the tremendous amount of work that my counselors from when I was a camper put in to ensure that everyone was having a fun time. The lesson I’ve learned is that my purpose for coming to CJ has changed.  When I was a camper it was to have fun with my friends. Now as a full time staff member, I do everything for the kids.” –Bernie Faigenblat, 2016 MIT

Gabi Doobrow is working at Camp Judaea for her fifth summer.  She began her staff journey as an MIT in 2012.  Since then, she spent two summers as an in-bunk counselor for Kesher and Bogrim, one summer as the Sports Director, and this summer as the Bogrim Merakezet.  She recalls that patience is the most important thing that she learned as an MIT that has helped her to be successful each summer.


We hope our MIT’s have had an amazing time at camp and we thank you all for your hard work! We know those of you going will have a wonderful time on Machon!  For those staying with us for the rest of the session, we are happy to have you.  Looking forward to spending next summer, and many summers after, with you here at Camp Judaea…

“My time as an MIT taught me how to work with other staff members to achieve one goal; for the campers to have an incredible experience at Camp Judaea.” –Erin Cady, 2015 MIT


First Session Opening Day 2016

IMG_9546…And we are officially open! First session 2016 has begun! At 8:30 we began checking-in our early birds, and at 9:00am, our gates opened, and the fun began. Campers carrying backpacks and pillows followed their counselors to the cabins with their parents a couple of steps behind (hey, these mountains are for real!) The staff and parents helped the campers unpack and set up, tours of camp were given, T-shirts were sold— the whole camp was alive with excitement and energy!  If you haven’t had the chance to see the video of the gate opening, check it out below!

IMG_9627As 10:30 approached, everyone headed up to the Chadar Ochel to witness the ceremonial ground breaking on the new Chadar Ochel which is scheduled to be ready for summer 2017! Sam Levy, our incoming Board Chair, and Tom Rosenberg, Executive Director, made a few remarks to kick-off the event as music played and people cheered. We are so grateful to our Board Members and Special Guests who traveled in for this momentous occasion, our supportive camp families, and our excited campers for sharing this day with us.  It was hot, but it was great!IMG_9644

At 11:00, families enjoyed a beautifully presented brunch. There were blintzes, bagels and lox, salads, fruit, and a whole table of pastries. The rest of the morning was spent taking in the sights of camp, catching up with friends, meeting counselors, and buying old-school CJ Swag!IMG_2420

By 1:00pm, most parents and families had departed and the campers started on an activity rotation. Rishonim went to Rikkud (dance), Offarim to Teva (nature), Oranim to Shira (singing), Sayarim to Kadur-regel (soccer), Tsofim to Kickball, Kesher changed into their suits for swim tests and pool time, and Bogrim hit the basketball courts. Throughout the rest of the afternoon, the groups switched activities and remained busy so as not to waste any precious camp time and to reduce possible first-day-homesickness.

It was wonderful to see all of our parents and alumni visiting camp today! They were curious and enthusiastic about the renovations happening at Camp. Many took advantage of the development pamphlet and signs posted around our property which showed our first-phase diagrams of the new buildings coming and had wonderful feedback to give! For those of you who weren’t in Camp today, we are expected to have a new Chadar Ochel (dining hall) debuting in May 2017, a new Art Barn, an expanded Zwerner Family Beit Knesset, and new Cabin Village. We are very excited about all of these projects!

IMG_9652Today we also celebrated our CJ Alumni and Members of the Legacy for the Generations Society who all proudly sported special pins for the day!

It was a very busy day for parents, campers, and staff, so tonight will be an early one. We can’t wait for our first full day of camp tomorrow! Parents, be on the look out for your First Night of Camp postcard which should arrive within the first week.

Laila tov, CJ family…

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!”