The fellows arrive today for the 2012 Cornerstone Fellowship. Now in it’s 10th year, Cornerstone is the largest and longest running program that FJC organizes. We’ll be offering updates on what’s going on at the seminar for returning counselors as well as offering insight from various types of participants via our blog, Facebook, and Twitter (#Cornerstone2012 and #JewishCamp) … so stay tuned!
I was 22 years old in the summer of 2003 when I got lucky for the first time. I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right. It was that summer when I attended my first Cornerstone Fellowship Seminar! It was in the mountains of northeast Georgia, and I was there as a guest artist to perform and teach with Storahtelling, a Jewish ritual theater company based in New York. I remember being overwhelmed by the diversity, the creative energy, the abundant joy of summer camp that everyone at the conference brought to the table. And I remember very clearly feeling that I wanted to come back again the next year. But lucky as I was to be at that first Cornerstone Seminar, I was unlucky as well. I was too old to be a fellow, not quite old enough to be faculty.
I asserted myself several times over the next few years. Storahtelling was invited back to Cornerstone in 2004 when it was in Ojai, California. And I made sure the company office knew I wanted in. 2005 at the Hudson Valley Resort? I performed my soon-to-be Off-Broadway play, Walking in Memphis: The Life of a Southern Jew, for the entire conference. Nearly 300 people! By far my biggest audience since the virtuosic, memorable performance I delivered as Kenickie in the Camp Ramah in Wisconsin 14-year old division production of Grease (in Hebrew). But those early Cornerstone memories were only tastes, a day here, a few hours there, at a conference that I always got excited to visit and dreaded departing.
Then, one day in the fall of 2007, I got the call! I was invited to be an educator and advisor at Cornerstone and I think it took me 17 seconds to say yes (and that’s only because Sprint did not yet provide full service in the corner bodega on 49th street and 9th avenue in NYC, so I was having trouble hearing Becca Shimshak’s offer). From that moment on, my life changed. Teaching a student is always an exciting experience. But teaching a teacher? That’s incomparable. And I get to do it with the most amazing team of experiential Jewish educators. I am humbled, educated, and most importantly, inspired by the faculty and that I have the privilege to work with each year.
In this, my 8th summer at the Cornerstone seminar, I still feel that same anticipation when I pack my suitcase. And I still feel that same dread right before the end. I do have one egregious regret that could only be remedied by the invention of a time-traveling DeLorean: as I’m teaching fellows to explore the inner psyche of Jonah while treading water in the deep end of the swimming pool at Capital Camps, there are amazing educators such as Sarra Alpert turning people on to social justice, Efraim Yudewitz giving sports programming a Jewish lens, and Josh Lake teaching people about Jewish education using…well…a lake. And I can’t attend any of these amazing sessions. That’s the rub. I’m 31 years old. I love summer camp. And I just want to be a fellow over and over again for the rest of my life. But I know I have an even luckier fate. I get to watch these fellows experience Cornerstone for the first time every year. I get to play a role in their awakening as Jewish educators. And I get to do so working side by side with the best of the best. Pretty lucky, if you ask me.
- Jon Adam Ross (aka JAR) is a widely acclaimed Jewish theater artist. Find out more about him and his work here.