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A Little Luck and a LOT of Shtick

April 17, 2015 by , under General Posts, Music.

potash website

By: Ez Potash (Herzl Alumnus)

Dee and I are very lucky people. Living in New York City, we are often reminded of that. Passing by homeless people on a cold night right after we have just eaten a warm meal at a great restaurant really puts things into perspective. We are lucky that we were born twins. We are lucky that we were raised with parents that didn’t care about glamour or material things, but rather teaching us about what mattered in life. We are lucky to have always been in the right place at the right time, which then turned into performance opportunities and national exposure. But you know what we feel the luckiest to have? Herzl Camp.

We will be the first to say that Herzl Camp has turned us into the people we are today. Herzl enabled us to grow as individuals, personalities, and entertainers. It gave us the opportunity to get up in front of hundreds of people and make them laugh, and then a few minutes later bring them to tears with some soul wrenching music. Herzl taught us to use the schtick and ruach we learned and turn it into tools we could use in the real world. Song sessions and other camp activities gave us the confidence and the experience to perform and be vulnerable in front of people. It gave us immediate feedback (sometimes unwanted) and forced us to learn from the comments and become better each time we got up to perform.

Today, we are very fortunate to be able to play for people all over the country and take our career to another level. Recently, we performed at the Grandstand at the Minnesota State Fair for 6,000 people, in Silver Spring Maryland for 3,000 and in Omaha, Nebraska for 5,000. Amazing experiences. Every time we are onstage, we close our eyes and picture the chadar filled with close friends in Shabbos Whites eagerly awaiting song session. Why? That memory always brings us back to a time when we were surrounded by people that drove us to be our best.

Potash State Fair

Another skill we were able to develop at camp was our cooking. While most of you are aware that Dee and I brought our Spicy Mayo creation to camp, not all of you know that we cooked for staff members when campers were not at camp. We made everything from nachos to créme brulée, quesadillas to challah bread pudding. Not only did this expand our culinary chops, it gave us the opportunity to try new things in the kitchen and explore an additional creative outlet. The confidence we gained by serving 150 people and simultaneously bringing joy to the staff, enabled us to recently cook in the kitchen with James Beard Award Winning Chef Gavin Kaysen for our newly created YouTube Channel.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_yy8bNgboRw

Spicy Mayo

The tools you learn at camp have a major impact on your life outside of camp. As campers, our staff members pushed us to go out of our comfort zone (sometimes too much, Max Silverman!). A major reason why we do what we do is to inspire other people to also pursue their dreams. We recently received this message from a Herzl Camper following our Grandstand performance:

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This summer, we will be producing our second album and working on other exciting endeavors. It will be the first time we have not spent the summer at camp since third grade. While we will miss camp and all of our friends and Herzl family, we know that the confidence we have to pursue our goals is directly attributed to our time at camp. We look forward to visiting and sharing our excitement with Machaneh Herzl and we hope we can continue to inspire the many people in the Herzl community. The words of wisdom we hope to impart are to remember to bring some schtick into your life outside of camp! You won’t regret it.

We’d love for you to stay in touch! Follow us on:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/potashtwins

Twitter: @potashtwins (www.twitter.com/potashtwins)

Instagram: @PotashTwins (www.instagram.com/potashtwins)

Vine: The Potash Twins

And be sure to check out our website at www.potashtwins.com and our food blog at www.double-stuffed.com.

Potash 3

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There are Good Friends and Then There are Camp Friends: Nash Bash 2k15

April 10, 2015 by , under General Posts.

By: Asaf Segal (Herzl Alumnus) on behalf of Andrew Azorsky, Molly Korman, Allison Weisman, Mari Prauer, Josh Usem, Michael Lefco, Lauren Weisberg, Hallie Rosenthal, Evan Tarshish, and Jonathan Kanter (Herzl alumni). 

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There are good friends and then there are camp friends.

Entering your late early twenties is a time of transition in most peoples’ lives. Supposed “real” jobs take up most of your time. You apply to grad school to hang on to a few more years of college. You have conversations about mutual funds or about the latest politician to get indicted (and actually know what you’re talking about). It’s a time when you feel pressure to outgrow some of your favorite things from childhood, and at the top of that list is summer camp.

For those fortunate enough to spend their summers at Herzl Camp, it makes this even harder. Being deemed “too old for camp” is tough, but there’s a silver lining. It turns out that warm, fuzzy feeling known as Herzl magic can be packed in a suitcase and unleashed with the right people. For eleven past Herzl staff members, that became a reality in March 2015.

For one glorious weekend we transformed Nashville, TN into Herzl Camp in the south. We brought the magic and memories of camp to a new place and made it feel like home. Three days filled with sightseeing, live music and barbecue transported us back to the shores of Devils Lake and the woods of Webster, WI. Friends who hadn’t seen each other in years embraced like it was the first day back in the Ulam. Familiar stories and jokes came flooding back as if they had just happened yesterday during evening program. Even without the flag circle and cinnamon rolls, we harnessed that Herzl magic just by being together.

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This trip, affectionately nicknamed Nash Bash, was the result of intense planning and a deeper desire to reconnect with old friends. Roles were assigned such as a “Rosh Boker” with the role of finding delicious breakfast and brunch spots, and there was even a “Rosh Chugim” who was tasked with planning fun, daily activities to make the most of our time in Nashville. Before we knew it we were meeting up in Music City for a reunion months in the making.

The weekend was infused with Herzl traditions like a Friday night homage to Thursday cookouts and the full seven minute birthday song. The floors of our house became K’far Top and K’far Bottom and no day was complete without a well-deserved minucha.

More than anything it was about being with friends who allowed each other to be silly and carefree without the fear of judgement. Staff and campers alike work to make Herzl a safe place where everyone can be their weirdest, happiest, best selves. It’s an idea that we carry with us and try to create whether we’re at camp or not.

Herzl teaches us more in addition to being considerate of others. Getting 11 people showered and ready in the morning can only be accomplished by those who have experienced the rush to the Haks before the Shabbat caravan. You may think zumba and ozo dances are camp things – and so did we – until you discover there’s line dancing in the South. Pay extra attention the next time you’re in the chadar for breakfast because you never know when you’re going to need those moves! Herzl affords us the opportunity to become self-sufficient and self-confident in everything we do and this is something I am eternally grateful for.

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As a camper, it doesn’t matter if you’re from Minnesota and your best friends are from Kansas City or St. Louis or Omaha. You have those precious weeks in Webster to learn and grow together as friends and Jews and individuals. As a young adult, those summers are far from guaranteed. Your friends are in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, DC and even Atlanta and Tampa. But when you get together you can pick up right where you left off. You’ll meet new friends throughout your life, but you’ll never have friends like the ones you make at Herzl Camp.

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Herzl (Just What the Doctor Ordered)

April 3, 2015 by , under General Posts, Herzl, Beyond Webster.

Jordan blog

By: Jordan Marks (Herzl alumnus)

My first time stepping onto the grounds of Herzl Camp was way back in 2008 as a first year staff member. I had just graduated high school, and wanted to make some money before college started. I only knew a few people and had never spent time at summer camp in my life. Since that moment, Herzl was a constant for me in a world where everything else seemed to change.

Herzl was there with me when I decided to transfer colleges, from the University of Kansas to Emory University in Atlanta. Herzl was also there when I graduated from Emory and was getting ready to live on my own for the first time. Finally, Herzl was there in the weeks before starting medical school back home at the University of Kansas. While I didn’t know it at the time, Herzl had been preparing me for this journey all along.

One of the most important skills I learned at Herzl was being able to make the most out of the resources available to me. As waterfront director, I was presented with the opportunity of using Devil’s Lake, combined with a creative staff, to give campers the most magical and fulfilling experience possible. While we didn’t have any luxury yachts or a fancy swimming pool, campers left the waterfront with a love for the lake.

Since beginning medical school 18 months ago, I find myself using that resourcefulness on a daily basis. The workload of a medical education is extreme, and there are both useful, and not-so-useful ways to go about getting through it. In order to make it to the end of each semester, you have to be confident in your study plan and work through obstacles along the way. The problem solving foundation I built on the Herzl waterfront still gives me that extra boost of confidence I need when it comes to attacking new and complex subjects.

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Another skill I sharpened while at Herzl was communicating with fellow staff in many different contexts. During my last stint at camp, I worked full time in the marp (health center) providing medical care to the campers and staff. Throughout the summer, new doctors and nurses came through with different personalities and camper care tendencies. As time went on I began learning how to adapt to each care provider’s unique style, and helped to make the marp a well-oiled machine. Today when I step onto the hospital floor, I am more than just a sponge that soaks up information from my superiors. I add to the patient care process by communicating effectively with those around me.

After being a staff member at Herzl Camp, there is little that you aren’t prepared for. The magic that exists at camp is made up of more than endless ruach and emotional song sessions. It’s also over 100 staff working together and communicating as a single unit, rather than as individuals.

As my medical career progresses, I will continue to use my time at Herzl as a template for success. While I don’t know where I will end up, I know that I will be ready for the challenge when it comes my way.

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My Summers Disconnected

March 27, 2015 by , under General Posts.

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By: Ben Segelbaum (2015 Staff Member)

At camp, one of the most difficult things for me isn’t being away from parents, having to walk to use the bathroom, or eating different food. No, the hardest thing for me is to let go of the one thing that connects me with everything – my friends, my sports teams, and almost anything else – with the touch of a button.

The 4.7” display of my phone is hard to spurn for an hour. Imagine my struggles without it for two months! See, camp is like the Chronicles of Narnia..On one side of the portal is the bustling world we live in today, but once you pull up to Mickey Smith Parkway, you enter a disconnected, fairytale-like land. The appearance of the Parkway signifies the end of my access to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, MySpace, Friendster, WebKinz and sports updates (oh my!).

I’ll be honest, as a huge sports fan, fixing the sports update problem has been my undercover mission during my nine summers at camp, and I will continue to pursue a solution during my upcoming 10th.

Going to camp from the middle of June to the middle of August means that the Stanley Cup and NBA Finals will be over before I come to camp. Baseball is only halfway through the excruciatingly long 162-game season, and NFL training camp is just beginning as camp comes to a close. So far, I have found no real answer, just rare opportunities for news from the outside (hint: nag Gary Kibort for a Twins update once in a while).

But once I arrive at camp, something comes over me. I realize that all of those things don’t matter. Hey, if my parents could do it when they were going to camp in 1950 (probably more like late 70’s), pre-smartphones, I can do it, too. Social networking is easy to get rid of, because at camp you are constantly surrounded by the people who follow or friend you on those sites.

Instead of sending a direct message, you DIRECTLY walk to that person and say what you want to say. At camp, instead of friending people on Facebook, you open yourself up to someone new and you give that new friend something that your social media page won’t. If you like what they’re saying, no need to favorite or retweet it, just laugh with them and create a memory. That’s the beauty of being disconnected. That’s the beauty of spending your summer in the wooded area of Webster, WI.

Camp is so meaningful for building relationships that you wouldn’t want to waste it by communicating with people outside the friendly Herzl confines, anyway. You don’t have to depend on technology to connect with people. Sure, it may be easier. It may require less effort, but hey, some of the best things take hard work. Instead, spend time getting outside of your comfort zone, meeting new people and creating great memories that will last a lifetime.

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These lessons have impacted my life away from Herzl as well. Without the time I’ve spent away from my tech devices at camp, I would not understand the importance of putting my phone down when spending time with friends and family and interacting face-to-face. It’s these moments that are most rewarding in life.

I can only hope that all campers (and staff) at Herzl this summer will learn this lesson to the extent I have.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben

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Camp, It’s Part of the Lesson Plan

March 20, 2015 by , under General Posts.

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By: Laura Lewis (2014 CCT) 

I am not just a fourth grade teacher. I am a 22-year-old first year teacher living and working in a brand new city straight out of college. Any part of that equation would be challenging on its own, but I am experiencing it all at the same time. It has been taxing, yet, exciting, and I know that the skills I have gained throughout my summers at Herzl Camp will help me find success in the coming years.

I am one semester in and every day has brought a new challenge. Teaching is one of the few careers where new hires must be just as capable as their colleagues who have been in the field for over 30 years. There is no learning curve, but I am someone who needs a learning curve.

My classroom is comprised of 26 unique individuals, and in the beginning I had no idea how to handle all the different personalities, behaviors, and mindsets. Sure, my five summers on staff at camp have exposed me to campers all over the grid, but this was like nothing I had ever experienced before.

There have been numerous instances when I’ve felt like giving up. On several occasions I’ve stopped to ask myself what I’m doing and why I’m here. Ever since I was these kids’ age, I’ve dreamed of becoming a teacher…so why am I doubting it so much now that I have achieved my goal?

We all find inspiration and reaffirmation in unsuspecting places, and mine came when I serendipitously stumbled upon a psychic in a D.C. marketplace. I thought it would be silly and a waste of money, but the first words out of this woman’s mouth were, “You are a teacher.”

For whatever reason, this reassured me that I am doing what I was meant to do, and Herzl Camp gave me the tools I need to succeed.

As I recall my past experiences at camp, I feel comforted and hopeful knowing that eventually, with plenty of patience and perseverance, I will be able to impact my students’ lives similarly to the ways I connected with my campers over the years.

Any Herzl staff member can tell you that camp is so much more than just a job. Working at camp teaches you countless invaluable life skills that you don’t fully appreciate until you utilize them in the “real world.” I knew I wanted to be a teacher when I first started working at camp, but I lacked confidence. After a mere three weeks on staff, I was reassured that working with children was the right path for me. On top of that, I realized that my time spent on staff would give me the strong foundation necessary to be successful in my future field.

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Amongst countless other things, camp has taught me to be flexible and think of curveballs as opportunities instead of roadblocks.

There are so many things thrown at me over the course of a school day that I cannot afford to waste time getting flustered or frustrated. On my very first day as a teacher, I intended to plan my afternoon lessons while the students were at recess. Less than a minute after I sat at my desk to work, I was summoned to supervise the students on the playground and lost all my planning time. When the bell rang to resume class, I was significantly less prepared than I had hoped — but summers of heavy dew, broken speedboats, and last minute evening program shticks prepared me to think on my feet and create something truly meaningful for my students.

My first six months as a teacher have been a whirlwind, but thanks to camp I have felt capable and prepared. My time at Herzl has not only helped me make a difference in my students’ lives, but it continues to help me personally as I take on one of the most challenging transitions I’ve ever faced.

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You Can Take the Kid Out of Herzl…

March 13, 2015 by , under General Posts.

Brad Surber Herzl

By: Brad Serber (Alumnus)

“I love this,” she said. “It feels more like a summer camp than a college class.”

There’s a good reason for that,” I responded. “With the exception of 2004, this is the first time I haven’t been at a summer camp since 1995.”

It was Summer 2011 in Central Texas. The young lady was one of the poor, unfortunate souls who had signed up for my intense five-week summer session of COMM 203 (Public Speaking) at Texas A&M. We had just finished playing “two truths and a lie” or one of the other icebreakers I learned back at camp.

The drought that year gave us over 100 days of over 100-degree weather, and my lucky section was in the one room with fans rather than air conditioning. While talking to her, I flashed back to a hot day when I was a Ha’atid camper and our program director, refusing to let the heat ruin our day, got everyone in the Old Chadar to sing. My student had just made me homesick. Actually, I’ve coined a better word for it: campsick.

Serber Texas

Campsickness is a familiar feeling for me. Around this time (February/March) every year, I start waking up regularly from vivid dreams of walking in the Shabbat caravan, singing around a campfire, or boating on Devil’s Lake. I make egg salad sandwiches and listen to old mixes from my Kadimah, Teva Trek, and Ozo summers. It helps a little, but I still miss camp.

College Station, Texas and State College, Pennsylvania—I’m living my dream of exploring the world’s most exciting and exotic locations— but they’re pretty far from Webster, Wisconsin. That’s when campsickness sets in.

Serber Pennsylvania

I’m generally not the most pleasant to be around, but I’m learning how to cope with it. When I get sad, I remember one of my
favorite lessons from when I was on staff: “Choose your attitude.”

I could choose to stay sad when I wake up and know that I won’t be working at camp in June, or I could choose to take what I loved about camp and bring a piece of it to whatever college town I happen to live in. When I teach at 8:00 in the morning and my students are still half asleep, I proudly warn them that I’m a former camp counselor who will bring all of the “energy” (read: ruach) that this title entails with me every morning. Although I resist the temptation to begin each class with a hearty “BO BO BO BOKER TOV!” I regularly find ways to work lessons and memories from camp into my teaching and crack a smile when my student writes a paper about her camp’s “color wars” in order to show her understanding of communication theory.

But, as The Wizard of Oz has taught us, “There’s no place like home [camp].”

Do you experience this condition? If so, how do you deal with it?

Brad Serber
2005: Ozo
2006: Taste, Noar, & Chalutzim Madrich
2007: Ha’Atid & Kadimah Madrich
2008: Taste & B’Yachad Madrich & Assistant Rosh Chinuch

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1, 2, 3 FREEZE!

March 6, 2015 by , under General Posts, Shabbat.

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By: Hannah Gilberstadt (2015 staff member)

1, 2, 3, FREEZE!

A typical mealtime under the roof of the Chadar is a blur of cheerful voices, blob-shaped lines, and hydration reminders. Throughout the room, characters of all types (including pirates, divas and pirate-divas if it’s a cabin theme night) blend together to create a colorful, ruach-filled kehilah. Amidst the excitement, however, exists a phrase that can stop a person mid-sentence, mid-bite, or mid-facial expression.

The freeze game, dating back to the ancient days of Herzl history, has proven to be an effective way to measure stealth, test agility, and to refill pitchers. However, the aspect of stillness it brings to the Chadar is often as overlooked as the movements of the campers playing it.

When a camper is frozen in place, attempting to stay under the radar of their staff, they can briefly remove themselves from the craziness of the Chadar and have a chance to look around. Maybe it had started to heavy dew outside, or the letter signs near the kitchen had just been repainted. Perhaps another cabin was showing off some really stellar dance moves, or the kitchen staff had just begun to roll in for an enthusiastic Cook’s Parade. Camp is a constantly changing environment and taking a moment to notice this is as interesting as it is important.

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This idea also applies to Shabbat, be it at camp or at home. Much like the freeze game, Shabbat is a special time to pause in the midst of a hectic week. It’s a time to reflect and appreciate. It’s easy to forget how much happens in a singular week, especially at camp, when it can feel as long as a year. Taking a step back to think about experiences that took place in this short time can add perspective to activities and behaviors that normally go unnoticed or unappreciated.

In this day and age, juggling multiple activities and projects has become the norm. Because of this, it is incredibly meaningful to stop and think about where we are, what we’re doing, and why we’re doing it. It is with this outlook that, come the end of Shabbat (or the freeze game), we can reenter our usual atmosphere with an appreciative, refreshed perspective (and possibly the task of refilling the lem-lem).

Shabbat Shalom!

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Inclusion Isn’t Our Job. It’s So Much More.

February 27, 2015 by , under General Posts, Letters from Staff, Why We Love Camp.

By: Herzl Camp Staff Members

In honor of Jewish Disability Awareness Month, several Herzl staff members wrote posts in regards to their personal experiences with inclusion at Herzl Camp.

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I am the Luckiest Person in the World

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By: Joe Goldberg (Staff Member)

Discs flying, water splashing, ruach cheering and smiles under rays of beautiful Webster, Wisconsin sunshine. EVERY camper has the same entitlement and opportunity to have those magical moments and the most magical summer of their lives.

As a camper alumnus and current Herzl Camp staff member, I’m proud to enter Jewish Disability Awareness Month knowing that the camp I love and have attended for eight summers is an inclusive and welcoming environment.

During my first week as a staff member, I remember a life changing conversation I had with my Papa Ozo (JP Held) about inclusion at camp. I challenged him on why, during staff week, we had put an intense focus on inclusion. JP challenged me back by asking me to think of my camper days. Looking back, my counselors had brought us all together, kids from across the Midwest with different Jewish backgrounds and interests, and built a cabin where we loved and accepted everyone.

The Herzl Magic stems from the understanding that every member at camp, camper and counselor, has the responsibility to build a k’hilah (community) that includes everyone and allows everyone to have the best summer possible. Herzl Camp provides a safe environment that allows every camper to feel accepted for who they are and explore their personal identity.

These past two summers I’ve had the privilege to give back to the Herzl Magic that has given me so many fantastic memories as a member of the Herzl Camp Staff. Specifically, I’ve worked as an advocate for campers who need just a little more attention during the day. Let me tell you these were some of the most phenomenal, difficult, tiring and exhilarating weeks of my life. However, the smiles, laughter and fun splashed across their faces made me realize I have the BEST job in the entire world.

Over the past two summers, I have spent a significant amount of time hanging out with one specific camper. He has Down Syndrome and is one of the sweetest, funniest and energetic 8th grade boys I’ve ever met. In the beginning, we hung out and did our own thing during programs and chugim. However, over time, he became more and more incorporated into the activities. He gained a sense of comfort that encouraged him to want to join in with everyone else and leave my side. It was an extremely proud and happy moment when I would check in and hear, “I’m good, I’m with my friend ____”.

This is what makes the Herzl Camp experience so special. It’s not just the staff that want to be inclusive, it truly comes from the campers. As an advocate, my greatest sense of accomplishment isn’t when I’m with a camper, but rather when his cabin-mates have included him in the program and he has willingly joined.

My camper was truly accepted into our cabin and has a group of friends that look out for him and view him just like any of the other boys in our cabin. I found out a year later that after their first summer with him, five of the boys started volunteering in organizations at home that work with kids who have Down Syndrome. These boys understand what it means to be inclusive and how to form a cabin that is committed to being welcoming and accepting of all. As their counselor, I couldn’t be more proud of the brotherhood we worked to create and I look forward to many more summers with them.

I think the true goal of Herzl Camp is to provide an environment where everyone feels included and knows that they have a second home full of people wanting to accept them for who they are. Inclusion is so much more than asking someone to join in, it’s taking an active role in getting involved and the friendships that follow are unbelievable.

We each have our own needs when it comes to making our summers magical and meaningful. Some of us have needs that take extra accommodation. It is our obligation to fulfill those needs through whatever means necessary. I am fortunate to have these experiences every summer and I am proud to help create the same magical memories that led me to call Herzl Camp my second home.

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Support, Perspective and the Key to Inclusion

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By: Anna Rose Peck-Block (Camper Care Team)

My name is Anna Rose Peck-Block and I am a junior at the University of Vermont. I am in the school of Education and Social Services studying social work. In social work courses one of the first things we learn is a method of practice called the strengths perspective. This perspective states that regardless of difference or disability or disadvantage, every person has strengths. This perspective has been engrained in my mind throughout my last three years, and it keeps reappearing in my textbooks and in my class discussions. However, my time as a Herzl Camp staff member has allowed me to take this perspective a step further and apply it to the campers.

This past summer, I worked as a part of the Camper Care Team. We were a team of three that worked with campers that have special and specific needs or concerns before entering the camp environment. Our team was responsible for the continual care for the emotional and physical well-being of campers throughout their time at camp. Our job was to make sure that every camper felt included and could successfully integrate themselves into the camp environment.

Camp is often seen as a place where children are able-bodied and appear to not have any issues. However, not every child is able-bodied and even those who appear to be have their own struggles. The children who may need more assistance integrating and participating deserve to be included and to experience the magic of camp.

I think the key to inclusion is curiosity. Along with curiosity comes patience and flexibility. Because every camper is different, every camper demands a different level of care and need. By exploring the needs of your different campers, you not only have a road map to integrate them into camp, but through curiosity, you learn their strengths. Recognizing strength in someone who may not fully recognize it themselves is one of the most empowering things you can do for another human being.

Everyone deserves to feel their own worth in the world. A great thing about camp is that you are constantly around each other. Half of being curious and learning and connecting with another person is physical proximity. The other half is investing time and effort into facilitating connection.

This past summer I learned what it meant to be an advocate on behalf of someone else so that I had a road map to aid their integration into the camp environment. I learned how to make connections through physical proximity as well as through effort. I learned to stand on the sidelines and let campers play, but also was ready to provide what they needed, whether it was water, snacks, or simply support.

Herzl Camp is the most magical place. I believe my job at camp this past summer and for the summer to come is to ensure that every camper can enjoy the experience of camp, feels included, and feels like they are understood by at least one other person so much so that they continue to return to a place that can help them develop into their best selves. It’s not a job, it’s a passion.

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It’s a Frame of Mind

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By: Matt Weisberg (Staff Member)

As the three of us step in to the Ulam, the first day camp commotion that is so natural to Daniel (a staff member and longtime friend) and me is completely eye opening to the camper standing beside us. Today is his first day as a Herzl camper and he doesn’t know a single person in the room. The three of us find a seat in the front amongst the screaming and singing staff members. He sits quietly, taking it all in. Hundreds of smiling faces crowd into the old wooden building, nervous and a little excited to hear their cabins. After about 15 minutes, it’s our turn. “In Tzrif Lamed, with staff…”

People ask me all the time why I like camp so much. What about that plot of land in the middle of nowhere gets a 20 year-old kid coming back every year more excited than the last? To me, it’s a frame of mind that is contagious the second you step foot in camp. It is a frame of mind where everyone is welcoming and encouraging. It is a frame of mind where people of all different personalities and backgrounds can make lifelong connections with people they otherwise would not know. In fact, some of my best friends have completely different tastes in just about everything. We’re not friends because we have the same favorite band or sports team. We’re friends because our relationship developed in a context that encouraged us to celebrate and appreciate each other’s unique personalities.

Fast forward: The camper takes the bottle of Mountain Dew in both hands, and begins to chug. His cabinmates watch him diligently as he begins to conquer the bottle. His favorite song (“Can’t Hold Us” by Macklemore) is blasting throughout the cabin. Two weeks have passed and it’s his last day of camp. He finishes the triumphant chug and spikes the empty soda bottle on the ground. The whole cabin erupts into cheers. The nervous quietness he showed just two weeks ago is completely gone. For the next 30 minutes, the kids goof around, share their contact information, and say goodbye to their new friend…

The camper I am referring to has down syndrome – this takes me back to my original thought…There’s a word for that “frame of mind” that I mentioned earlier: inclusivity. An inclusive environment is absolutely vital to a place like camp because it allows kids to be themselves and explore their personalities freely. It fosters personal growth and an understanding for those that are different from you. The result of 500 people simultaneously embracing this inclusivity is incredibly empowering. I watched a group of 13 year-old boys, who had already been friends for years, welcome in a complete stranger and assimilate him to the group in just two weeks. I watched that kid inspire and captivate an entire camp. Most importantly, however, is that in those two short weeks, I watched that kid make new friends, gain confidence, and discover a lifelong love for camp that will keep him coming back for years to come.

Another year of camp has ended. Over a month has passed since his last day at camp, and my co-counselors and I have arranged with his parents to get lunch with him. He hops in the car, takes a quick look at us, and gives a friendly “sup”. We pull out of the driveway and make our way to Chipotle (his favorite restaurant).

It’s the day after the last day of camp, usually one of the worst days of the year. But this time, it’s a little different. We cruise along with the windows down, radio blasting, laughing about memories from the summer and already talking about how great camp will be next year…

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Everything Transfers

February 20, 2015 by , under General Posts.

Gordo Blog

By: Daniel (“Gordo”) Goldschmidt, MT-BC

While in college I learned an educational term: transfer of learning. Basically, this is how learning or practicing one skill affects one’s conceptualization or ability in a different context. For example, football players practicing ballet to decrease injury on the field, or a child learning piano as a 3rd grader leading to more persistence in studying for tests as a 10th grader. As I went through college I found that every skill I learned transferred to another part of life – singing in a choir made me a more musical pianist, being a pianist made me a more diligent composer, being a composer made me a more thoughtful educator, and so on. This became my mantra: “everything transfers.” As I entered my Music Therapy program I noticed a very important transfer of learning taking place: the transfer of skills used being the rosh shira at Herzl camp to my eventual career of being a music therapist.

I was the rosh shira my first three summers on staff at Herzl (2006-08) and learned plenty of “tricks” in the process. For instance: How to ease a dozen rowdy kiddos to relax and eventually sleep over the course of a short, in-cabin set of music, or how to amp-up a mass of minucha-bound munchkins during an after-lunch ruach session. I learned how to work with (and occasionally tolerate) Jewish rock stars, how to set up a sound system for an outdoor 4th of July concert, and many other skills, both musical and non-musical.

…And all of these have transferred into my adult life as a music therapist.*

I learned the science behind techniques I was using at Herzl camp. Things with names like the Iso principle and mood vectoring. Basically, I was learning how to read the current physiological and mental states of arousal in the kids (and often staff) to meet them, and move them to other states of arousal. Without getting too science-y, there were research-based reasons for the concepts I recognized while song leading, and these tricks could be transferred into my school and professional life.

Check out Daniel’s Tedx presentation:

I now work at a psychiatric hospital in Virginia. I work with military members, adults, and adolescents in locked short- and long-term care. I now transfer those skills from Herzl to coerce a room of oppositional adolescents to release aggression and focus attention through drums and other instruments. I now use Friday night song session songs to help psychotic adults connect to reality through their music-based memories. I am using music to build rapport and trust with strangers, just like playing “Od Yavo” to a new batch of campers in the Ulam on the first day of camp.

I realize now what a remarkable opportunity I had at Herzl. I entered college with months of full time experience making music with young people, and was able to apply these experiences to the concepts I was studying. I look forward to seeing how I can transfer the skills I am learning today to my future endeavors.

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What did you learn at camp that transferred into other areas of life? What did you learn from life that transferred into your experience as a camper, staff, or parent of a Herzl camper?

* Just to explain, music therapy is using music as the vehicle for therapeutic change. An example of Music therapy is when a music therapist works alongside a physical therapist using rhythm as a driving force to help someone learn to walk again. Another instance is a music therapist doing song writing with a hospice patient to help them express their love for their family in their final days. From neonatal intensive care units (NICU) to schools, from hospitals to prisons, music therapists can find ways to help people achieve their goals using the relationship between music and the brain.

Rosh shira: song leader
Ulam: a large multipurpose space and theater
Ruach: a “spirit” building music session

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We Found Love In a Phoneless Place

February 13, 2015 by , under Camp Updates & News, Friendship, General Posts, Herzl History, Letters from Alumni, Letters from Parents, Why We Love Camp.

Lots-of-Hearts_www.FullHDWpp.com_

By: Jon Savitt (Marketing & Leadership Development Coordinator)

There are so many great things you can take away from a summer at Herzl Camp – confidence, friendship, really really cool Chanut items that your friends @ home will be jealous about, etc. However, something most people probably didn’t think about amidst the world league playoffs, picnic lunch and banana boating was finding a life partner (cue frightened campers’ faces). OK take a deep breath…Not that this would cross any kid’s mind in between amazing tzrif times and memorable lights outs, but hey! Why wouldn’t you want to spend the rest of your life with someone who can go on and on about Bikkurim until your ears fall off?! I mean, THAT’S romance!

So, with Valentine’s Day right around the corner, we spoke with a few Herzl Alumni who must have had similar thoughts as they found themselves missing Webster..because they ended up tying the knot with each other!

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1) Names?

Neili Rosenbloom and Michael Glotter

What summer did you meet and what were your roles at camp that summer?

We have been going to camp together since Ha’atid in 1998, but neither of us talked to the opposite sex until Kadimah summer, 2002, when we officially became friends. We started dating our first year on staff, in 2006. Fast forward 9 years and we are engaged!!!

What role does Herzl play in your life now?

Herzl is a part of our lives every day. Many of our closest friends are our “camp friends” that we have known since Ha’atid. Michael is helping to kick off the first Chicago Herzl alum event this weekend! We are also super excited to go back to camp this summer for our 10 year ozo reunion!

What do you hope future campers/staff members will learn from attending Herzl Camp?

We hope that future campers/staff members appreciate what it means to spend a summer at Herzl. There is no other place where (in just a matter of weeks) you can make lifelong friends, learn what it means to live a life guided by Jewish values, and MAYBE even meet your future life partner.

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2) Names?

Skylar Werde and Erin (Cohen) Werde

erin and skylar

What summer did you meet and what were your roles at camp that summer?

Erin brought me to camp in 2002. We were both bunk staff at that time. Following that we shared PD roles. We were Co-Program Directors for Taste, Kadimah, and the ran the first Tzofim. Our last year at camp I was the Programming Coordinator and Erin was the Specialist Coordinator.

What does Herzl Camp mean to you?

The values and work ethic that came from working together at camp built a tremendous base for our relationship. We know how to communicate, lead and negotiate from our experiences at camp. Not only that we speak a shared language that only Herzlites know and appreciate. Herzl has helped define and shape our shared views on religion and tradition.

What role does Herzl play in your life now?

I serve as a board member and Executive Committee Member. Erin has volunteered much of her time and has acted as a coach to staff in her current role at Affiance Coaching.

What do you hope future campers/staff members will learn from attending Herzl Camp?

I hope the continuation of traditions and the Herzl take on Judaism is alive and well. I hope to always be able to recognize a former Herzl camper and staff member by who they have become. I see the Herzl community only strengthening over the years.

__________

3) Names?

Cassie (Feldman) and David Benowitz

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What summer did you meet and what were your roles at camp that summer?

We met as campers in 1992 but started dating as Ozrim in 1999.

What does Herzl Camp mean to you?

Herzl Camp is incredibly important to us. We often joke that if not for camp and the fact that we deemed each other “our best option” that summer, we likely would not be together today. We had, after all, known each other and been in the same group of friends for 7+ years. Our relationship aside, Herzl is where we learned to proud and confident Jews, independent adults and part of a community. It’s also where we truly built our best friendships, most of which are still strong today.

What role does Herzl play in your life now?

I am a former board member, still a volunteer and donor, hopefully a parent of a camper in 5 years.

What do you hope future campers/staff members will learn from attending Herzl Camp?

I think camp is the place where you get to really be who you are and find the people that love you for it. The intensity of the experience (especially the staff experience) forces you to really get to know yourself and your peers, there is no time or energy for inauthenticity.

__________

4) Names?

Mary Lou Frishberg and Danny Allen               

Mary Lou Frishberg & Danny Allen

Mary Lou Frishberg & Danny Allen

What summer did you meet and what were your roles at camp that summer?

We met July 10, 1970..Danny was the Kadimah Director and I worked as a WSI on the waterfront and was also a Kadimah counselor

What does Herzl Camp mean to you?

Herzl is the place where we met and fell in love. For Danny as a young camper from Denver, it was a safe place for Jewish kids to grow both as a person and a Jew. For both of us, as young adults, it was a unique opportunity to experience a Jewish community at its best, as well as a proving ground to hone our leadership and interpersonal skills. Where else could you write, produce and execute a play with 50 performers for a one night audience of 200? Where could you learn to discuss the origins of Zionism and lead a weekly sicha on what being Jewish means to 10 year olds? Where do you learn to live as a Jewish community singing, eating, praying, playing all the while comforting a homesick camper? HERZL CAMP!

What role does Herzl play in your life now?

The role of Herzl for both of us is the seminal institution that helped shape our Jewish Zionist world view, it helped us create life long friendships and brought us together. Now, the current role Herzl plays…. Great memories! As a family we returned to Herzl in the late 80’s/early 90’s to work on staff (Mary Lou), be campers (our children, Sarah, Uri and Noah), and visit (Danny). Since then we have returned for a staff reunion and are proud donors to support Herzl going forward.

What do you hope future campers/staff members will learn from attending Herzl Camp?

The future of Herzl..We hope that Herzl will be a place that connects Jews to each other and to Israel. It would be great if Herzl had a camp in Israel for American kids and Israelis kids could come to Webster.
__________

5) Names?

Jodi Swatez Lipschultz and Noah Lipschultz

Lipschultz

What summer did you meet and what were your roles at camp that summer?

We met in the summer of 1994, I was an Ozo and Noah was a counselor.

What does Herzl Camp mean to you?

Herzl means so much to us! Being at Herzl as a camper and staff created my sense of identity within my social group, my Jewish identity as a member within my community and gave me a foundation of independence. A safe place away from home, where I had some freedom to make choices (good and bad), and learn about myself, and others.

What role does Herzl play in your life now?

Herzl now is doing the same for our kids as it did for us!!!! Fostering Jewish identity, independence, and a love for all things Herzl. We also volunteer, donate, sing camp songs all the time, dance to the Ozo song of years past. I sing the ’88 Ozo song all the time!

What do you hope future campers/staff members will learn from attending Herzl Camp?

I hope they realize the impact camp has on so many aspects of their lives. For starters, you could meet your future spouse/significant other at camp. That has SHAPED my life!! While you are in the thick of it, you don’t realize it, but when you look back at camp and the impact it had, it was HUGE! Enjoy the time there, it is so precious, unique and long lasting. Going back to camp this past summer for my 20 year Ozo reunion, Noah, two summers ago for his. You are immediately time transferred back to when you were an Ozo. That feeling of excitement, feeling of responsibility, maturity and the connection you feel to all the different places at camp. Your memories flood in with all the insignificant and significant things that happened, were said, experienced. Oh, how I loved going back for a weekend and feeling like I was 17 again!!!

__________

So there you have it. Love united through the power of Saturday morning cinnamon rolls – and with that, I would like to wish a Happy Valentine’s Day to my true love, camp.

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Plaques Are Fun-ducational

February 6, 2015 by , under General Posts.

Kaminsky 1

By: Sam Kaminsky (Staff member)

I was a camper at Herzl for eight years. That’s right, eight summers of joy and fun. Eight summers of relishing every waking second. Herzl Camp is my second home, a home that I will always live in. What I am about to discuss has been a tradition and a way of life since before I was a camper and even before my dad was a camper (which is pretty long time ago, no offense, Dad). I’m talking about creating a plaque with your counselors’, ozrims and fellow campers’ names on it- a way to let names live on.

As a camper, I saw this plaque boring and useless. It seemed as if my counselors were wasting our precious Trzif Time to draw on a rectangular piece of wood. My fellow campers and I didn’t care for this. However, I’m 18 now. I’m an Ozo from this past summer and I’m a soon-to-be Herzl Staff Member. Now, I truly see the purpose of these plaques.

The day will come where, “Sam Kaminsky” isn’t going to be known or said anymore. However, Herzl Camp allows it to be. My name is on eight different plaques at Herzl and a few walls here and there (but shhh, don’t tell anyone that). There are multiple opportunities for a future camper to spot my name. Now, I don’t expect future campers to stare at my name and wonder who I am, no, just the fact that it’s there is comforting.

On the last day of camp this past summer after the campers left, a few Ozrim and I were cleaning up around camp. As we walked around and cleaned, we would peak in cabin after cabin and look at the plaques hanging in the porch. Some of us saw plaques we were in and smiled and relived the memories from that summer. Stories were shared and constant laughter was bursting from all the funny things we remembered from our summers as Herzl Campers.

My two favorite plaques I saw had to be my Taste plaque and my Kadimah cabin plaque. My Taste plaque, although slightly faded, clearly says my name alongside my fellow tasters from that summer. For that brief moment, I was able to relive my Taste experience. The theme was Superheroes and we all had our own super power. I was “The Human Racecar,” and you can bet that I milked my “racecar” abilities (but no betting at Machana). On the contrary, my Kadimah Plaque is the simplest plaque you’ll ever see. It’s just a square piece of wood with our names written in sharpie. That’s it..and it is perfect! That’s all a plaque really needs. It’s not how the plaque looks that makes it special, it’s who the plaque is and what happened that summer that makes it so special.

Similarly, another activity at camp is giving back to camp itself. Fast forward to Ozo summer. Our Ozo group built, painted, and used two new tables: one for the torah in the Chadar Basement and the other for candles in the Chadar. Each hosts 29 names, 29 of my best friends that have another place for their name to live forever. Although this may be a small portion of a long summer, realizing I am helping Herzl is a great feeling. I am grateful knowing that my three-lettered-first-name and eight-lettered-last-name will forever be marked on one of my favorite places on Earth, Herzl Camp.

After being a camper at Herzl for eight years, I picked up on some things. I now have an idea of what campers expect out of their staff. Just as I doubted my staff when I was a camper, my own campers may do the same, and that’s fine. It’s fine because one day, whenever that may be, they will see the reason for everything we try to teach them, just like I have now seen with my own staff.

Kaminsky 2

Here’s a mini challenge for next summer:

Before B’Yachad, there was a different program for the older campers in camp. On the backside of the Ulam stage, look up and you’ll see the plaques to this program. Maybe you will recognize some names on the plaques and be able to share it with that person once you see them again. There is so much amazing history at camp and most of the time it just takes looking at a small, simple plaque.

So, I suppose this essay is a plaque in itself, so it comes with reason to sign my name then.

Shabbat Shalom,

Sam Kaminsky

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A Shabbat To Note

January 30, 2015 by , under General Posts, Music, Shabbat.

Photo cred: wizevents.com

Photo cred: wizevents.com

By: Jamie Diamond (Jewish Educator) & Jon Savitt (Marketing & Leadership Development Coordinator)

This coming Shabbat is Shabbat Shira. This weeks Torah portion, Beshalach includes Shirat Hayam, the song the Israelites sang after they crossed the Red Sea. This is an amazing moment in the Biblical Narrative, the Israelites have been freed from slavery, have crossed the Red Sea, and now give thanks to God for helping in both of those events.

Fun fact: Many Jews know the Mi Chamocha (check out this Rick Recht version), which is actually found within this song of praise.

At camp, music is involved in so much that we do whether it be t’filot, song session, or of course, breakfast. In fact, one of my favorite camp memories is dancing in the Chadar to Miriam’s song with my best friends (the origin of this Debbie Freedman song is the torah portion for this week). Exodus 15:20-21 tells us that Miriam took her timbrel and led the women in song. It is truly amazing the power songs have in capturing important events in history.

Even today, music is often used as a platform to highlight important events- personal, public, historic, celebratory, etc. Regardless of where a song originates, it has the ability to act as a voice for many and can help attach meaning to the world around us.

So, in honor of the Israelites turning to song as they crossed the Red Sea, let’s take a look at some modern examples of how music has been used to support historic passages and events throughout time.

1) What’s Going On (Marvin Gaye)

Written from the perspective of a Vietnam War veteran

2) Same Love (Macklemore)

Written about same-sex marriage

3) Revolution (The Beatles)

Written about the Vietnam War

4) Pomp and Circumstance (Sir Edward Elgar)

Played during graduation ceremonies at academic institutions

5) Didn’t They? (Taylor Swift)

Written in response to the 9/11 attacks

What other songs would you add to this list? What songs play an important role in your life? How has music helped you? Let us know!

 

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Standing Strong 70 Years Later

January 29, 2015 by , under General Posts, Jewish Identity.

Gary Blog

By: Gary Kibort (Executive Director)

In the spirit of remembrance, before I begin, I feel it is important to give you some context. While some of you know me as Gary Kibort, Herzl Camp Executive Director, others may know me simply as “the Guy in the Orange Hat,” or “Gracie and Raleigh’s Dad,” and some of you may not know me at all…yet.

I’ve always had a strong connection to Judaism.  Both my parents are survivors.  Both were liberated and then brought to Minneapolis as teenagers. They raised me, my brother and sister as proud Jews and proud Americans.

My connection to Herzl Camp started many years ago when I was a camper for just three weeks, just once.  Camp wasn’t my thing as sometimes is the case with kids even today.

Fast forward. Herzl now plays an enormous role in my life. In 2006, I accepted the position of Director of Operations, and long story short, here I am as Executive Director, nine years later.  Camp is definitely my thing.

It is no question that my time with Herzl Camp has deepened my connection to Judaism and vice versa. Similar to many, I find my connection feels especially strong now, leading up the the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. However, maybe not so similar is my experience.

For as long as I can remember, my family has gathered with our extended family on January 17th to commemorate our parents’ liberation from Nazi concentration camps. Some years the gathering was bigger than other years. This year, we came together to celebrate the 70th anniversary of their release.

We were blessed to have 3 of the original 5 orphans still with us. All totaled, 125 other cousins came to Minneapolis from around the globe for a weekend of remembrance and joy.

This year’s gathering felt different than the many that came before. This annual gathering is no longer about just the survivors. It is about me. It is about you.

As I stood on the risers to take a family picture, it hit me: Now it is my responsibility to make sure the next generation understands our past. My parents, aunts, uncles have ingrained in me the importance of not only ‘remembering’ but also ‘not forgetting.’

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Together with my family, our time, our responsibility…I thought about how incredible it was that from just 5 orphans, 70 years later, our family was standing together 125 strong.

I also started to do the math. Think about it. If 125 could come from 5 orphans—where would our people be if we had not lost 6 million?

As with most things, I try to understand this in context of my job. Sadly, I have come to realize that it isn’t over yet. They are still trying to kill us…in Jerusalem…and Kansas City…and Paris…and everywhere in between.

For us to continue to grow and stay strong as a people, it is imperative to educate our kids, to send them to Israel and to Poland…and to send them to Jewish camp.  From this education, they will know that we must never be victims again, must never be perpetrators and must never be bystanders.

When my family gathers again next year (and for the 75th in Miami…What were we thinking to come to Minneapolis in January? Really?), we will be an even bigger group, standing proudly together as family and as Jews.

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Why I Can’t Escape the Magic (And Why I Have No Plans To)

January 23, 2015 by , under General Posts, Herzl, Beyond Webster.

By: Jami Irwin

Jamie blog 1

One phrase every Herzl go-er knows is “Herzl Magic”. As a camper, the magic was the mystery behind everything that happened; not knowing what was going to happen next, but feeling excited in the naivety of it all. As a staff member, the magic still exists, but it becomes something that must be created, instead of something that simply exists. The staff become the ones who bring imagination and creativity to camp for the campers, and the campers bring their equally important sense of wonder and joy.

In my life, Herzl Magic isn’t the only magic. I am a Cast Member (staff) for Disney, and I’m sure we are all familiar with the “Magic of Disney”. I have been working for Disney since September 2014 at the Disney Store at the Mall of America, partially fulfilling my lifelong dream of working for Disney for the rest of my life, and continuing that dream in the spring semester of 2015 by participating in the Disney College Program in Walt Disney World (meaning I will be spending a whole four months in Disney!).

As a Cast Member, we are taught that Disney isn’t made just for kids; Disney caters to the whole family, kind of like camp. Adults aren’t adults, they’re “big kids”, and whenever I encounter a guest at the store, I incorporate them into the “story”, as we Disney-folk like to call it. Day to day occurrences aren’t just events, they’re stories, and our guests are the stars. After hearing this, I instantly thought of my experiences at camp. There is a concept that floats around in the abyss that is society that insists that camp is solely for the campers- solely for the kids. However, in reality, camp is for everyone. I finally realized why I love Disney and camp so much, it’s because they are so similar. At camp, each day is its own story, and each summer brings a whole new cast of characters.

Jamie Blog 2

If anyone knows me personally, they will say that all I talk about is camp and Disney. Both are each their own community, their own kehilah (that’s for you, Drea), but they incorporate so many people in each of them. At camp, our community encompasses campers, staff, parents, alumni and pretty much the whole Jewish population (somebody knows somebody who knows somebody). At Disney, the community is everyone we come in contact with. We treat our guests like family, and within the cast member community, it’s even more so. Being exposed to people and stories like I am at camp and at work have enriched my life tremendously. I am so thankful that I can draw similarities between work and camp and bring the lessons I have learned into all aspects of my life and it is my hope that everyone else learns to do the same. By doing so, I hope others can learn how to create their own magic in their lives and then bring that back to Herzl.

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Israel To Webster (My Herzl Story)

January 16, 2015 by , under General Posts, Herzl, Beyond Webster, Israel.

Eden

By: Eden Buchbut

Hello everyone,

My name is Eden. I’m 21 years old, I’m from Israel and I was a counselor last summer at Herzl Camp. I live in Kibbutz Ein Dor, a small kibbutz in the north of Israel.
I had a pretty normal, quiet life at the kibbutz and after I finished high school I did a year of volunteer work with at risk children and two years in the army (intelligence) thereafter.
So, you’re probably asking yourself, how did I get from Kibbutz Ein Dor, Israel to Webster Wisconsin. Great question.

Well, it all started when I was in the army, my friend told me that she was going to America to be a counselor at a Jewish camp through The Jewish Agency Program for summer camps. I knew right away that I wanted to do the same!

…But wait how am I going to do it?

First, I had to sign up through the program and complete a few tests to see if I was qualified to be a counselor. I succeeded and was so excited to leave the army to go to the United States as a soldier to represent Israel! The next step was to interview with camp directors from all over the country in order to see which camp would be the best fit for me. I did a couple of interviews and I FINALLY had the opportunity to do an interview with the amazing Drea Lear. After two minutes of conversation via Skype, I knew that the summer was going to be one of the most amazing summers I would ever have in my life.

And so it was. It was a summer full of new experiences, different people, different (yet similar) cultures and a whole different world that was new and exciting to me. I loved so many parts of the summer. However, what I cherished most was the time I got to spend being a counselor and dugma for wonderful girls-both Taste and B’yachad and it was truly incredible.

I learned a lot from my time at Herzl and I gained many new friendships. Furthermore, I achieved my goal for the summer, which was to show the campers and staff that Israelis are not so different from anyone else. Regardless of culture, religious views, etc. We really aren’t so different after all- a message that should resonate with everyone.

I am so so grateful that I had the opportunity to be a part of the “Herzl magic” that I have heard so much about. It definitely changed me as a person and gave me the confidence and experience that I need to be successful in life, but more importantly to be happy.

I decided recently that I wanted to come back again this upcoming summer and am beyond excited to say that Drea and I talked. I’m going back. I am looking forward to making this summer the best of my life and being part of Herzl Camp once again!

I cannot wait to be back,
Eden

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That Long Dirt Road

January 9, 2015 by , under General Posts, Letters from Staff.

Zoe

By: Zoe Mosow (2014 Ozo)

Editor’s note: Zoe wrote and delivered this beautiful D’var Shabbat during the summer of 2014.

Shabbat Shalom, my name is Ozo Zoe and I’m so excited to be addressing you all on the first Ozo Shabbat of the year. The feeling you get when driving down the long dirt road is an unforgettable feeling and is the start and finish to every well spent summer. Something I have been lucky enough to experience for the majority of my life. Being a part of the Herzl Camp community was one of the best opportunities that I have come across in my life. From the very first time I drove up the dirt road and felt the positive energy soaring throughout the area I know I had found my home. Ever since I have never once doubted the presence of magic at Herzl. Being surrounded by the warmth and ruach radiating from the staff, Ozrim, and campers is a feeling that will always stick with me. As summers go by, my love for camp continues to grow. There is no place that can make you feel like such a strong individual. As years went by, and the older I got, the more confident camp made me. I saw myself as a Jewish young woman with camp at the core of my Jewish identity. The feelings and memories are unforgettable and have proved to me that there is a such thing as Herzl magic and perfection.

However, while applying for the Ozo program I was worried about how this magic would change as I accepted my new role on staff, but driving up that same dirt road, I realized nothing had changed other than my title. I quickly learned that no matter your title, camper or staff, the magic is always around us and often presents itself in various ways. It’s at the tables in the Chadar where we eat every meal together, the grass in Ozo Park where we are constantly collecting grass stains, and the benches here at the Mercaz where we reflect during services every Shabbat.

Zoe

We are taught from a young age that magic can only be seen as something in fairy tales or Disney movies – something that cannot be achieved in everyday life, but coming to camp makes you realize, although Disney movies are great, magic happens in real life and it happens here. The magic of Herzl is the exact reason in which I continue to come back. The first thing that comes to mind when I think about my time spent at Herzl is the look of awe on so many faces that very first time I anxiously walked into the Ulam- similar to the astonished audience who just watched a magician pull a rabbit out of a hat. Even now, as an Ozo, seeing the same sense of awe in the faces of many when stepping off the bus and into the Ulam shows how the magic of Herzl is real and is a great reminder that this form of magic isn’t necessarily associated with a specific person, but rather the Herzl environment in general. Magic is magic because of the element of surprise that is involved and the emotion it evokes in others. Herzl is constantly surprising us and we are constantly surprising ourselves in the best way possible.

Shabbat Shalom.

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Make Your Own Amazing Summer

December 26, 2014 by , under General Posts, Letters from Alumni, Letters from Staff, Why We Love Camp.

Hannah at Camp Teko (Photo posted with permission of camper's family and Camp Teko)

Hannah at Camp Teko (Photo posted with permission of Camp Teko)

By: Hannah Gilfix 

Editor’s Note: In the beginning of the school year, Hannah had to write an “Advice Essay” for a school assignment.  She chose to give advice about how to make the most of your summer.

It’s been almost a year since I found out I wasn’t an Ozo.  Almost a year since I thought my friendships would be ruined and camp would never be the same.  Almost a year since I thought I was going to have the worst summer ever.

Now, as what I thought would be my Ozo summer comes to a close, I can tell you that everything I felt on the day of the Ozo announcement, and for months after, turned out to be entirely inaccurate.  Coming to terms with the fact that my best friends were going to camp without me was hard, to say the least, and it is more than normal to be upset and angry today, next week, or even a year from now.  But while it’s hard now, things will get better.

Hannah making her own fun at Camp Teko

Hannah making her own amazing summer at Camp Teko (Photo posted with permission of Camp Teko)

Whether you take this summer to travel, work at another camp, or do something entirely new, your summer is NOT ruined, and it will become whatever you make of it.  As I just finished working at the wonderful Camp TEKO, I can tell you this summer has the potential to be absolutely amazing.  Even though I wasn’t at Herzl, I still managed to fall in love with an entirely new camp environment, and that alone is more than I could’ve asked for.  Through my experience at TEKO I was given a new set of role models, friends, and skills that I couldn’t have learned anywhere else.  I was also given the confidence that I could be happy and successful on my own.  Leading up to the summer, I thought my friends at Herzl would be having the time of their lives without me, but as it turns out, I was having the time of my life with an entirely new set of ruach-­filled “camp people”.

More fun last summer

More fun last summer (Photo posted with permission of Camp Teko)

It may feel like a let down now, but you’re being given the opportunity to find yourself, apart from all of your friends, and while right now that may seem scary, it is the best gift I could have asked for.  Take this opportunity and do something great with it.  But no matter what you do, Herzl is not going anywhere, and neither are the countless memories you’ve made there.  This summer it was made clear to me that camp is my place, and I know that I will take everything I learned back to Herzl with me.  So be upset for awhile and take all the time you need, but trust me when I say, you have the opportunity to make this summer whatever you want it to be, and little do you know, it may turn out to be the best summer ever.

Shabbat Shalom.

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Herzl@Home: Chanukah

December 19, 2014 by , under General Posts, Holidays, Letters from Staff.

Menorah

By: Jamie Diamond (Director of Jewish Education)

Editor’s Note: This blog is a part of the Herzl@Home series

Hanukkah has many amazing themes which are still relevant in our lives today:  Overcoming adversity, Jewish spirit, and strength through community.  These themes also exemplify some of the wonderful things about Herzl.  Camp is place where many campers overcome challenges and push themselves for the first time both as individuals and together with the camp community.  Coming together as a strong Jewish community full of ruach (spirit) is something Herzl Camp prides itself on.

Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days and nights.  The Hebrew word “Hanukkah” means “dedication” and is fitting for the holiday since it commemorates the rededication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem following the Jewish victory over the Syrain-Greeks in 165 B.C.E.

Hanukkah begins on the 25th of the Hebrew month of Kislev and is traditionally celebrated by lighting a hanukkiah, or menorah, for eight days, eating latkes and sufganiot (jelly doughnuts), playing dreidel, and giving gifts of gelt.

Blessings

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Candles are added to the Hanukiah (Menorah) from right to left but are kindled from left to right. The newest candle is lit first. (On the Shabbat of Hanukkah, kindle the Hanukkah lights first and then the Shabbat candles. Light the Shamash – the helper candle – first using it to kindle the rest of the Hanukkah lights; say or sing the following two blessings:

Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tsivanu l’hadlik ner shel Chanukah.

Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all, who hallows us with mitzvot, commanding us to kindle the Chanukah lights.

Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, she-asah nisim laavoteinu v’imoteinu bayamim hahaeim baz’man hazeh.

Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all, who performed wonderous deeds for our ancestors in days of old at this season.

For first night only add:

Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, shehecheyanu v’kiy’manu v’higianu laz’man hazeh.

Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all, for giving us life, for sustaining us, and for enabling us to reach this season.

Family Activities

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Make your own Hanukkiah (Menorah)

Supplies:

  • A wooden board
  • 10 metal locknuts (available at hardware stores; bring a Hanukkah candle with you to test which size would best hold the candle)
  • Craft glue
  • Tin foil
  • Clear packing tape
  • Beads, glitter, other decorative materials
  • Hanukkah candles

Instructions:

  1. Cover the wood with tin foil and tape the foil closed on the underside.
  2. Let your child glue 8 locknuts to the board in any pattern.
  3. The last 2 locknuts can be glued anywhere on the board, but they need to be glued in a stack. This will be your “shamash”, or helper, and will hold the candle that will light the actual Hanukkah candles.
  4. Together with your child, decorate the rest of the area with your beads, glitter, etc.
  5. Insert candles as needed for the Hanukkah ceremony, using the shamash candle and one other candle the first night.

Sing Along with the Maccabeats

Make Latkes

  • 1 pound potatoes
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 250°F.
  • Peel potatoes and coarsely grate by hand, transferring to a large bowl of cold water as grated. Soak potatoes 1 to 2 minutes after last batch is added to water, then drain well in a colander.
  • Spread grated potatoes and onion on a kitchen towel and roll up jelly-roll style. Twist towel tightly to wring out as much liquid as possible. Transfer potato mixture to a bowl and stir in egg and salt.
  • Heat 1/4 cup oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches of 4 latkes, spoon 2 tablespoons potato mixture per latke into skillet, spreading into 3-inch rounds with a fork. Reduce heat to moderate and cook until undersides are browned, about 5 minutes. Turn latkes over and cook until undersides are browned, about 5 minutes more. Transfer to paper towels to drain and season with salt. Add more oil to skillet as needed. Keep latkes warm on a wire rack set in a shallow baking pan in oven.

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A Great Miracle Happened….HERE

December 12, 2014 by , under Friendship, General Posts, Holidays.

Dana (left) and Gail Brodkey in 1989

Dana (left) and Gail Brodkey in 1989

By: Dana Prottas (Camper, 1989 Ozo)

It was a hot summer day, and I remember it just like it was yesterday.  My friends and I walked along the dirt path sneaking glances over our shoulders to make sure we weren’t being followed.  We thought we were being sneaky – being in seventh grade and all.  The next day was going to be the last day of summer time together.  We thought if we found a place to hide, we would not have to go home and we could stay in camp…..forever.

Dana and the 1989 Ozrim

Dana and the 1989 Ozrim

Throughout my life and career in Jewish education, I have thought about this moment many times.  Something magical was created within the space of Herzl Camp that we wanted to bottle up that summer.  We wanted this feeling to last forever!  We wanted to take it home with us and to pull it out during the year.  I know many of you reading this blog have probably felt the same way about Herzl Camp or other camping experiences.  For me, I wanted to feel this strong community entwined with Judaism and lifelong friendships every day.  This feeling I wanted to take with me felt warm and comforting and literally felt like happiness radiating from my core.  If I could bottle up this feeling and name it, I would call it “Bakbook Or” – translated from Hebrew as “Bottle of Light”.

For the past two summers I have visited Herzl Camp to meet with Jewish teens to hear and learn about their moments of light and joy at camp.  I am always surprised about the details at camp that have stayed the same and what has changed.  Each summer I learn about what’s important to teens and what skills and knowledge they feel they need to go off to college.  What surprises me the most is how teens who are looking at colleges are looking for campuses with Bakbook Or.  They want to continue to feel this radiating light as they branch out on their own.

Visiting with Herzl Campers

Visiting with Herzl Teens

In my present work as the Director of Yachad, I have been working behind the scenes to bring Bakbook Or to life for our teens on a daily basis.  Yachad is a new, Jewish collaborative community-wide educational program for teens.  Our goal is to inspire and educate Jewish teens to make Judaism come alive for them through innovative and experiential opportunities.  In other words, we are trying to bottle up these feelings of community, Jewish learning, and friendship to share all year long.

What I’m learning from the teens both at camp and in the Twin Cities is that what makes Jewish camping so special are the people.  It is the face to face interactions and experiences that make the place itself so incredible.  As a seventh grader I attributed the magic of camp to the place.  I wasn’t old enough yet to realize that the place was the vehicle for the magic.  The light came from the relationships.

I know my experiences at Herzl Camp have been magical, and I know that the magic continues to happen summer after summer.  By bottling and preserving our Bakbook Or, we are able to recall again these strong feelings and bring light into our days.  Yachad’s goal is to continually renew and replenish these kinds of flames so that they burn not just for eight nights or a summer, but for a lifetime.

Wishing you a holiday filled with light and renewal, and of course, Bakbook Or.

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L’Dor V’Dor…From Generation to Generation

December 5, 2014 by , under General Posts, Letters from Alumni.

By: Loretta (Corn) Fingert (Camper, 1960 Ozo and 1960-64 Staff Reunion attendee)

Loretta (front row, far right) & fellow campers (1959)

The summer of 1960, I spent six weeks at Herzl as an Ozo.  In the summer of 2012, 52 years later, I returned to Herzl for the 1960-64 Staff Reunion.  The treasured memories of past summers at Herzl became a reality again.  I experienced the ruach in the Chadar, singing “Here’s to Dear Old Herzl” and dancing with my friends.  Most special, was walking in our whites to the flag circle, singing Shabbat songs and enjoying the Shabbat service on Devils Lake with lifelong friends.  The smiles on the faces of my fellow alumni campers expressed the joy that we all felt, being welcomed back to dear old Herzl and experiencing again the camaraderie, spirit, peace and love.

Loretta & Gary at the 1960-64 Staff Reunion (2012)

My husband, Gary, came to the staff reunion with me and experienced Herzl Camp for the first time.  Now, Gary finally understood why Herzl was so important to me.  We both wished that our grandson, Ben, who lives in Kansas City, could experience the Herzl magic too.  Neither of us believed that Ben would choose to come to Herzl because he did not know friends who were Herzl campers and Webster, Wisconsin is a long way from Kansas City, Missouri.  Ben listened to our enthusiastic tales of the beautiful camp on the lake: the amazing cabins, the waterfront, the sports, the rock-climbing wall; But Ben was not interested in going to camp for three weeks, when he didn’t have a friend to share Habonim with him.

Ben & Jane (Visitors Day 2013)

After Ben’s Bar Mitzvah, when he was feeling inspired by the Jewish experience, we suggested Herzl Camp again.  When Ben said, “okay,” we signed him up immediately.  Gary, Ben’s mother, Jane, and I drove Ben to the camp buses that summer.  Ben saw the excitement of the campers, many of whom were friends from past summers together, but he did not know any of them.  We wondered if Ben would get on the bus.  Ben did!  And, by the time Ben’s mother, Jane, arrived for Visitors Day, Ben told her that the three week camp session was not long enough.  Ben loved camp as much as I did!

In a letter of thanks, Ben wrote: “I had a lot of fun at Herzl Camp.  It was a very good experience.  The best part of camp was the people.  The campers and the counselors had a lot of fun.  The counselors and my cabin friends taught me how to play my favorite game, Ultimate Frisbee.  I also liked canoeing, games, Bikkurim and just hanging out with my friends.  Every Friday night we had services.  We all dressed up in white clothes.  I liked the feeling of walking with my friends, singing Shabbat songs on the way to the flag circle.  When you stay in a cabin with your friends, you are friends for life.  I can hardly wait to see my friends again next summer!”

Ben’s letter of thanks expresses an appreciation of good friends made at camp, fun times and the Shabbat experience.  L’dor V’dor…from generation to generation, Herzl Camp has brought friendship, fun and spirituality to Jewish youth.

Gary, Ben & Loretta (Visitors Day 2014)

Ben’s experience at Herzl Camp is a priceless gift for me, knowing that his experience will bring him lifelong gifts of friendship and treasured memories.  I also know that Herzl Camp fosters Jewish tradition, compassion, responsibility and leadership.  I am grateful to Herzl Camp for stengthening these life skills for Ben.

Ben was asked by his Rabbi at Congregation Beth Torah in Kansas City to speak about Herzl Camp at a service last month.  He enthusiastically shared how much Herzl Camp means to him.   We were all so proud of him!  Thank you, Herzl Camp, for providing the best experience for campers for generations!

Shabbat Shalom.

 

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