As our campers and staff put down their school books and head into winter break, I want to share with you some of the ongoing learning the year-round staff has and will be doing. For many of us, education and lifelong learning are top priorities and Capital Camps is proud of the immersive, informal Jewish education experience we create every summer. At camp, we give everyone in our community the opportunity to live Jewishly and embed values such as teamwork (avodat tzevet), social responsibility (achrayut), gratitude (hakarat hatov), kindness (chesed), and curiosity (sakranut) into everything we do. We use some of the time during the “off-season” to continue our own learning journeys.
As we prepare to take our LITs to Israel this summer, Austin has been working hard on finding new and exciting ways to bring a taste of Israel to all of our campers and staff. He is currently enrolled in a Graduate Certificate program in Israel Education through the iCenter and George Washington University. He is one of 30 in the 4th Cohort of this program which consists of two Experiential Jewish Education courses and two Israel Studies courses capped off with a week-long seminar in Israel. This week he is finishing up his final papers on Experiential Jewish Education and has spent time learning best practices for creating fun informal educational experiences.
On the end-of-camp staff satisfaction survey, we received feedback that we can do more to professionalize the role of counselors. Melissa was invited to be part of select group through the Foundation for Jewish Camp called SURGE that took a deep dive to address the current staffing challenges across all camps. Camp Directors and Assistant Directors from 24 Jewish camps discussed why it is harder than ever to recruit and retain staff, as well as how staff development during the summer is so important. In addition, Austin, Melissa, Penny and I all attended workshops specifically focused on addressing the needs of staff. Learning leads to action and early in the New Year, we look forward to sharing professional development initiatives for our staff.
Havi, our CEO, Brad Stillman our Board Chair, Samantha Notowich, our Donor Relations Manager and myself, were recently accepted into The Harold Grinspoon Foundation J-Camp 180’s GIFT Leadership Institute. This learning opportunity focuses on implementing culture change and understanding roles within an organization towards creating a meaningful Culture of Philanthropy. This learning opportunity aligns nicely with the value of social responsibility and community mindedness (achrayut).
At camp, we have and will continue to focus on mental, emotional, social and spiritual health (MESSH). While the acronym MESH has been used widely, Jewish camps have added an “s” to represent spiritual health. The Foundation of Jewish Camp offers Mussar study groups for professionals. Mussar is the Jewish practice of character development. I was part of this study group last year and am continuing to do so this year.
The values listed above can all be found on the “Making Menshes: A Periodic Table”. At camp we are in the business of Jewish identity building and creating menshes. Ongoing lifelong learning is essential to our ability to continue to challenge our campers and staff to grow as individuals and to build Jewish community.
As formal education pauses for winter break, we hope everyone finds time to explore curiosity (sakranut), wonder (malchut) and love (ahavah) with family and friends. Thank you for being part of the Capital Cam’s community. We wish everyone a Happy, Healthy and Peaceful New Year.