Archive by Author
May 24, 2013 by Herzl Camp Admin, under General Posts, Letters from Alumni, Letters from Parents.
By: Corey Kirshenbaum
Editor’s Note: Corey was a Herzl Camp Counselor from 1980-83. He is married to Marcy Noodell, who was an Ozo in 1981 and a staff member from 1982-83. Their son, Ryan, was a 2010 Ozo and their daughter, Kylie was a 2012 Ozo and will be a Madricha (counselor) this summer.
Live from New York its Saturday Night! Yes, I know that I am blogging for Herzl Camp, but I can’t help myself in thinking that Saturday Night Live and Herzl Camp have a lot in common. So, let’s start with Saturday Night Live. It opens with a long list of cast members before finally naming of the host for the evening. The host presents a funny monologue and next comes the skits.
So why is this like Herzl Camp? Each year, for decades, a new host is hired. It may be a Madricha (counselor) or even member of the Hanhalah (Senior Staff). Staff members are hired for their abilities to nurture and enhance the environment for campers. But, it is the hidden talents of the staff that remain undiscovered until just the right moment that surprise us each summer. Someone can get up at any moment during a meal or an evening program and spontaneously entertain the entire camp. In my day, people like Andy Halper, Jeff Usem, Ricky Bloomfield, Mike Fine and Steve Gottlieb come to mind. Although I have not been to camp for 30 years, I hear this still occurs. Today it may be Eli Leonard, Noah Sanders or Adam Levitt (I heard from several sources). 30 years later, the “wild and craziness” (pun intended) is the same. Such entertainers have been vital to the traditional shticks of Herzl Camp.
Herzl Camp is known for its shtick. And I mean rolling-on-the-floor-laughing shtick…from Three Chartreuse Buzzards to Twelve Gates and everything in between. Herzl Camp Shtick is the best! How do they come up with these things? No one knows. It’s just like Saturday Night Live…it comes to them as they are live and in front of the campers. That’s the best part. No one knows who is going to be the next schtick-maker at Herzl. It could be that quiet camper with a knack for impersonations or a counselor with funny sarcasm that is noticed by his cabin. In fact, you might not even know it, but one day you might wake up and realize that you are the schtick-maker.
As you flip through old scrapbooks and photos from camp, you’ll remember the camp schtick that kept you laughing and engaged each summer. Whether your summers included King Farook or some other memorable character, Herzl Camp schtick is top notch and could possibly even rival Saturday Night Live skits (or in some cases, even trump the SNL skits).
I realize that most of the Madrichim (counselors) don’t go on to become famous stars like the cast of SNL. But I can tell you that the schtick-makers of Herzl Camp live forever in the hearts of Herzl Campers. Herzl shtick lives on for decades and then new shtick begins. Even if you don’t make millions, it is sure fun while it lasts. Who will be the next shtick-maker? It could be you.
May 17, 2013 by Herzl Camp Admin, under Benefits of Summer Camp, Letters from Staff.
By: Raleigh Kibort, 2013 Madricha
Editor’s Note: The title of this blog comes from Debbie Friedman’s (z’l) version of T’filat Haderech (The Traveler’s Prayer). T’filat Haderech is the last song we sing during song session every Friday night at camp. Flip Frisch introduced the song to camp in the mid-90s and we’ve been closing song session with it ever since then.
Being a graduating senior comes with a lot of ritual. Much like camp, there are traditions that are followed for no reason other than that they are tradition. There are parallels to be drawn everywhere. Prom is essentially final banquet, without the lem-lem or the bugs. Graduation too: in just a few weeks, I will be dressing up with my friends in matching outfits and walking in a line—sounds a lot like Shabbat caravan to me. My move to college will involve expert packing skills, loss of sleep, and a leap out of my comfort zone: all things I have learned at camp. But more than the comparisons and the lessons, I am grateful to be returning to Herzl this summer because I crave its routine. At a time in my life where nothing seems certain—my friends, education, and even time zone—I am blessed to have camp as a constant in my life.
I cannot wait for the familiarity of being woken at 7:30 sharp by some form of nineties pop music, rubbing my eyes on the walk to flag, and really waking up a few minutes later the second the pancakes come out and the first dance begins. I yearn for the transition periods between activities, always peppered with friendly conversation and animal crackers. As my friends count down to days by the pool and sleeping until noon, I have found myself fanaticizing about being exhausted, covered in dirt for reasons I cannot explain, and bolting from place to place on an escape to Israel. I can predict my emotions on Shabbat, because they are unchanging. Song session will make me cry, Havdallah will give me chills, and the soup will make me thirsty.
But I also crave the chaos. Whether it’s the ending to a Shabbat story, or a surprising discussion answer from a shy camper, there are always surprises. A beautiful paradox exists in Webster; nothing ever changes, but nothing is ever really the same, either. The routines which we revel in summer after summer still retain their messages no matter how many times they are experienced.
There is still nothing like the butterflies in stomachs of campers and staff alike when the first busses kick up dust on the gravel and the cheering begins for the first time. A strange satisfaction will somehow always remain in losing one’s voice after a particularly intense ruach battle. There will always be something to giggle about, something to learn from, and somebody else’s socks in your hamper. When camp first started renovation for the capital campaign a few summers ago, there were fears that perhaps in losing the buildings, some of the “Herzl magic” may have disappeared as well. Of course, this was never true. Magic doesn’t exist within buildings. It lives in traditions, in words whispered in flashlight time, and the tune of the Birkat Hamazon.
At the end of this summer, when the lights come on after song session and it is time to head back to Minneapolis, everything will change for me. But luckily, with Debbie Friedman’s (z’l) words “May we be blessed as we go on our way” in my head, I know I will be, because I have the constant of camp to return to.
May 10, 2013 by Herzl Camp Admin, under General Posts, Letters from Staff.
By: Rabbi Joseph Robinson
As we approach Mother’s Day in the secular calendar, I can’t help but think about the mothers in my life. That’s right I said mothers…my mother, my mother-in-law, and my wife. I’m not making the argument, however, that my wife acts as my mother…read on.
Deborah – I lived a blessed life where I was always cared for and looked after by my biological mother (and father). My mom has this natural gift and passion for her craft of quilting. It was her quilt that comforted me and kept me warm as I grew to adulthood. It was her quilt that draped my wife and I at our wedding as a Chuppah (wedding canopy). Now, it is her quilt that protects and comforts my children. My mother exemplifies what משלי (Proverbs) teach us: “She sets her hand to the spindle…and gives generously.” (31:19-20)
Mary-Ellen – Marrying into a family comes with a lot of interesting adjustments. Before Emily and I were married her mother and I connected well. She gets a bit of pleasure at being a bit of a “tough nut to crack.” Though she would never admit it, she loved me right away. Mary-Ellen is the strength and the glue that keeps my in-laws afloat. I am constantly in awe of the power and elegance with which she manages herself. “She girds herself with strength, and performs her tasks with vigor.” (Proverbs 31:17)
Emily – Though she is not my mother, Emily is the mother of my children. Her contribution to my life has gone beyond measure. What I will say is that in the same way iron strengthens iron, Emily has been the greatest partner ever. “Her mouth is full of wisdom, her tongue with kindly teaching.” (Proverbs 31:26)
It is my deepest hope and desire that this trifecta of valorous women continue to lighten my life with their souls. But more then that, that my daughter Ruth looks to them as models of excellence.
Happy Mother’s Day to you and the women in your life.
May 3, 2013 by Herzl Camp Admin, under Benefits of Summer Camp, General Posts, Giving Back to Camp, Letters from Alumni.
By: Dr. Audra (Nathanson) Mintz
In a few weeks, campers will be boarding the bus to Herzl Camp. It was 21 years ago I first boarded that bus for the first time. I did not know how fateful that ride would become in my life. I had been to summer camp for the last four years but never to Herzl Camp. I had heard many things about it but was not quite sure what to expect. Upon arriving I was placed into a cabin with one other person I knew and eleven other strangers. Apprehension and nerves quickly went away as I got to know my new home away from home and quickly became close to all of my new friends. I also was introduced to Judaism at a level I had not yet experienced before. I returned the year after, and the year after, spending my junior high and high school summers swimming at the waterfront, praying at the Mercaz and screaming ruach the Chadar.
I credit Herzl for many things. Camp strengthened my commitment to Judaism and encouraged me to get involved with my synagogue and youth group growing up. It gave me the strength and courage to choose to attend a University where I only knew one person going in, however I was comforted by the fact that there was a large Jewish population in which I knew I would fit, and camp prepared me for countless experiences I have faced in the professional world.
While all these are important, the most important thing that Herzl gave me is the relationships I formed at Herzl. Four of my bridesmaids were in my Kadimah and B’yachad cabins. Twenty years later they are still my closest friends. My husband and I met at camp when I was 17. Today we just celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary and the birth of our third daughter. I have lived all over the country, but it is my friendships and relationships formed at camp, which remain some of my closest and most cherished.
All this was possible, because of the scholarships I received as a camper to help pay my tuition. I am thankful every day for the donors that made it possible for me to board that bus twenty-one years ago. I never could have imagined the family, friendships, and memories that started that amazing day. Please donate today. You never know whose future you might be impacting and who will be boarding that bus because of you.
Here’s to Dear Old Herzl!
Click here to make a scholarship donation and help a camper board the bus this summer.
April 26, 2013 by Herzl Camp Admin, under General Posts, Jewish Camping, Letters from Alumni, What I Learned from Camp.
By: Danya Kornblum, Director of Youth and Camping at the Sabes Jewish Community Center
My summers were a little different than my friends’ because my mom, Shelley Kornblum, worked at camp. She watched from afar as I developed my true love of Jewish camping. When I wasn’t trying to sneak into her house to use the bathroom (I’ll never tell whether my sisters, Roni Falck and Keren Wolfe, ever tried) , I enjoyed the same incredible experiences and ruach (spirit) as everyone else. I made lifelong friends, created meaningful memories and developed the values that I still hold true today. My summers at Herzl, while also filled with great memories of my mom, were truly a gift and I am deeply grateful to my parents for sending me to camp at an early age. I will always cherish my summer camp experience.
Without a doubt, Herzl Camp shaped me as a person and eventually led me to my current position as the Director of Camp Olami.
When I was approached to join the Camp Olami team, it had been almost ten years since my last summer at Herzl. I was nervous about the opportunity. What did I know about day camp?
But my concerns were unfounded. Whether it’s day camp or overnight camp – Jewish camping is what is important. It is an essential part of the development of a child’s Jewish identity. Extraordinary staff are trained to guide campers within the framework of Jewish ethics, beliefs and values. Camp provides opportunities for campers and staff to experience success, gain confidence and develop feelings of accomplishment every single day. I try to instill the experiences and values I learned at Herzl Camp every day into Camp Olami.
Now, years after my own unique Herzl Camp experience, I’ve come full circle. I watch my son explore and experience camp from 20 feet away on the field at Camp Olami. I peek out the window of the office and watch him “do camp” by developing meaningful relationships with his friends, learning a new skill in sports, laughing hysterically at camp shtick, and singing at the top of his lungs. I make a genuine effort to let him experience camp like all of his friends. As any parent knows – it’s hard to stop yourself from stepping in when your child is upset or hurt, but I trust the truly remarkable Camp Olami staff and feel confident that he will be taken care of.
In no time Aidan will begin his Herzl Camp career. All I had to say to him was “gaga pit and cinnamon rolls” and he was sold. I can’t wait to hear his camp stories and watch him grow into a young man and develop lifelong friends who become his own Adam Challs, Kim (Schneider) Gelperins and David Juriszs…his “camp people”.
I am so proud that Aidan’s early day camping experiences developed and nurtured his love for camp and set him on a path to continue his Jewish commitment at Herzl Camp and beyond. I won’t be surprised if one day far in the future he will be watching his children from the window, enjoying all that camp has to offer.
Shabbat Shalom (love the 1994 Ozrim)
April 19, 2013 by Herzl Camp Admin, under General Posts, Letters from Staff, Outdoor/Environmental Education.
By: Tali Grossman, 2013 Lead Farmer
As my senior year of college winds down, it’s nice to think about returning to my home in Webster this summer. Before we know it, Herzl will be filled with campers enjoying the sun. Regardless of where I might be in the fall, knowing that I’ll be working in the Gan Kehilati (Community Garden) at Herzl Camp this summer gives me great comfort. Chloe Goodman and Carly Spencer will join me on the Gan Kehilati Team this year and we look forward to digging in the dirt with all the campers!
From new vegetables to eye-catching, colorful flowers, this summer’s garden is sure to be a special place. We’re adding hot peppers, a pole bean tee-pee, a pizza garden and more! We are so excited to have a full garden chug the summer and can’t wait to spend our days with campers working together to create a meaningful (and delicious) place at camp. In the process of taking care of the garden and growing our own food, we’ll learn about social justice, community involvement and our connection to the land. Extra produce will be donated to the local food pantry.
If you are thinking of pulling out some garden tools and starting your own growing space at home, consider some of these fun ideas:
- Plant Beans or Summer Squash: Beans and squash are easy and fun to grow. Plant pole and snap beans along a fence so they can climb as they mature and blossom or plant bush beans in your backyard. My favorites are yellow crookneck squash and Royal Purple Burgundy Bush Beans (Deep purple on the outside and bright green on the inside).
- Start a Compost Pile: Pick a spot in the yard to pile your vegetable and fruit waste for compost so it doesn’t go to waste. Composting is easier than you think and a great way to reuse your kitchen waste! Don’t forget to add lots of dry plant materials like leaves and shredded paper to ensure proper decomposition. Check out this video for instructions on how to compost.
- Create a Shoebox Garden: Fill and old cardboard shoe box with soil and plant some colorful flowers or herbs in it. If you’re worried about the box breaking down when you water the plants, consider putting it in the ground – the whole thing will just break down into the soil, and the plants will do fine.
- Make a Theme Garden: Pick garden theme like tea or pizza and plant herbs and vegetables that relate to your theme. Chamomile and mint for tea. Basil, tomatoes, peppers, onions and chives for pizza.
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Earth Day!
April 12, 2013 by Herzl Camp Admin, under Jewish Camping, Letters from Staff.
By: Drea Lear
The first chalutzim (pioneers) came from near and far to Israel to till the land, build a home, and create a bright future for their children. As the summer approaches, I find myself contemplating these chalutzim.
I think about the first day of staff orientation. Like the chalutzim, our 135 program staff and 30 support staff stride into camp with varying levels of skill and knowledge of their specific role. Their goals and motivation for working at camp may differ, but all come with the same intention – to work hard, everyday, to create a place for campers to grow, learn, and thrive.
This year, I had the opportunity to attend the Jewish Agency for Israel’s (JAFI) Shaliach Training Seminar at Kibbutz Shefayim. While working with our staff from Israel, they reminded me of the excitement experienced before embarking on a new adventure, of metaphorically tilling the land to plant new knowledge for yourself and others. They instilled in me a renewed appreciation for life in Israel and helped brainstorm creative ways to bring Israel Education to our campers with the support of The Goodman Initiative.
I could go on about my short experience in the Holyland; the impact of the day trips to Jerusalem, Caesarea and Tel Aviv, the power of seeing a whole country stop for 2 minutes while sirens rang to commemorate the Holocaust, the opportunity to meet past and future Israeli campers at their school in Sderot. For now, I’d rather just say this: Our staff come from near and far. Each brings unique skills, passion, and commitment to the job. They walk into camp every summer with a renewed appreciation for the role they will play in making this particular summer a success. They work hard, every day, to build a land that they, and their campers, are proud to call home. Just like the chalutzim.
April 5, 2013 by Herzl Camp Admin, under General Posts, Holidays, Letters from Staff.
By: Rabbi Joseph Robinson, Director of Jewish Education
Editor’s Note: Cup-O-Joe is an on-going series written by Rabbi Joseph Robinson, our Director of Jewish Education.
My family and I just returned from our Pesach (Passover) vacation. It was a great to share in the reenactment of the Exodus from Egypt and spend quality time with family and friends. Throughout, I caught myself wanting to freeze frame on moment after moment. Could I find a way to grab these gems and never let them go? It was going so fast and it seemed as though our long awaited trip would just flitter away. Weeks of planning and counting down the days were reduced to seconds.
It was not until the second Seder (Passover festive meal) that it hit me…we had been counting down to this trip, but when we got there, we should have started counting up. You see, from the second Seder, we begin what is called Sefirat HaOmer (the Counting of the Omer) which goes until the holiday of Shavuot. While Pesach is the symbol of our liberation from slavery, Shavuot marks the acceptance of Torah and entry into a covenant with God. During the Omer, we literally count every day, holding onto that feeling of freedom until we are embraced by Torah and God.
Counting up should be our new focus. As we begin the “count down” to the end of the school year, and the beginning of camp, let us also keep in mind the tradition of the Omer. Our thoughts should not just be about moving on to the next thing. Rather, we should hold on to the sacred moments in our lives and begin counting up to them.
March 29, 2013 by Herzl Camp Admin, under General Posts, Holidays.
Why not share some of these gems at your Shabbos dinner table tonight…you’re sure to get a laugh (ok, they may be laughing at you rather than with you but that’s ok).
Knock Knock! Who’s There?
Eliya! Eliya Who?
Q: Why do we use a Haggadah on Passover? A: So we can seder right words.
Q: What’s the difference between matzo and cardboard? A: Cardboard doesn’t leave crumbs in the carpet.
The Jews are camped in front of the Red Sea. They see the Egyptian chariots approaching. Moses turns to his PR man.
Moses – “Nu, where are those boats you got us?”
PR Guy – “Boats? You didn’t say nothing ’bout no boats.”
Moses – “So what do you want I should do? Part the waters and we can all just walk across?”
PR Guy – “If you can swing that, I’ll get you your own chapter in the Bible!”
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Passover!
March 22, 2013 by Herzl Camp Admin, under Benefits of Summer Camp, General Posts, Jewish Camping, Letters from Alumni.
By: Amy Sandler, Director of Camp TEKO
Recently, I have read several articles and studies examining the benefits of attending and working at summer camp. These articles highlight the unique life skills children and young adults learn at camp. Camp not only has the power to shape our adolescence, it continues to impact us throughout our entire life. I speak from first-hand experience. As a young child, I attended day camps, like Girl Scout camp and basketball camp, where I learned how to act independently, connect with new people, and to try new things.
But still, I was reluctant to attend overnight camp as I was worried I would not make friends or have a good time. I am so grateful for the day camp experiences I had because when I finally decided to attend Herzl – it was a simple and smooth transition. I am not only a past Herzl camper, but a past staff member and Program Director. I attribute my communication skills, my love for Judaism, and my desire to give back to our community to all the summers I spent at Herzl.
I’m now the full-time Director of Camp TEKO and it’s even more clear to me now that day camps and overnight camps are partners in developing strong, independent Jewish kids. At an early age, day plays an important role for both children’s and parent’s development.
Even before entering kindergarten, you can be a TEKO camper. As young as five years old, TEKO campers step onto a bus, wave goodbye to their parents, and embrace a day of unfamiliarity and new experiences. Parents may be apprehensive about sending their young children away for an extended period of time. They wonder: will my child be okay? Will my child have fun? Is someone looking out for my son or daughter? For some first-time campers, adjustment to camp life is easy while others may require some extra attention. Our dedicated staff are not only qualified, they are eager to help each child make day camp a positive experience. Every morning campers embark on a bus ride filled with singing and games as they make their way to camp. Once there, campers embark on a day of exploration and discovery through games and activities. For many of our campers, it is their first time learning about Israeli culture, playing the ever famous game of gaga, and swimming in a lake rather than a pool. At TEKO, it is our goal to provide campers with new experiences.
We often take for granted our ability to take care of ourselves, to have meaningful conversations with others, and to be part of a caring and close knit community. This journey of learning about self identity and community oftentimes begins at camp. I have so many vivid memories of attending camp as a child, yet it seems as though my years as a camper and staff member passed by so quickly. I remember sitting at my final song session on Friday night as a Program Director and Herzl staff member. I remember feeling overwhelmed with emotions. Here I was sitting in my whites, holding the hands of my closest friends, and weeping as I knew I was closing a very large chapter in my life. Although my time at Herzl is now complete, the friendships I made and the skills I obtained will remain with me forever. I realized then and there how fortunate I was to have been a camper and a staff member at Herzl. I am grateful that I, as TEKO’s Camp Director, can now help to ensure that children receive the same enriching and life-changing experiences I had as a child.
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Passover!
March 15, 2013 by Herzl Camp Admin, under Benefits of Summer Camp, Letters from Staff.
By: Drea Lear, Assistant Director
We often talk about the importance of “camp friends”. They have seen us at our best, our worst, our saddest, and our happiest. We find that they understand us in ways other people just do not. They belong to a subset of individuals who will love us even when we have dirt on our face, haven’t slept in three days, and are upset because we lost our most recent game of Gaga.
Most importantly, camp friends challenge us to try new things, pushing us to step out of our comfort zones and, inevitably, face our fears. My camp friends have always encouraged me to be the best version of myself. I take solace in the fact that, with their support, personal growth is a great adventure.
Earlier this week I, once again, had the opportunity to spend time the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s Yitro Fellowship for Assistant and Associate Camp Directors. While I have only known these individuals for less than a year, I have found that they fall into my definition of “camp friend” quite seamlessly.
Over the course of one short year, we have explored the ins and outs of staff development and supervision, story telling, program assessment, and most recently improving our presence. Throughout the process, we have all encouraged others (and been encouraged) to stretch our skills and think outside of box…even when it’s outside of our comfort zone.
So, while we did not, technically, grow up going to camp together the Assistant and Associate Directors of the Yitro II cohort have become “camp friends” and continue to challenge me to grow personally and as a camp professional. How wonderful that I get to bring my experiences back to a place like Herzl where my homegrown “camp friends” push me the rest of the way.
May you have a restful Shabbat and take time wish the “camp friends” in your life a Shabbat Shalom!
March 8, 2013 by Herzl Camp Admin, under Benefits of Summer Camp, General Posts, Letters from Alumni.
By: EJ Clyman
Editor’s Note: Below is an excerpt from an interview with the Clyman Family (EJ, Wendy and Hannah) about their experiences at Herzl Family Camp. The Clymans have spent the last 2 summers at Family Camp and will be returning again this summer for their 3rd year because they simply cannot get enough!
EJ: Hannah, how do you feel about going to Family Camp at Herzl Camp and what are some things you like to do there?
Hannah: It is exciting once you get there. It is really easy to sleep overnight. There are lots of counselors around, and you can go into your friend’s cabin and sleep over if you want. I like all of the amanut (arts and crafts) projects and going to the beach. I have made new friends at camp and I also get to see friends I already have.
EJ: Wendy, what do you like best about Herzl Family Camp?
Wendy: I like feeling that if I lose track of my kid, that they are in a very safe place.
EJ: Do you lose track of your kids often?
Wendy: Funny. I also like the Shabbat Caravan before flag lowering on Friday and really enjoy being on the waterfront. EJ, what do you like about Family Camp?
EJ: The best part of Family Camp is that I get to be a camper with my family. I love seeing the expression on Hannah’s face when we do something silly together. And, I like holding your hand while we walk to the Chadar (dining hall). Seeing my old friends with their own families is a pretty great feeling too. In particular, however, I truly enjoy hiding behind the North Haks (bathrooms) at night shaking branches to scare people as they walk by (first deployed by myself on Mindy Soshnik Horowitz in 1989 – Mindy, if you are reading this you are a great kid and good sport. The resulting scream and ensued laughter has me giggling to myself 24 years later). Editor’s Note: We will make sure that EJ is confined to his cabin each evening during Family Camp so you can walk to the bathroom in peace.
EJ, Wendy and Hannah: We hope to see you all at Family Camp 2013!
Family Camp weekend is a meaningful vacation for families, parents and grandparents. It is a perfect way to introduce future campers to the Herzl experience, a chance for current campers to introduce their parent(s) to Herzl Camp and a way for all families to experience Jewish camping together. If you are interested in joining EJ and his family at Family Camp 2013, click here to register.
March 1, 2013 by Herzl Camp Admin, under General Posts.
By: Rabbi Joseph Robinson, Herzl Camp Rabbi
Editor’s Note: This week, we are excited to kick off a band new blog series called Cup-o-Joe, written by our very own Camp Rabbi. (Rabbi JOSEPH Robinson’s blog is called Cup-o-JOE…Get it?). The Cup-o-Joe series will feature everything from observations about life and bite-size Jewish teachings to D’var Torah entries and maybe even a few humous stories about raising his adorable twins.
What are our sacred cows? Every now and again we each need to stop ourselves from surrendering to the sacred cows in our lives. By that I mean we ascribe great value and meaning to things. We create a “sacred cow” to gives us focus. It helps us center our world in a way that makes sense. Yet the world does not stand still. Rather it is dynamic and always in flux.
Remember back to when the Israelites were hanging out at the foot of Mt. Sinai? For the majority of them, all they had ever known was life in Egypt. Now they were free and they wanted to celebrate that freedom. What better way to do that than to create an actual sacred cow? After all, the Egyptians’ way of life was to worship idols, why shouldn’t they? Their sin was only partially related to creating and worshiping an idol (let’s face it, it is in the big ten). In fact the larger sin was staying stagnate in a moment of freshness.
Let us find the strength to identify our sacred cows and embrace the innovative. May it be that Herzl has the wisdom to hold on to the sacred, but be ready to dismiss the cow.
February 22, 2013 by Herzl Camp Admin, under General Posts, Giving Back to Camp, Letters from Alumni.
By: Louie Sloven
I would not be the first person to tell you that Bikkurim is about more than winning. My team got last place during my first six Bikkurims - but it was still my very favorite day of the summer, throughout all my years as a camper. As a Herzl staff member, I rediscovered my love for Bikkurim because it gave me a chance to go nuts with all of the over-the-top Ruach I could muster. I loved being able to staff teams with campers of all different ages, and it was so much fun to have the opportunity to take a group from being strangers to being teammates in the space of a single day. Of course, when you do win Bikkurim, it’s awesome. When I won my first Bikkurim ever, I was a captain for the Blue Wizards’ team — I remember putting last bit of energy I had into getting my team pumped up, helping my staff and campers be great, and when we found out that we had won at the end of the day, I felt like I was on top of the world. I was so proud of my team!
I had a great time every Bikkurim, even all those ones I didn’t win. Then, during the summer of 2011, I crossed over to the other side and helped plan two Bikkurims. This past summer, I got to help plan another two. I learned a lot about Bikkurim during my time on the planning side. Bikkurim is different from every other day at camp, because the intense Ruach doesn’t come and go — it lasts all day long! More than anything, I learned that everyone else loves Bikkurim as much as I do. Everyone is excited to be a part of their team’s shot at winning the day. It’s like the underlying ethos of Herzl — all the Shtick, Ruach, silliness, and group bonding — all concentrated into one moment where everybody sets their Herzl-y-ness to maximum. It’s what Herzl would be like if you condensed an entire summer into a single day. The entire day is a testament to how happy and excited we all are just to be at Herzl for the purpose of having a good summer together. How could you not love it?
All through this past summer at Herzl, I was thinking about how it was likely going to be my last, and how much I wanted to make a board game about Herzl that would be a fun way for campsick alumni like myself to relive their Herzl experiences with their friends. I’ve always loved board games, and I figured the best thing to do would be to make a board game about the experience of working as a Herzl staff member. The more I thought about it, though, the less I liked the idea. It would be fun for past staff members, sure. But the best games have an element of competition to them. Any element of that in a cooperative camp game would just seem cruel. What would you do, play a card to make one of my campers forget his buddy tag? Sounds awful – nobody’s winning at that point. Camp’s a cooperative place most of the time, and introducing competition into that doesn’t seem like it’d make for good gameplay. I wanted to design a game that would be fun for campers, that would frame camp in terms that they can understand, and be about something at Herzl they really care about.
But Bikkurim is a totally different story. Bikkurim is all about competition, but in a Herzl-friendly way. It’s about competition that makes everyone better, about trying to do the very best you can. It’s about showing your Ruach, rallying your team, and getting your campers as excited as possible! It brings out the best in our campers and staff members. And we use it to encourage our campers to be the kind of people that we want them to learn how to be at Herzl. The more I thought about the idea of a Bikkurim board game, the it occurred to me that the most important part of Bikkurim isn’t the specific events, the facilities, even the Herzl traditions (although all of those things are important in their own right). The thing that makes Herzl special is its people, the campers and staff members who show up every summer to share in something special together. Without that, we wouldn’t have a camp at all – so any game about Bikkurim would have to revolve around Herzl’s people. Herzl is all about its characters.
I started thinking of ways to make a game about Bikkurim where you send staff members to events to represent your team. I laid out a series of events that would represent a day in the life of a camper during Bikkurim – you’d start with Breakfast, then play Rotation events, and move throughout the day. Whoever has the most Ruach at an event gets the most points. Of course, various events would have different skill symbols on them, and they would give Ruach bonuses to staff members who had those skills and could help their teams succeed at those events. And of course, there would have to be a big emphasis on Herzl Shtick. It would be impossible to make a good game about Herzl without making it possible for players to use some goofy Shtick to get their teams energized and take their Ruach to the next level. I started writing Shtick cards that you could play when you assigned a Staff Member. The idea of those cards really appeals to me, because I love the idea of a camper or staff member having an experience on Bikkurim that has a permanent impact on who they are — maybe they discover leadership talents they never knew they had, or maybe they forge a friendship with a teammate that becomes a big part of their life.
The idea started spiraling out of control in my mind, distracting me from classes and consuming my free time. I needed to figure out how to turn this idea into something concrete. I needed help turning card concepts into card art, and for that I needed someone who knew how to do top-of-the-line graphic design work. I also needed an outside perspective on the viability of my ideas, from someone who understood enough about camp to be able to think about the game in terms of the flavor and feel of Herzl and of Bikkurim. I needed someone who I knew cared enough about Herzl to put a lot of work into a camp project with little to no expectation of reward. I needed someone who I could communicate effectively with, preferably someone who I had worked with before, and whose skill set complimented my own. And I needed someone I could trust.
Calling Avi Baron and telling him about the idea was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.
Avi was enthusiastic from the get-go, and even though I had initially only planned to ask him for help on the graphics work at first, he knew (even better than I did) that I couldn’t do this alone. Over a period of three months, we worked together on our secret project – and by early January we were ready to order our playtest copies. It felt like an incredible accomplishment. Something was still missing – apart from just creating a fun game that Herzl campers, staff, alumni, and families could use to bring the magic of Bikkurim to kitchen tables and Tzrif floors, we wanted this project to make a real impact on the Herzl community. Avi and I talked it over with Anne, and discussed our options carefully, before landing on our solution. We decided we’d donate 50% of the proceeds from sales of the game to the Herzl Scholarship Fund, to help bring more campers to Herzl to experience the magic of Bikkurim for themselves, and then Avi and I would each use a portion of the remaining proceeds to impact camp in our own way. We’re really happy about the charitable dimension of our project; it’s the kind of impact we’ve always wanted to be able to have on Herzl, but we never knew how… until now!
We knew that we had a lot of work to do to get the word out about the game so that we could reach our funding goal, but the response from the community so far has been more encouraging than I could have hoped. When Avi and I showed off our playtesting prototypes at the Herzl Shabbat Dinner, it was absolutely heartwarming to see campers looking through the cards on display to find their Madrichim, and laugh at how silly their pictures were. Thinking about the conversations that families will have about Herzl memories while playing this game fills me with joy.
I feel like I’ve barely even scratched the surface — I didn’t even mention the Ballad of Bad Horse 5-6 player expansion, the Plot cards, the Clipboards that each team gets with blank backs that you can decorate, the stretch goals that we have planned for later on in the Kickstarter campaign, or how much fun I’ve had writing the project blog – but whatever specific aspects of the game designing experience I could tell you about, the underlying story is the same. I would summarize it like this: This past summer at Herzl inspired me to envision a game about Bikkurim that brought the excitement of the real event to Herzl lovers, wherever they may be. Avi shared and embraced my vision and strengthened it with his own, and after countless hours of design and revision, we brought this game to life in a way that we are very proud of. And as we spread the word about the game, we continue to encounter unanimously supportive and encouraging responses from a Herzl community that shares our love for Bikkurim, our desire to make an impact on the Herzl scholarship fund, and our eager anticipation of the day we ship the final product to all of our backers. Working on this project has been one of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences of my entire life, way up there with the summers I spent as a Madrich at Herzl. When I look at card art that communicates the contagious energy of Bikkurim, or when I write a captain ability for a staff member card that really captures the idea of that person as a team captain, or when a player gets excited about a sweet play during a playtest, I remember the rush of excitement that I got from being a camper or a staff member during a real Bikkurim. We hope that you experience the same when you get a chance to play Bikkurim in a Box with your friends and family — and enjoy the game with our thanks, because it could not have happened without you.
Editor’s Note: You can order your own copy of Bikkurim in a Box on Louie and Avi’s Kickstarter page.
February 15, 2013 by Herzl Camp Admin, under Camp Updates, General Posts, Letters from Staff.
Working together over the last 5 years, we have transformed Herzl Camp and built a brighter future for our community. Herzl friends, families, and alumni have given $8,150,000 to rebuild and expand camp.
Thank you to all who gave their time, talent, and treasure. You made this dream a reality!
When construction is complete this summer, the historic Here’s to Dear Old Herzl Campaign will have added 20% more camper capacity and made camp fully accessible for children with physical challenges. The renovations, additions and expansions include:
✔ 25 new cabins
✔ 2 new showerhouses (Haks) & renovation of two existing Haks (Final new Haks coming this summer!)
✔ 1 new Ozo Moadon
✔ Staff office and living space expansions and improvements
✔ Expansion and renovation of Mercaz
✔ Rebuilt and expanded waterfront & waterfront access
✔ Tennis center renovation and expansion
✔ A 12,000 sq. ft. indoor sports structure (new this summer!)
✔ Amanut (Arts & Crafts) expansion (new this summer!)
✔ Marpeah (Infirmary) expansion (new this summer!)
We’ve condensed the last 5 years into 6 minutes – click here to check out the transformation!
February 8, 2013 by Herzl Camp Admin, under Benefits of Summer Camp, General Posts, Letters from Staff.
By: Drea Lear, Assistant Director
A little over a year ago I was chosen to participate in the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s Yitro Fellowship for Assistant and Associate Camp Directors. I have had the honor and privilege to build relationships with and learn from some of the most talented, passionate, and inspiring educators, camping professionals, and professional peers in our industry.
In that time, Herzl Camp has seen our share of progress. Our community has come together to complete the historic Here’s to Dear Old Herzl campaign raising more the $8 million. We have expanded our programming to include the Israeli Camper program and Gan Kehilati (Community Garden), among others. We have seen an unprecedented investment in the future of our camp.
Through the Yitro Fellowhship, I have had the incredible opportunity to grow personally and professionally along with Herzl Camp. As I take a minute to reflect on my journey, I find myself coming back to an essay I wrote in my Yitro application. There are so many lessons to learn, plans to implement, and opportunities to explore, and yet, we are at the beginning, paving the way for generations to come.
Please describe your career path and how you came to be a camp assistant director.
How does your current job fit into your future professional goals?
“It is not up to you to complete the task, nor are you free to desist from it.” Pirkei Avot 2:21
I learned this important lesson as I hopped off the bus on my first day of overnight summer camp. Even at the young age of ten, I knew I was becoming part of a community. I saw the faces of the staff that would inevitably shape the rest of my life and knew that one day I wanted to be like them. I had to be a part of it.
Throughout my years as a camper I learned the traditions and rituals that made up the camp experience and came to understand that camp was a microcosm for the larger Jewish community. As young Jews we are taught the traditions and rituals of our religion and commanded to carry them on, to teach them to our children, in the hopes that the Jewish people may live in perpetuity.
It was the same at camp. It seemed that each year the staff had made a promise to pass on the camp experience in the hopes that their campers would have the same experience they had. It was their mission to ensure that Herzl Camp lived forever. As I took my place amongst the staff, I made the same promise.
During my years on staff I moved through the ranks gaining more responsibility each year. It became clear that the mission of passing on camp’s traditions was much more successfully carried out when everyone was working together towards the same goal. In college I focused my studies on Management and Team Development aiming to put these skills to use in an informal educational setting. Camp was the perfect place to stretch my skills in building group identity, creating effective modes of communication, and motivating individuals to work towards a common goal.
The years went by and my passion for working with campers and staff continued to grow. After college, I spent one year working in Corporate America where I learned that my passion was not just a passing fad. It was real. I realized that, at camp, I could make the impact on the world that mattered to me.
Campers and staff come and go. They spend a few summers celebrating Shabbat, playing Ultimate Frisbee, canoeing, and making new friends and incredible memories. Then they move on and new campers and staff arrive. But little do they realize that their camp experience is paving the way for the next generation. Their efforts to teach the traditions and rituals truly make camp thrive in perpetuity.
So we may never be able to impact every young Jew, but we can enrich their lives with traditions and rituals, even for one summer, through the camp experience. And, as long as I can, I plan to be a part of that.
February 1, 2013 by Herzl Camp Admin, under General Posts, Letters from Staff.
By: Avi Baron
Editor’s Note: The lyrical master, DJ Avi Baron, treats us to his original rap song about camp. Valleyview Times was quoted as saying, “It’s not awkward! It’s endearing.” Grab your turntables and rap along with Avi. To see what else Avi does in his free time, click here to learn about the hot new board game in town…Bikkurim in a Box. Avi Baron and Louie Sloven did put Bikkurim in a Box and your can order yours now!
Sometimes I think about a place in Webster,
where, this summer, I know a lot of us were.
I think about the intricacies of Shabbat,
and how rock climbers know how to tie a good knot.
I think about campers who have a long commute,
and how extremely excited they are for amanut.
Like, when they pack their bags, they deal with 3 ounces,
but when we’re all at camp, no one dare announces
the fact, that ten months of the year, we’re all apart.
doing regular things, like calling it art;
or being the cheery greeter, working at Walmart.
Camp people like camp, and Herzl Camp’s a camp too,
We have lots of fun things, and we stand for the Jew.
Don’t call it Camp Herzl, that’s not the right way,
We’re kind of unusual, well unique, I’d say.
Sometimes I think about our Bikkurim,
and if an outsider came that day, how would we seem?
We’re all running and skipping with our faces painted,
I don’t think they’d try to get very closely acquainted.
All around, everybody is singing and cheering,
while in the middle, this visitor is struggling hearing.
Trying to understand what’s going on,
like an American suddenly thrown into Taiwan.
But forget about that guy, just keep on winning.
The marathon’s coming up, it’s like the 7th inning
of a baseball match that lasts all day,
‘cept this game starts in the most unusual way,
with a giant creature of papier-mache,
and ends on the new big screen display.
Sometimes I think about Yom Yisrael
and all the other words that in English we misspell.
like Haks and the Marp or even the mercaz,
but don’t worry that much, yeah we have a good cause.
We teach all the prayers b’ivrit,
and we make sure to separate our milk from our meat.
Our chinuch team’s ideas are really free flowing
we learn about Israelite, Levi, and Cohen.
And Shabbat is the best, we all dress up in white,
we sit down for the meal, take our first bite,
and we know in that moment it’ll be a good night.
Sometimes I think about the last day of all.
“Goodbye, I’ll miss you, don’t forget to call.”
There’s always next year, and we pray to God,
that we’ll all be back soon for B’yachad.
January 25, 2013 by Herzl Camp Admin, under Benefits of Summer Camp, General Posts, Letters from Staff.
By: Jonathan Edelman (2013 Camp Photographer)
I have the best job at Herzl Camp.
Each and every day, I wake up and go to flag like everyone else, but unlike the rest of the campers and staff, I don’t head straight for the breakfast table. As soon as the Ozrim press play and the dancing begins, I emerge from the office with my camera in hand. From the first picture at breakfast to the last at dinner, I am reminded about 800 times a day why I have the best job. No matter how frustrating the project in Amanut or how difficult the Navy Seals drill, when I look through my lens, I always see a smile. The campers and counselors alike love having their pictures taken and compete for the camera constantly. How could you hate a job where you get to see the happiest people in the world all day long?
But there is also a challenging aspect of my job. When I think back to my favorite moments as a camper, I think about my first time climbing the rock wall, catching my first fish and swimming across the entire lake all by myself. Now, as the photographer, I have the difficult task of documenting these magical Herzl moments. How can I ever truly capture that amazing feeling of winning Bikkurim? Throughout each day of the summer, I try my hardest to show the best parts of camp through my photographs. I have come to realize that what I was doing was similar to what camp had done for me. In my six summers as a camper, Herzl showed me the best parts of myself. Herzl showed me that I could have the confidence to lead a service on Shabbat or swim over a mile and a half in the lake I once was afraid to step foot in. Herzl showed me that I could be who I am and not worry about what others thought. All of these feelings and emotions are felt by the campers today.
I received a notification last week from the mailroom at my college that I had received an envelope from Minnesota. I ran up the stairs to my mailbox and pulled out the 2012 Herzl yearbook. As I sat on the floor of the University Center, flipping through the pages, I saw in the photos those feelings and emotions I had once felt. I saw the campers jumping into their first puddles, the Ozrim glowing as they sang their song for the first time, and the Yachers weeping as they held each other during their last Shabbat caravan. Everything I had experienced and felt in my past years at Herzl were there, only this time other faces besides my own were within the borders of the photograph.
January 18, 2013 by Herzl Camp Admin, under Letters from Alumni, Top 10 Lists.
By Jason Shapiro, Former camper, Ozo, bunk staff and program director
Editor’s Note: Jason lives in CA and has worked on shows including LOST (no, he wasn’t the Smoke Monster), Parks and Recreation, Once Upon a Time and just finished writing for the newest season of Betty White’s Off Their Rockers on NBC. To see what else Jason is up to, check out his other blog posts at http://hellogiggles.
As we all know, Herzl Camp is rich with tradition. There are so many that it’s hard to keep all of them straight. Cinnamon rolls on Saturday morning, The Ozo Play, song session, B-I-K-K, get to know your counselor, Ultimate, CHIPWICHES! And the list goes on. Traditions are one of the many things that make Herzl Camp so special to all of us. So I decided to go back into the record book and make a top ten list of the best long forgotten Herzl traditions. Here goes:
- Pick Your Counselor: This was a tough tradition to maintain. Back in the day, campers used to be able to pick their counselors themselves. Boy was the first day a free-for-all. And the counselor that got picked last? He/she had to go home. That was always a bit awkward.
- Two Week Long Bikkurim: Bikkurim used to be WAY more extreme. Two weeks of pure mayhem. They had to shorten it to one day back in ’63 when there were more campers at the Grantsburg Hospital than at camp.
- The Lucky Cinnamon Rolls: This tradition dates back to the very beginning. It was customary for campers to collect one cinnamon roll on each Saturday morning that they were at camp and then bring them all home. It was said that if you ate them on the morning that you sent in your cabin requests, you would have good luck. Gross.
- The Long Nosh: One special day each summer, nosh would last all day. Why? Who knows.
- Hide the Amanut Project in the Challah: This was a fun (and dangerous) game that the Tasters used to play. Pretty self-explanatory: they would hide little amanut projects (clay designs, popsicle stick structures, etc.) in one of the Shabbat challahs and then wait to see who got it. When someone found the project, all the tasters would run up to that person and shower them with Taster hugs. Pretty terrifying actually.
- Drink the lake!: This one was both weird and gross. There was a contest each summer where counselors would compete to see who could drink the most lake water. The hardest part was keeping it down.
- Leaving Offerings to You Know Who (Rhymes with Nundra): This is a tradition that I am SO glad fell by the wayside. There were huge scary effigies everywhere to ward off you-know-know, and campers even left out their chanut candy each day. What a waste.
- King Taster: This was actually a pretty cool tradition that I hope they bring back. Each summer, one taster was voted “King Taster” which allowed him/her to run the camp for a full day. It was a “whatever they say goes” type of situation. They had a crown and scepter and everything. Sadly, they had to end this tradition after a King Taster kept yelling “off with their heads” all day long. It creeped everyone out so they ended the tradition.
- Dress Up Like Golda Meir Day: Dress up like Golda Meir day used to be so much fun. It’s exactly how it sounds: everyone at camp looked like Golda.
- The Theodore Herzl Off: The Theodore-Herzl-Off was a special evening program that was held once a summer, where campers and counselors would compete to see who knew the most Theodore Herzl quotes. Participants could only speak in quotes and the program went on until all the quotes ran out. Sometimes it lasted deep into the night and no one could go to sleep. One time it lasted six days.
Well there you have it! Wonder if anyone remembers those (I guess it would be pretty hard since they are all made up, oops). Hey, maybe you guys can try a few of these this summer. Drink the lake! Drink the lake! Drink the lake! OK, DON’T DRINK THE LAKE!!
January 11, 2013 by Herzl Camp Admin, under Letters from Campers.
By: Hannah, 2012 B’yachad Camper
Editor’s Note: This blog was originally written by Hannah for a school project. It is reprinted with her permission and with her parents’ permission.
Looking back on 2012; I could think about starting high school, getting elected for USY board, or even getting my drivers’ license, but the only thing that comes to mind is Herzl. This past year has changed me and it isn’t just because I’m a year older, but because I had an experience I never thought I was capable of having. It was exactly a year ago, on New Years’ Eve that I had the crazy idea that I should go to camp. It wasn’t until a month or so later that I made the decision to sign up. February 13th, to be exact, is the day I registered for what was going to be the scariest thing I’ve ever done. My first and last summer (as a camper) at Herzl Camp. To say that I was nervous to see how this summer was going to turn out would be a bit of an understatement. It was all I ever thought about, from that day that I registered, until the day I left for camp. Little did I know the things that just 6 weeks at Herzl could do for me.
All of my friends that had gone to Herzl for their whole lives had been trying to convince me for years that I needed to go to camp. That Herzl was the most incredible place ever. That there was this thing that they called “Herzl-magic”. That’s the one phrase that got me every time. No place could be so great that they can say “magic” happens there. In my mind it just wasn’t possible. When I told my friends that I had signed up to go to our B’yachad summer they were beyond excited. They continued to tell me I would be experiencing this so called “magic” as soon as I got to camp and I continued to tell them they were crazy. As it turns out, I was the crazy one for not believing them. After months and months of worrying about this summer the day finally came and I got on the bus to go to this “magical” place. At that time nothing was scarier then actually stepping foot on that bus and leaving my home for 6 weeks. For the first week or two of camp I thought that this place was amazing and I was having a great time, but the whole “magic” thing just wasn’t happening. I figured you probably just had to be at camp for more than just one summer to experience this “magic”. Again, I was wrong.
Since this was the only summer I would be spending at camp I decided to keep a very detailed journal and would write exactly how I was feeling every night. Looking back on my journal I can clearly see how camp was changing me right before my eyes and I didn’t even notice until half way through the summer. It was on July 25th, the day of Holchim L’Chaim, or in my eyes, the day I ran around with a “free hugs” sign, that the “magic” happened. I didn’t realize it until that night when I was writing in my journal, but a whole new side of me that I didn’t know existed came out. At home I never would’ve felt comfortable enough to run around and go crazy in front of 400 other kids. Until that day, I just thought I was more quiet than all of the other campers, but it turned out I just needed time to let the “magic” kick in.
As I came to realize on that day, “Herzl-magic” is a real thing that can change anybody who is brave enough to leave their home and their comfort zone for a few weeks out of their summer and head up to Herzl Camp. No where else in the world have I seen the magic that happens at Herzl. The magic that has the power to change a person, not just for a few weeks out of their summer, but forever. The magic that allows a person to open up and find their true self. The magic that allows someone to feel comfortable around people they’ve never met before. The magic that allowed me to run around with that “free hugs” sign. As I wrote in my journal later that night, “I guess there really is such thing as Herzl-magic and it’s happening right before my eyes.”