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Startup Entrepreneurship at Summer Camp in the Rocky Mountains

The following post originally appeared on Blog.RabbiJason.

After finally making my way up the mountain in Golden, Colorado (just outside of Boulder) the other night, I pulled my rental car into the parking lot of Camp Inc., the world’s first Jewish specialty summer camp with an emphasis on entrepreneurship. My interest was piqued half a year ago when I met with the leadership team of Camp Inc. and heard about their lofty plans for their inaugural summer. It all seemed like a great idea conceptually, but I didn’t know quite what to expect when I arrived.

Camp Inc. - Jewish Summer Camp for Startups

I stepped out of the car and walked into the “Ulam” (Hebrew for meeting hall) where the music was blaring and dozens of Jewish teenage boys and girls were dancing. I was greeted by Josh Pierce, the camp director, who yelled to me over the music, “Welcome to MJ’s bat mitzvah party!” The campers and staff of Camp Inc. were holding a mock bat mitzvah party for one of the camp’s counselors, complete with a bat mitzvah candle-lighting ceremony, a DJ playing the standard bar mitzvah music, and the hoisting of Jewish teens in a chair for the Hora dance. Meals at Camp Inc. start and end with Jewish blessings. Morning flagpole includes several Jewish prayers and Hebrew songs. Signs around camp are in both English and Hebrew. And a number of the counselors are Israeli, part of the Jewish Agency’s Summer Shlichim (emissary) Program. I have been to countless Jewish overnight camps and, at first glance, Camp Inc. seemed no different from the rest. Until…

What I then saw was amazing. At the end of the evening’s activity the campers begged their counselors to not make them go back to their bunks for “lights out.” However, they didn’t want to go on a night hike or stay up late playing card games in their cabin. Rather, these campers pleaded with the camp staff to let them stay up for another hour so they could work on their logos for their new startup companies. These Jewish campers, ranging in age from 12-17, morphed from your typical summer campers to CEO’s, CFO’s and Marketing Directors right in front of my eyes. They grabbed their black leather portfolios emblazoned with the Camp Inc. logo and fully charged notebook computers and headed to their workspace. There they met with their startup teams to put the finishing touches on their logos which will be printed on different colored t-shirts for them to wear at their pitches to business mentors and startup investors at the conclusion of the camp session.

Camp Inc. campers pitch DiabeTech at a practice pitch day in Boulder, Colorado
Camp Inc. campers pitch DiabeTech at a practice pitch day in Boulder, Colorado

My second night at Camp Inc. was no different. Campers were engaged in games of kickball and volleyball, preparing for a Beit Cafe (talent show), and just hanging out in the woods by the ropes course with their friends. And then they were instructed to go rehearse their pitches with their startup teams. Groups assembled to go over the final plans before they headed to Boulder the following day for a practice pitch day. I heard teens excitedly talking about their plans to make a mobile app to help the millions of people who deal with Diabetes on a daily basis, and teens building a prototype of a car that could display rotating ads for nonprofits, and teens creating a platform to schedule meals for groups of people based on dietary restrictions, food allergies and preferences, and geography. I was blown away. There was so much creativity in the room that I was left excited to see what these young people would do in the future. And, yes, once again the campers pleaded with their counselors for some extra time before bed to work on their startup businesses. Camp Inc. is a typical Jewish summer camp… plus.

Rabbi Jason Miller with the leadership team of Camp Inc. (Dan Baer, Jonathan Lev and Josh Pierce)
With the leadership team of Camp Inc. (Dan Baer, Jonathan Lev and Josh Pierce)

During the day, I had the opportunity to meet with the high school campers and discuss the importance of social media to their startup initiatives. That evening, I met with all of Camp Inc.’s campers in K’far Baya’ar (the village in the woods), where we discussed business entrepreneurship from the Torah (Noah didn’t wait until the rain started to build the ark and Abraham enjoyed a successful career as a shepherd instead of going into his father’s idol business). We talked about the ethic of social responsibility in business. Many of the campers relaxed in hammocks as we discussed what they are passionate about and the challenge of making their passion contagious to others. I asked each camper to choose a person from Jewish history (from the biblical period up through modern times), come up with a business, and then offer a startup pitch as if they were that Jewish character. Standing in the woods in the Rocky Mountains I listened as the Snake from the Garden of Eden, the Prophet Jonah, Moses, Theodor Herzl, Mel Brooks and Seth Rogen enthusiastically talked about their new businesses. It was amazing. This is what a Jewish summer camp that focuses on entrepreneurship looks like!

Rabbi Jason Teaching at Camp Inc. in Rocky Mountains
Teaching at Camp Inc. in Rocky Mountains

Not all Jewish kids will get excited about an outdoor wilderness camp, a sports camp or a drama camp. The founders of Camp Inc. have hit on something big here. There is an entire cadre of Jewish youth in North America who are business savvy and eager to start their own company. Camp Inc. gives them all of the experiences of a dynamic summer camp while also providing them with a high-energy environment in which they can dream, build, and create. The future is very bright!

Camp All Day, Every Day

A cookie is just a cookie, but a Newton is fruit and cake.

A camp is just a camp, but MY CAMP IS THE BEST THING EVER.

It doesn’t have the same ring, but you get the idea.

[Colemanites] get together during the year.  The Clergy Advisory Board gathers to talk education and development.  The Olim Fellows meet to learn about social justice, Reform Judaism, and to explore other camps in the URJ family.  Cornerstone Fellows gather to learn how to make great programming even better with camps from all over North America, and brainstorming how to impact their work at Coleman when gathering in “Camproom.”  Retreats.  NFTY.  Facebook.  Instagram.  Camp Shabbat.  Bar/Bat Mitzvah weekends.  Shabbat dinners.  The emails – so many emails.

[Coleman] people find time to see [Coleman] people.

At the end of February, a collection of Coleman people met in Atlanta for two days.  This form of Coleman reunion was targeted and focused.  Like last year’s MasheJew meeting, we were developing curriculum.  This year, we did some editing of the units from last year, and added in two more units.  We also did a series of Tefillah workshops that could fill an entire summer of Kavannah (our name for our counselor- and programmer-led programming), come from my work at camp and at The Davis Academy (#NADIV) and will be one of my sessions when I serve on Cornerstone Faculty in May.   We’re working on developing a program called “Hot ShoTz” (ShoTz is the abbreviation in Hebrew used to describe a service leader) which will teach people in our camp community leadership skills and service-leading methodology, allowing them to step up, and to shine in a new light.

Continue reading on The Canteen.

Don’t Miss the Magic

By Rabbi Isaac Saposnik
 ©Next Exit Photography www.nextexitphotography
I recently saw “Matilda” on Broadway. Let me tell you – the kids in that show are incredible! I was truly in awe of the way they sang and danced with such energy, enthusiasm, and excitement; their talent was almost overwhelming.

Besides the amazing actors, the awesome and colorful sets, and the wildly imaginative staging, I was really touched by the story. (I’m not sure I ever read the book and it’s been more than a decade since I last saw the fantastic movie version.) From a young age, Matilda is misunderstood, under-appreciated, and shockingly unloved by her parents. In a school with a horrifying headmistress, she is seen for who she really is by a kind, gentle, loving teacher. The friendships and new families that form throughout the story are inspiring and remind us of the incredible power of positive connections.

Along the way, some magic happens and so does some “magic.” If I tell you the first, it might give away too much of the story. The latter, on the other hand, is well worth sharing. In one song that stayed in my head for days, the kids sing what has been clearly drilled into their heads over and over again: that they are “revolting children living in revolting times.” The magic of Matilda is in the realization that nothing could be less true: despite (or, perhaps, because of) the revolting tyranny of the adults around them, these kids really know how to act. Maybe this is the kind of revolting they mean – revolting against a view of the world, and of childhood, that is itself revolting. These kids know how to treat one another, how to celebrate differences, and how to work together for the common good.

Read the rest of the post on The Canteen

Bringing 5,000 Voices to my Southern Jewish School

By Sara Beth Berman

“Always thinking, you.  Always thinking.”

A friend in graduate school mockingly accused one overachieving friend by telling her she was “always thinking.” Because she was “always thinking,” she came up with creative ideas and solutions to the most mundane and epic of problems.

Earlier this month, I was lucky enough to join my half-time colleagues from the Union for Reform Judaism at URJ Biennial in San Diego, while representing both halves of my job – URJ Camp Coleman and The Davis Academy, a Reform Jewish day school.

Decked out in professional garb (so professional that someone who’d met me last summer didn’t recognize me until I fully identified myself and said, “I know it’s hard to recognize me, as I am usually covered in dirt.”) and armed with an open mind, I stepped into the convention center with wide eyes.

Read the rest of this post on The Canteen

Philanthropy in Action: From College to Camp

This post originally appeared on the Jewish Teen Funders Network blog.

My philanthropic journey started over a year ago, in a classroom at Yale University. Over the course of the semester, I participated in what turned out to be the most unique, fascinating, crazy, and rewarding class I have ever taken. Sixteen of us in Philanthropy in Action learned about the non-profit world, different theories of charity, philanthropy, evaluation, and how to strategically give away money. We met with many interesting philanthropists, and in the end had to decide among ourselves how to give away $50,000 of actual money.

In February, after the course had ended, I received an email from the director at Camp Kadimah, a Jewish summer camp out in Nova Scotia, Canada that I’ve been on staff at since 2009, with this past summer serving as Program Director. The subject line of the email read “Potential Opportunity.” My director said that he was thinking of participating in the Jewish Teen Funders Network Camp Philanthropy Program, which sounded similar to my philanthropy class. He wanted to know if I’d want to take on the responsibility of running it with our entering 11th grade CITs.

I immediately wrote him back telling him that we should 100% participate – and we did. He took my advice and our camp joined a group of 39 camps who participated in the Camp Philanthropy Program last summer. In the months leading up to camp, I prepared for the unique opportunity to get to give to these kids at camp an experience like what I’d had at Yale.

Camp Kadminah CITs

In June, I got to camp and jumped right into the program. At the risk of sounding cliché, the student had become the teacher. I tried to draw on my experience from my Philanthropy in Action class to help me lead the program with the Camp Kadimah CITs. I was particularly excited to facilitate this program with this group of 16 young people (coincidentally, the same size as our class at Yale), because a number of them had been my campers my first year on staff.

During the first few weeks of camp, every few days I would sit down with the CITs, discussing tzedakah and tikkun olam, thinking about how we’d make sure everyone’s voice was heard, and clarifying our own mission as a teen foundation. I gathered Requests for Proposals from local organizations, which were reviewed by the CITs in detail. The most exciting part of the experience for the CITs was our two site visits. Half of the group left camp to visit the Blockhouse School Project. There, a passionate older man told us of their work turning an old school into a community center and sustainability hub, complete with a wall made of books and a garden. He explained how they needed a new septic system or the government would shut them down. In the afternoon, I took the other half of the CITs to visit the Lunenburg District Victorian Order of Nurses, where we sat in a luxurious boardroom and were given a PowerPoint presentation on their work with the elderly population of Lunenburg before seeing their facilities. It was fascinating to see the contrast between these organizations, both doing important work in very different ways, and the CITs’ reactions to the different presentations. That afternoon, all our CITs came together and debriefed each other on their respective visits.

Then came the moment of truth. One morning, with about a week left of camp, the CITs spent the morning making their grant allocation decisions, speaking passionately about the pros and cons of each organization, figuring out how to make the best decision possible. After much deliberation, they decided to give $770 to the Victorian Order of Nurses for their work with the elderly, and $230 to Adsum House, a shelter for women and children. We concluded our process by presenting homemade oversized checks to the organizations receiving funding before our entire camp at the end of summer banquet. I was incredibly impressed with our CITs’ maturity throughout the process, especially when we were making the final decision. In many ways, the way they approached the decision making process struck me as much more logical, organized and impressive than the way my class full of Yale students had! Looking back, many of my proudest moments at camp this summer came while working with the CIT’s on this program.

Camp Kadimah Check Ceremony

Since then, things have come full circle for me. When camp ended, I moved down to New York City to serve as the Bildner Fellow at the Foundation for Jewish Camp. As part of this internship, I spent a week at the JTFN office, helping plan the training for next summer’s Camp Philanthropy educators. I studied camper survey responses and came across the surveys I’d had the Kadimah CITs fill out at camp a few months ago.

Last weekend, I went back to Yale to see this year’s Philanthropy in Action class award their grants to the organizations they’d chosen. It was during this ceremony that I realized how far my philanthropic journey had come in just one year. When my director first emailed me about the JTFN program, it wasn’t just a “Potential Opportunity”, like his subject line read, but something much bigger. These ideas of philanthropy and repairing the world help me see the world differently. Bringing the excitement of teen philanthropy into the magic of summer camp is one of the most meaningful programs I’ve seen in the Jewish world. I personally cannot wait to run this program with a new group of CITs again at Camp Kadimah, and for over 1,000 more teens at Jewish camps across North America to have this incredible opportunity.

Josh Satok is a senior at Yale University and is currently serving as the Bildner Fellow at the Foundation for Jewish Camp. He spent a week at the Jewish Teen Funders Network working on their Camp Philanthropy Program. Josh is a native of Toronto and has spent the past five summers as a staff at Camp Kadimah. He can be reached at

We do more in 24 hours than…

The following originally appeared on Naomi Less’ blog, Jewish Chicks Rock.

Jewish summer camp gives you more opportunities to be of service in 24 hours than most people get in a year. Here’s my story from the past 24 hours at URJ Camp Coleman.
In 24 hours I:
  • Helped an aspiring songwriter find her voice through the pen while encouraging her to open up more and give her bunk mates a chanceIMG_1179
  • supported a staff member who needed to plan an anti-bullying workshop
  • broke through a 9th grade clique-issue where the campers discovered they were not alone in feeling the way they felt and worked with them to solve their own issue using experiential methods and music
  • helped a unit leader create some new roles for campers who (very age appropriately) act out during programs
  • shared a storytelling model with 10th graders who explored and shared their stories about “why this Judaism stuff even matters to me”
  • shared music and an inspirational personal story to open the 8th graders up to being the Heroes of their own journeyIMG_1166
  • while songleading Shabbat am services, I kvelled as the cornerstone fellows framed extremely inspirational, moving Intentions in the theme of hearing your call (The theme of Cornerstone as exemplified in this SONG)
  • entered into a sacred space under the stars with the 9th and 10th graders – introducing them to the ancient soothing nighttime Jewish rituals and songs we have
This was only one person’s work. Now multiply that by the number of staff at a camp and you’ll start to understand the capacity of just how much “good” jewish summer camps can do in a whole summer. Imagine the ripple effect on a generation of young souls.

A Sense of Israel

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of serving on the faculty for The Goodman Camping Initiative for Modern Israel History. With generous support from The Lillian and Larry Goodman Foundations, the AVI CHAI Foundation, and The Marcus Foundation, this collaboration between the iCenter and Foundation for Jewish Camp is able to engage 24 independent Jewish camps in North America in the development of an Israel education curriculum.  The goal is to enhance and expand the commitment of North American camps to Modern Israel History, and to enable Jewish campers across the age spectrum to have a deeper connection with Israel outside of camp.

In the training I was able to ask the Goodman fellows a series of questions: What is the type of food that reminds you of Israel? How would you describe the taste of this food? What feelings, if any, does this evoke? What is a smell that makes you think of Israel? What is something you’ve seen in Israel that you would want to see again? What sounds remind you of Israel? If you were to reach out and imagine touching something from Israel, what would it feel like?

The process of looking at Israel through taste, smell, sight, sound and touch made Israel come alive. This line of questions also helped the staff prepare for their work with campers this summer. In answering the questions they discovered the foundations for the Israel stories they wanted to tell this season. I was not fully prepared for the fact that I would also have Israeli staff members as part of the camps’ Goodman cohort, but even more than their North American peers, this process helped them “thin slice” to capture an aspect of Israeli life to share with their campers. The Israelis shared with me that they were surprised by their answers, but looking at Israel through the limited perspective of single sensory experiences gave them a way to communicate the many textures of Israel without losing the nuance or overwhelming the camper with an avalanche of facts. Through the lens of the personal “touch” of Israel, they could see how the Jewish state might touch their campers.

I am excited to see how these Goodman Fellows will impact our campers this summer. I have a sense it will be wonderful.

–Rabbi Avi Katz Orlow is the Director of Jewish Education at the Foundation for Jewish Camp

Building Bridges to Connect Jewish Camps and Schools

The following was also posted on the Jim Joseph Foundation blog.

By Jordan Magidson, Nadiv Educator at URJ Camp Kalsman in Arlington, WA and Temple De Hirsch Sinai in Seattle, WA. 

One idea that has been drilled into my head for the last four years is that no Jewish community is an island—or at least no community should be. Rather than hoarding our intellectual property we should be sharing it, collaborating with other Jewish organizations and learning from one another in order to create the best possible educational experience for our children. What I find unique about the Nadiv program is that it is one of the first national initiatives to begin building those bridges between Jewish organizations, recognizing that religion schools (that’s what we call it in my neck of the woods) and Jewish camps both have a lot to teach each and learn from each other when it comes to innovative and successful Jewish programming for kids.

My position as Nadiv Educator is pretty unique. I am only one of six Jewish educators who split their time between working in a school and working at camp and only one of two in this pilot that works in supplementary Jewish education. While there have been challenges, they have been minimal and hardly noteworthy. The benefits and opportunities for growth for the camp, the religion school and for me as an educator have been far more numerous.

When I am wearing my temple hat, I am thinking about what makes camp so successful and how we can start integrating that into our religion school. We send 140 students from Temple De Hirsch Sinai (TDHS) to URJ Camp Kalsman each summer. This gives us the opportunity to create a sense of year-long Jewish education for our students. With camp being located only an hour outside of Seattle, we have the chance to utilize this beautiful and uniquely Jewish setting to support what is happening in the classroom. We will begin by sending our 4th-6th graders to camp in May for a Shabbaton where we teach our students and their families about how we can address poverty in our community. Camp is a perfect setting for this as fighting hunger is a major goal of our camp community. This past year we donated roughly 1000 lbs. of food that we grew in our garden to a local shelter and we hope to double that this year. By utilizing program areas like the garden and farm, we not only teach our students about this big issue, but also literally get our hands dirty and show them how they can be change agents in our community. This will have a bigger impact than if we just stayed at our congregation. We are also, of course, hoping to garner more excitement about camp and encourage some first-time campers to try it out.

When I am wearing my camp hat, I am thinking about ways in which camp can continue to grow and be at the forefront of innovation when it comes to Jewish education. It is important that camp not simply rest on its laurels – just because something worked 20 years ago doesn’t mean it doesn’t need rejuvenating. This year at camp we are beginning to move to a fully integrated model of Jewish education, which will be a change from how we have done things in the past. It will bring a new energy to the education program. As Director of Education at camp, I am also aware that not every community I work with has the same resources available to them as available TDHS. That is why we are beginning to send out holiday recourse sheets to schools and families that will allow them to bring a little of the camp spirit into their homes. We are also going to start making available tested and approved all-school and family programming to our camp communities that would like to add more experiential programming to their schedules but may not have the time or resources to create them. This will be one way we can give all of our campers, not just TDHS campers, the ability to experience this year-long Jewish education.

All of this is just the beginning. April will mark one year in this very unique position for me. In this first year I have learned a lot and accomplished a lot. I know that in the coming years I will accomplish even more. David Berkman (Director of Camp Kalsman), Rabbi Daniel Septimus (Director of Congregational Learning at TDHS) and I are all very committed to creating endless opportunities for collaboration. I can’t wait to see where we go from here!

Can Jewish Organizations Really Work Collaboratively? Early Lessons from Nadiv

The following post was originally featured on eJewish Philanthropy.

Collaboration and partnership have become the buzzwords of our time. The business world as well as the nonprofit sector heralds the advantages of collaboration: sharing resources, bringing multiple perspectives to address difficult issues, eliminating duplication, learning from one another and pooling assets.

The Jim Joseph and AVI CHAI Foundations, as funders interacting with multiple organizations across sectors, have a bird’s-eye view of what can result when organizations function from within their own separate silos: duplicate efforts on the one hand and unaddressed needs on the other. This led us to ask: can we, as funders, use our resources and influence to catalyze collaboration? And taking that one step further: can we, as funders, collaborate to more effectively advance our common goals?

On the topic of funding collaboration efforts, David La Piana, in his monograph Real Collaboration: A Guide for Grantmakers, offers a sobering observation. “Funders cannot create Real Collaboration. They can only help to enhance it. In most instances, a ‘grant for collaboration’ will not seed or create a partnership where none existed before unless the motivation to create a partnership is present and strong. ”

We are fortunate that talented professionals in the areas of Jewish education that our two foundations support were already thinking of developing and nurturing collaboration and were highly motivated to see it succeed. Jewish camp leaders wanted year-round educators devoting their skills to deepen Jewish learning in camps and Jewish school leaders wanted to inspire their students with more immersive “camp-like” Jewish experiences during the school year. To address these needs, our foundations have jointly funded a five-year grant to the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s Nadiv Initiative, an experiment designed to create new connections between Jewish camps and schools, leveraging unique professional knowledge and best practices for the benefit of both.

Nadiv involves a complex array of individual, organizational and system collaboration in order to produce camp and school alumni whose Judaism deeply engages both their heads and their hearts:

  • Each of six experiential Jewish educators is “shared” by a camp and a school in the same geographic area.
  • Each camp-school pair works together to determine the role of their Nadiv educator.
  • Educators, heads of school and camp directors participate collectively in a community of practice to learn from one another’s successes and challenges.
  • The Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) and the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) together helped develop the program and are directing its implementation.
  • Two foundations have co-invested in the project, communicating regularly and learning the give-and-take required by funding partnerships.

Can so many levels of partnership succeed not only simultaneously, but in such a way that the partnerships build on each other and each strengthens the whole? While Nadiv is just in its early stages of implementation, the first evaluation report has been conducted by BTW informing change. One of the two sections of the report, “The Nadiv Story, Unfolding,” tells the story of Nadiv’s collaborative process as it unfolded, with all the turns and twists in the road. The second section, “Key Learnings from Nadiv’s Launch,” shares successes along with key learnings and offers recommendations for ongoing implementation and future partnerships.

Even in this early stage, Nadiv is turning out to be a fascinating story about collaboration, with multiple characters and plotlines. At the individual level, six educators from a range of backgrounds are working across institutions and denominational affiliations to support one another and share learnings. At an organizational level, camps and schools are leveraging their partnership to retain a talented educator and strengthen one another’s educational work, bringing more of the joy of camp to school and introducing more of the substance of school to camp. At the field level, FJC and URJ are deepening their relationship, identifying shared measures for success, and laying the groundwork for future collaborative efforts. And on the funder level, two foundations deeply committed to Jewish education are bridging their differences to enhance their leverage. While it is too early to identify concrete results, BTW’s report notes encouragingly: “The most common words used to describe the nascent partnerships are respect, communication, collaboration, support and trust.”

At the first Nadiv convening this past fall, energy and excitement ran high as school and camp heads, Nadiv educators and their mentors reached across their organizational divides and talked together about the best ways to inspire and educate Jewish youth. Participants left with a sense of being halutzim (pioneers) in a model that can bring down some of the walls that separate classroom-based and experiential education, winter and summer, teacher and counselor.

We will have to wait several years to fully understand whether this experiment to catalyze new institutional collaboration will achieve what it set out to do. If it does, we hope that other camps, schools and educational institutions will adapt elements of the Nadiv model for their own collaborative experiments. We equally hope that other funders will be inspired to invest (or even better, co-invest) in such efforts.

We will, of course, continue to “learn in public” as the project progresses and look forward to your reactions and your own stories of collaboration in the Jewish education world.

- Josh Miller is a senior program officer at the Jim Joseph Foundation. Steven Green is director of grants management and administration at the Jim Joseph Foundation. Leah Nadich Meir is a program officer at The AVI CHAI Foundation. Joel Einleger is a senior program officer at The AVI CHAI Foundation.

Ah-Ha Moments

As it is written: “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.  And God saw the light that it was good.” (Bereishit, 1:3-4)

Each day, we have moments of light.  We have thoughts, ideas, and contemplations about ways to improve life.  We think about how we can help our family and friends.   We think about ways to make our jobs more meaningful or easier. We think about how to become healthier.  We think.  Not every idea is a good one.  We likely have more bad ideas than good ones.  Yet, rarely do we take the moment to reflect and determine its merit.

Human nature inherently pushes us to go and do.  Many of us attend seminars, trainings, workshops, meetings, conferences, etc.  The rooms buzz with excitement and ideas.  The hour long presentation was the best thing you ever saw.  You walk out the door energized.  You get back to your desk and realize you can’t articulate the ideas you left the room with just moments ago.  Shadows of your thoughts ruminate in your brain.  You try your hardest to put your thoughts on paper, but you can’t reach them.  It’s too late.  The moment of reflection has passed.

God teaches us reflection from the start of the Torah.  Each act of creation is followed by a recap and nod of approval.  The Yitro Leadership Program brings Assistant and Associate Camp Directors together from all parts of the US.  In a three-day seminar, not a moment is wasted.  We walk in and have agendas, workbooks, notebooks, and pens waiting for us.  The flip charts are placed at the front of the room near the PowerPoint projector.  There is a coffee table at the back of the room.  It’s time to work.  You look at the agenda, and it looks like any other schedule: three sessions before lunch, another four before dinner, and an evening program.  The agenda, however, doesn’t tell the whole story.  We revisit the content from our previous two seminars.  We look at the challenges facing our own camps today.  We build a frame, together, for what we are about to do.  We are learning as we share with each other best practices.  With each topic, we work through case studies, build skills, and develop benchmarks.

We are asked to flip to page one of our workbooks and jot down any revelations we’ve had.  The top of the page reads “Ah-Ha Moments”.  It’s a blank page in a workbook.  We are in session, but we are silent.  Many would look at this as wasted time and space.  This is intentional.  Reflection is critical to learning and development.  It underscores that which we have found most important.  It allows us to remember our thoughts at a later time.

Thinking back on our sessions, I had so many “Ah-Ha Moments”.  One of the most profound discussions and topics was about the way we train our staff.  Training is not a one week process at camp.  In fact, training is an ongoing process in life.  We coach, we teach, we cultivate, and we teach our staff to be better individuals.  We are in the business of role modeling. We are in the business of growing children into young Jewish adults.  What do we want our kids to Know, Value, and Do in their lives? These are the methods we use to train our staff as role models.

What’s an idea that you lost?  What do you wish you remembered?  What got lost between the meeting room and your desk?  Stop.  Think.  Reflect.  Write.  Imagine the good that can come from it.

- Dan Baer, Associate Director, Camp Interlaken JCC