Category Archives: Camp Staff

Camp Counselor: The Best Internship I Ever Had

Submitted By: Rachel Wasserman, Camp Judaea Head of Aquatics 2018

Recently, I sat down with Career and Life Planning at my college to review my resume. My advisor asked me to write down all of my experience, and I immediately started listing my roles from four different camping seasons at two different camps. I did not spend my summers fetching coffee for executives in a company, but instead I created real relationships and developed connections with the future of America. I have talked in front of 1000 ten through twelve-year-olds. I have organized activities for 300 campers at one time, making sure to accommodate for different abilities. I have dragged myself out of bed and put a smile on my face on the days that my body didn’t think it could. My advisor asked, “Why should someone hire you?”

If you went to camp, or worked at camp, you know the variety of valuable skills you learned at camp. You learned collaboration and conflict resolution. Without realizing it, you developed emotional intelligence and became great at public speaking. Throughout the summer, you learned about yourself; who you are, your values, and your goals. And for an added bonus, you networked and connected with other future professionals. The sports and rec counselor? He might be your doctor one day. The climbing instructor? He’s studying to be a teacher. The lifeguard? She might just become the next PR professional.

Companies want to hire former camp counselors because we are strong communicators, we are problem solvers, and we understand teamwork and flexibility. We are comfortable with taking risks, knowing there is a possibility that we might fail. As a former camp counselor, I know I can accept responsibility. After all, I have spent four summers accepting the responsibility of looking after the next generation of employees.

I am a graduating senior at Rollins College, studying philosophy and communication, with a concentration in public relations and a minor in Jewish studies. That is a mouthful to say, and honestly, I am not entirely sure what I want to do with it. However, I know I will excel at whatever I choose to do, because of my experience working at summer camp.

A Summer Reflection From One Of Our 2017 Cornerstone Fellows

Greetings, I am Melanie Weintraub, one of Camp Judaea’s 2017 Cornerstone fellows! Cornerstone is a fellowship for third-year madrichim (counselors) and camp leaders who are empowered to bring new skills, ideas, and innovations that will make a positive impact to strengthen their camp community.

Each summer before the camp season kicks off, the Cornerstone Fellows from more than 60 Jewish camps gather to exchange ideas, learn from Jewish camping experts, and prepare for their summer at camp. The five-day seminar was a camp madricha’s dream: experts in the field of camping, beautiful mountains, and camp madrichim from across the United States and Canada all coming together to talk about the best place on Earth, camp!

This experience was unique in that the camps represented at this conference all do things differently. Fellows could learn new ideas, understand different approaches, and be able to adapt programs from other camps for their specific camp they are representing. During this conference, each fellow chose a track. The chosen tracks allowed fellows to spend a few hours every day learning, participating, and communicating about an aspect of camp that is important and meaningful to them.

I chose the t’fillot (Jewish prayer) track. I learned how camps with diverse religious affiliations make prayer an integral part of the camp experience. I loved learning about how to enhance and integrate prayer in both alternative and traditional ways so that all chanichim (campers) could participate and enjoy.

My favorite activity I participated in was called “The Happy Lab.” This activity consisted of different stations that sparked our five senses: crazy instruments, meditation, blessing writing, a laughing session, and tangible objects. Before going to each station, I ranked my current happiness on a scale of one to ten. After each station, I wrote down how much these sensory activities increased my happiness. This program was entertaining, interesting, and influential, in that it demonstrated how such simple activities could make someone smile and laugh so much. I left the Cornerstone seminar so excited and inspired to bring programs like my beloved Happy Lab to Camp Judaea and share it with the chanichim and other madrichim.

Beyond my chosen t’fillot track, I attended presentations surrounding the ideas of confidence and body image, specifically relating to Judaism. Based on what I learned at the conference, I came to camp and was able to give chanichim a program that not only touched on this confidence, but also allowed the chanichim to figure out what exactly makes them confident specifically at camp that could benefit them in their lives as a whole. This program allowed chanichim to trace their bodies and point out which body parts allowed them to excel during a day at camp. Examples chanichim shared: pointing out that their legs helped them climb the tower, their arms allowed them to swim fast, and their hands helped them make creative artwork.

Melanie with her co-counselors ready to welcome their Offarim campers!

Looking back at this summer, I realize how much being a Cornerstone Fellow impacted my ability to lead other staff members and enhanced my ability to write and was able to provide unique activities that directly correlated with events at camp. I can say confidently that I not only grew as a staff member because of Cornerstone, but as a person. I am excited for other staff members to have this opportunity!

Camp Judaea Announces New Executive Director

The Board of Directors of Camp Judaea is thrilled to announce that professional camping legend and CJ alumnus Walter Synalovski is returning to CJ as Executive Director effective August 21, 2017. After serving as the Director of Camp Judaea from 1992 to 1995, Walter was the director of Cedar Lake Camp in Pennsylvania for 14 years and will complete his seventh year as the Director of Camp Mah-Kee-Nac in Massachusetts this summer.

“Camp Judaea holds such a special place in my heart and I am incredibly excited to return as Executive Director,” Synalovski said. “The Zionist mission of Camp Judaea still resonates with me today like it did when I spent the 1984-85 year participating in Young Judaea’s Year Course in Israel. For me to be able to bring my camping experience and leadership back to where it all started is truly wonderful. I’m coming home.”

Board Chair Sam Levy said, “Walter’s hire is a home run for Camp Judaea. He’s friendly, warm, and engaging; he has a wealth of camping experience; and he’s a CJ alumnus. It’s the perfect mix that we’ve been seeking, and we are beyond excited to have found an Executive Director to lead us into the future.” Jeremy J. Fingerman, CEO of the Foundation for Jewish Camp, commented that “hiring Walter is great news for Camp Judaea and for the field of Jewish camp. Walter has earned a well-regarded and highly-respected reputation over his 25 years in the industry. We have confidence he will help continue the outstanding performance of CJ and will contribute much to the growth of the field.”

Walter is returning to CJ at an exciting time for the summer camp. Enrollment has grown to a record high, with 650 children slated to attend camp this summer. To accommodate the growth, CJ is upgrading its facilities, including building a new dining hall that will be ready for the summer of 2017. CJ also plans to add another cabin village, build a new arts center, and complete numerous other projects in the coming years. Synalovski marveled at how much camp has grown in the 22 years since his tenure as director in the 1990s. “The new cabins and brand new dining hall are state of the art. They show that the Board is committed to implementing the organization’s strategic plan. I know that camp will be in great hands under Leah Zigmond’s leadership this coming summer, and I look forward to working together with Leah starting in August to help CJ reach new heights.”

Walter was born in Puerto Rico and received his Bachelor of Business Administration from Florida International University. After attending Year Course and graduating from FIU, he worked in Miami as a Young Judaea Regional Director. He is fluent in English and Spanish and has two daughters, Lizzy (22) and Rachel (20).

Camp Judaea, located on 123 acres in beautiful Hendersonville, NC, is an independent not-for profit organization serving boys and girls ages 7-16. Camp Judaea’s mission is to provide a safe, fun, nurturing community where children, teens, and young adults grow as individuals, build lifelong friendships, develop leadership skills, and establish enduring connections with Judaism, Israel, and the natural environment.

Meet Amos Pomp: Chalutzim Merakez

Amos Pomp, from Chapel Hill, NC, will return to Camp Judaea this summer as the Chalutzim Merakez. Having joined the CJ family in 2007, this will be his ninth summer spent at camp and his fourth summer as a staff member.

This will be Amos’s third time on the Chalutzim Outward Bound trip, as he participated as a camper in 2012 and as a madrich in 2016. He also completed an 85-day Outward Bound course in Costa Rica in the fall of 2015. Upon the completion of this summer’s Outward Bound trip, Amos will have 115 days of Outward Bound, including 128 solo hours, under his belt. We think he’s pretty qualified for this position.

Amos is a student at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. He enjoys sunny and slightly breezy days, but is looking forward to powering through a few thunderstorms this summer at camp.

Meet Joe Silber: Bogrim Merakez

Joe Silber was born in Puerto Rico and moved to Aventura, FL when he was 12. This summer he will be the Bogrim Merakez!

He studies Hospitality and Restaurant Management at FIU with hopes of a future as a successful restaurateur.

Joe began his Camp Judaea journey in 2009 as a Kesher camper and returned again in 2010 for Bogrim. His favorite memory is from the Bogrim trip to Washington, D.C. This will be Joe’s third summer as a CJ staff member.

Joe is an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan. “My dad and his brothers have been Steelers fans since the ’70s ever since they attended a football camp in Pittsburgh and were coached by the Steelers players,” Joe explains. “It’s a family tradition.”

Meet Coby Tuchman: Kesher Merakez

Say “Shalom” to Coby Tuchman, the 2017 Kesher Merakez from Plantation, FL.

Coby studies Film, TV, and Business at New York University. This will be his fifth summer as a staff member following his many summers as a camper. He recalls his favorite day of Bogrim 2010: Yom Sport. “What we lacked in athletic ability,” Tuchman reminisces, “we more than made up for in ruach.”

Coby is proud to share that he can do “that raindrop sound á la Cameron in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

Meet Leon Faigenblat: Tsofim Merakez

Leon Faigenblat, known as Papito to some of his friends, will be the Tsofim Merakez this summer!

He was born in Bogota, Colombia but grew up in Hollywood, Florida. He currently attends Santa Fe College in Gainesville, FL and will be starting at the University of Florida in the fall.  In his free time, he enjoys playing soccer (really any sport) and Xbox.

Leon was a Camp Judaea camper from Sayarim through Bogrim, listing his favorite memory as living in the Tabins with his friends during their Kesher summer.  He participated in our MIT (madrichim in training) program and Young Judaea’s Machon before his senior year of high school, then went on Young Judaea’s Year Course after graduating.

This will be his fifth summer working at Camp Judaea and his second summer in a supervisory role.  Welcome back, Leon!

Meet Jackie Hajdenberg: Sayarim Merakezet

It is so fitting that Jackie Hajdenberg, our 2017 Sayarim Merakezet, joined the CJ family as a Sayarim camper ten years ago in 2007– what a way to come full circle!

Her favorite memory as a camper was being a member of the Teva (nature) chug (elective) each summer.  She fondly remembers making organic soaps and lip balms, having picnics by the lake, and even starting to design and build the layout for the beautiful garden that we have today.  Her positive camp experience led to her participation in our MIT (madrichim in training) program in 2013.  She worked as a counselor the following two summers and returned in 2016 as the Oranim Merakezet.

Jackie grew up in Maitland, FL, which is just outside of Orlando, and now attends Barnard College at Columbia University where she studies Political Science.  Her hobbies include rock climbing (bouldering), traveling, cooking, and camping.

Meet Josh Lasday: Oranim Merakez

We welcome back Joshua Lasday, from Potomac, Maryland, as the 2017 Oranim Merakez! This will be his 10th summer spent at Camp Judaea. He also attended Tel Yehuda for two summers, participated in Machon, and experienced Year Course. Now he is a student at the University of Wisconsin where he studies Political Science—Go Badgers!

Josh’s fondest memory from CJ was writing his Bogrim Hatzaga (play) in 2011—something he’d been waiting to do since beginning his Camp Judaea journey as an Offarim camper. He is a fan of all sports but favors playing Shabbat Staff Softball at camp. He also enjoys playing video games and traveling: he’d like his Oranim campers to know that he has been to nine different countries!

Meet Sarah Selcer: Offarim Merakezet

Sarah, our 2017 Offarim Merakezet, has been nicknamed “Giggles.”  It won’t take more than you asking her how she got the nickname to figure it out– she just can’t help but smile and laugh!

Sarah was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico but her family now lives in Parkland, Florida.  She’s a student at American University studying International Relations in the Middle East.

Like many of her relatives, Sarah spent her summers at Camp Judaea; attending as a camper from Offarim through Chalutzim, then working on our Tsevet as an MIT one session and Madricha for two summers. Her favorite CJ memory (so far) is exploring New York City with her walking group in Kesher.  She is thrilled and ready to arrive for her 11th Camp Judaea summer and to lead Offarim!

Last year Sarah participated in a gap year program called Kivunim during which she lived in Israel and traveled to many places all around the world which are rich in Jewish history. When Sarah isn’t at school or camp, she is running half marathons, playing soccer, cooking, and doing omanut (arts and crafts) . 🙂