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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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!!!

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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.

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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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There’s No Place I’d Rather Be

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

From L-R: Adam Tarshish, Dylan & Joe Goldberg

By: Dylan Krebs (2014 Staff)

I still remember every moment of what I consider to be the most emotional day of my life.  The day I became a Nozo.  Now I’m not trying to start a pity party, but I felt like it was truly that crazy.  I was crying, my best friends were crying, my parents were crying, everyone seemed to be crying.  All I could think was “How could a place that’s accepted me for so long reject me.”  For the first time, I’d be faced with rejection that saddens me to this day.  Although this entire Nozo experience appeared to be detrimental, I’ve gained a lot of appreciation for what Herzl Camp has given me.

I spent my Nozo summer in Minneapolis, Minnesota and worked at Camp Teko.  Amy Sandler, the current director and friend, encouraged me to make the most out of my summer.  When I first arrived in Minneapolis, (Editor’s Note: Dylan moved from Florida to Minnesota to take a job at Camp Teko) I thought my summer would be in shambles, but I was proven completely wrong.  I met amazing people like Andy Halper, made friends with other staff members and made an impact on a new group of campers.  I attended concerts, sporting events, and even played in my first nationals tournament for Ultimate Frisbee.  My Nozo experience made me a more adventurous person.

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

The next contact I would have with Herzl Camp would be a year later when I received a staff application from Drea Lear.  At the time, the words “I wanted to let you know that the Herzl staff applications are now available and I’d love to see you apply” made me feel a bit wary.  I wasn’t quite sure how my relationship would be with the group of guys that I considered my brothers. Would I be welcomed back with open arms?  It was at that time though that I realized that there’s no place I’d rather be than Herzl Camp.

Again, it may sound weird, but because of my Nozo experience, I gained a ton of appreciation for what I had at camp.  Not a day goes by where I’m not thinking of dancing at breakfast or all of my Herzl Camp friends.  I even talk to my closest friends on a daily basis purely because I don’t think I know where I’d be without them.  Herzl Camp is just apart of who I am. I love it so much more because of what the Nozo experience brought me.

There's No Place He'd Rather Be

To the future Nozrim of Herzl Camp, it may not seem like a great time in your life, in fact, it’s gonna suck for a bit.  However, while it may seem cliche, all you have to do is work through it.  Ozo summer will soon become a thing of the past.  You may think that only the Ozrim will have a great summer but I’m here to tell you that you will too.  Instead of being at camp, go grab an internship, work at another camp, travel, play Ultimate…make your life interesting!  Some words of wisdom that I’d like to close with is this: The last thing that was ever said to me at camp as a camper was “Herzl Camp will always be here for you.”

Shabbat Shalom.

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1,729.2 Miles From Home

November 21, 2014 by , under General Posts, Letters from Staff.

L to R: Hannah, Molly Apple & Talia Fetner

By: Hannah Zweig (2014 Staff)

Editor’s Note:  Hannah wrote and delivered this D’var Shabbat during the summer of 2014.  This was Hannah’s first summer at Herzl.

I am currently 1729.2 miles away from my home in Scottsdale, Arizona.  That is 1,729.2 miles away from my family, friends, and my own beautiful shower in which I don’t have to wear shower shoes.  Yet despite this distance from the place where I live during the year, I have never felt a greater sense of belonging than I do at this ruach filled haven tucked away in the woods of Webster, Wisconsin.

This is my first summer at Herzl, but I truly feel like I am part of the community.  We are a diverse group of athletes, artists, singers, actors, and musicians.  We are composed of people who are still in elementary school, to high schoolers, to college graduates.  Yet, even with all of these differences we are still able to come together as one camp because we all have one common factor: we’re all Jewish.

Although this means many different things to different people, Judaism helps create a sense of belonging here at camp that is extremely unique.  There is no other place in the world where ice cream sandwiches can cause an uproar or where being weird is considered a million times better than being popular or cool.

I am so thankful that being Jewish allowed me to stumble upon this amazing place and I cannot wait to spend the rest of the summer 1729.2 miles away from Arizona in my new home away from home.

Shabbat Shalom.

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One in a Million

November 14, 2014 by , under Friendship, General Posts, Letters from Campers.

By: Jordyn & Becca (2014 B’yachad Campers)

Editor’s Note: Jordyn and Becca wrote and delivered this D’var Shabbat during B’yachad Shabbat 2014.  It is reprinted here with permission from their parents. 

What are the odds that a girl who goes to a private Christian school in Minneapolis, Minnesota meets a girl who goes to a public school in St. Louis Missouri?  Many people would say the chances are…

One in a million.

But the communities that those girls are a part of make that number decrease.

The dictionary definition of community is: a social, religious, occupational, or other group that shares common characteristics or interests.  To these girls community means so much more.  Let us spell it out for you, C-O-M-M-U-N-I-T-Y or a different spelling, C-A-M-P-M-U-N-I-T-Y.  Campmunity, out of all of the possible kehillot or communities, Herzl Camp is the only one that brought them together.

Campmunity.  This play on words is perfectly described through the little traditions at machaneh.  Dancing until they are sweating at breakfast, their counselors singing to them every night before bed, and all of the schticky moments in between, create a unique bond that is indescribable.

What are the odds a first session camper and a second session camper are put in the same cabin Kadimah sumer?

One out of 50 girls in Kadimah.

What are the odds that those girls spent every waking moment together and made Kadimah summer one to remember?

One out of 12 cabin mates.

These girls, along with a few other friends, were determined to not let these new friendships slip away during the school year.  These friends needed a way to still spend every waking moment together after camp.  Obviously, what every girl would do would be to create a group iMessage.

From 2 days after Kadimah summer to 2 hours before we got on the busses for the last time as campers, there was not a day that passed where they felt as if they were 550 miles apart.

Sending funny Vine videos, counting down the days until they were all reunited, listening to everyone vent about their problems, or just checking in to say hi, these girls made it apparent that the bond between them was unbreakable.

Also to bring home a little of the Herzl magic, these girls carried on a weekly tradition of high/low hero every Sunday night at 9.

For the past year, these close friends made an effort to make it feel as though they were never apart.  They know this friendship formed by the kehilah at Herzl Camp will truly last a lifetime.

Odds are the girls standing on the mercaz right now became best friends.

One in a million.

1,2,3…1 Hand in Hand we will hold on.

Shabbat Shalom.

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Building a Sense of Community

November 7, 2014 by , under General Posts, Letters from Staff.

2014 Ozrim

By: Eli (Ozo 2014)

Editor’s Note:  Below is an excerpt from one of Eli’s college application essays that highlights the sense of community at Herzl Camp.  It is re-printed with permission from his mother.

When I think of the word “community,” my mind automatically goes to the summer camp I have attended since I was seven.  Herzl Camp focuses on building a sense of community between all people within the camp, whether it is a young camper away from home for the first time, or an experienced counselor living in a utopia hidden from the imperfect world outside.

As a camper, I was taught by college kids who were my counselors on how to be a better person.  No matter how bad of a mood I was in, I would always have my staff to confide in and know that we both had a mutual goal of happiness.  Even after the summer, when I was home, the lessons learned from the community formed helped me throughout the year.  I was taught how to ask people for help, and how to be happy with the circumstances that fall on you.  There is nowhere else on the planet that has such a mutual understanding of community.  Campers are all supporting each other, with staff there support them, and staff are there to be together and learn the true values of how to be a better person.

"Mama" Ozo Sara Gottlieb, Eli & "Papa" Ozo Jon Savitt

This past summer, I got to be on the other side of camp for the first time, as an ozo, and I learned that within the Herzl Camp community, everyone is out to make each other a better person.  I always expected that being a staff member was boring and unfulfilling because of the constant work necessary.  However, I realized I was wrong. The hard work pays off when the kids you are taking care of smile, or tell you how much fun they are having.  Just knowing that the lessons and experiences you had as a camper are being passed down to the next generation of campers is enough to make me truly happy.  There are countless staff members that I can remember gave me wonderful memories, and my only hope is to give that to my campers and complete the circle of love and community.  The sense of responsibility a staff member has is a feeling like no other, and very few people outside of camp know what it is like to have thirteen little boys adore and revere you.

Within the borders of Herzl Camp exists an understanding.  This understanding is the knowledge that everyone is there for each other and that you can always learn how to be a better person from anyone within these hallowed camp borders.

Shabbat Shalom.

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Connections

October 31, 2014 by , under General Posts, Letters from Campers.

Lily with her dad at Visitors Day 2014

By: Lily (2014 B’yachad Camper)

Hello!  My name is Lily Gray and this past summer I was in B’yachad.  It was by far the best summer of my life (something I could have told you before I was in B’yachad).  We did AMAZING things like a mud car wash, log stacking for Interfaith Caregivers, “overtaking” the Ozo’s mosh pit, and many other absolutely perfect things.  Editor’s Note: Interfaith Caregivers is a volunteer organization serving the people of Burnett County.

However, this summer, as my camper experience came to a close (tears), I realized that my favorite thing about camp is the level underneath all of the crazy shtick, traditions and ruach: the connectedness or kehilah (community) that being a Herzl Camper creates.  The connectedness comes from everything a camper experiences at Herzl Camp.  We all witness the same insane dancing at breakfast, the calm feeling of a Shabbat caravan, the delicious bite into a gooey cinnamon roll on Saturday morning and the “young and fun” cabinmates that become your best friends.  Everybody shares those same experiences but in a slightly different way.

The connections go even deeper, too!  My dad has many stories of being dumped into the lake for saying the word  ‘announcements’ over the microphone…something I witnessed (only witnessed, thank goodness!) many times this summer.  He also wrote his name in many weird places like the girls south haks bathroom (yes, the girls)…which I saw this summer.

These connections that occur on multiple levels creates a community between not only present Herzl campers, but also past and future campers.  This proved to me that camp is a cycle.  For example, my staff are five years older than me.  When they were in B’yachad, they stacked logs at Interfaith like we did!  So did my staff’s staff (my grandstaff) and my staff’s staff’s staff’s (my great grandstaff).  This makes me connected to people that I have never even met because we have shared the same amazing experiences.

I believe there is a reason why we call the last summer B’yachad (together): it is to tell future campers that once you finish your B’yachad summer, you will be together with the hundreds of other people who have had the same amazing experiences that being a Herzl Camper creates.

Shabbat Shalom.

 

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The In-Betweener

October 24, 2014 by , under General Posts, Giving Back, Letters from Alumni.

The author (far right, in red) and the 2005 Ozrim

By: Mike Neiman

It’s a tough stage to be in, when you love Herzl Camp.  You have far surpassed your days on staff, but don’t have any children (existing or old enough) to send for the summer.  Sometimes this is called “young professionals”, other times just “20s and 30s” … but when it relates to camp, you are now a member of In-Betweeners Club.

How do you cope?  How do you relate?  How do you go on?!  Although it may be tough to see all the fun happenings from your youngest campers (who are now senior staff), or your oldest staff’s children, we in-betweeners still have a few ways to stay engaged and feel a part of the Herzl Camp community we desperately need so badly in our life.  So instead of sulking about another Thursday night without a cookout, instead try the following tips to stay engaged through this tough time.  And don’t worry, in your own time, you’ll have children of your own to send to camp and then you’ll be right back in the camp spotlight again!

1.       Join the Herzl Camp Facebook group.  The Alumni Wednesday photos are a great way to spark memories, and the community is always posting pictures, updates, and comments from current campers and staff to whet your palette.  Even more, post your own Throwback Thursday picture to your social networks of you and your friends and tag Herzl Camp!

2.       Attend events.  We have had some great events in the past, ranging from Triva Bar Nights, to Shabbat Dinners, to Benefit Concerts at the Mercaz.  There are great options throughout the year to still connect with your inner-camp and camp friends, even if you won’t be there during the summer.

3.       Join a committee on the Herzl Camp Board.  Get your feet wet on the lay-leader side of camping and help contribute to the summer planning for the current generation.  There are tons of committees that range from programming to finance and more.  If you try it and like it, maybe a seat on the board could be a great next step as well!  (nominations occur in the spring).

4.       Volunteer at the Herzl Camp office!  Camp will happily find a way to help you feel connected.  Join the Herzl Chaverim (corps of volunteers) and help out in the office on a monthly basis by mailing registration forms, stuffing envelopes or even helping at the buses.

5.       Plan and/or attend a reunion!  If you are lucky enough to be at a milestone year (e.g. 5 years, 10 years), then help coordinate the group for a reunion.  This can be at camp, just a day in Siren, or gathering at someone’s home.  Reunions have become very popular lately and camp will help you get yours planned.  P.S. Shout out to the 2005 X-Treme Ozrim, I can’t wait for our 10-year reunion this summer!

Embrace the In-Betweener.  Enjoy this commitment-free stage in life, but don’t remove yourself from the things you love most.  Herzl Camp is happy to welcome you back!

Shabbat Shalom.

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A Baba’s Top Ten

October 15, 2014 by , under General Posts, Letters from Parents, Why We Love Camp.

Baba and family at Family Camp 2014

By: Bonnie Vickar (Bonnie, aka “Baba”, attended Family Camp with her children and grandchildren this past summer.)

#10 – Seeing my son get giddy with excitement as we got closer to camp.  Each mile had its own special marker with an accompanying story such as the laundromat where they washed the campers clothes.  Yes, I paid money to send my son to camp so he could wash other people’s clothes.

#9 – My son showing off his graffiti on the walls of the Beit Tarbut.  Okay, it was his name on the wall and each year he added the current year.  He should have added 2014.

#8 – Walking around the camp.  Remembering the old Herzl while appreciating the new, especially the air conditioned rooms we stayed in.  Aaron was quick to remind his son, Nelson, that when he was at camp they had to improvise their own gaga pit by placing benches on their sides.

#7 – Challah making on Friday morning to be followed by Challah eating at dinner.  Grandchildren have a way of adding that special something to everything they touch.

#6 – Time set aside for Shabbat preparations.  I have never been a camper at Herzl but 23 years ago, with all three of our kids at camp, my husband and I were invited for a regular Shabbat weekend.  I remember laying in our cabin listening to the voices of the campers as they passed by on their way to the haks (bathrooms).  Their laughter, their singing and especially those practicing for the services was more uplifting than any Rabbi’s sermon.  It was simply from the heart.

#5 – Seeing everyone dressed in white joining the Shabbat caravan.  For us, it was 3 generations together.  Yes, I was moved to tears.  As I was fumbling for tissues my grandson came back to walk with me.  Never enough tissues!!

#4 – Shabbat morning cinnamon rolls.  I had 2, confident in the knowledge that there are no calories at Herzl Camp.

#3 – Services at the Mercaz.  Simple and meaningful set against a perfect backdrop.

#2 – It was pure pleasure watching everyone enjoy the waterfront Shabbat afternoon.  Nelson, now 8, paddling his own kayak.  Isabelle, also 8, and Ansley, age 9, swimming and enjoying the afternoon as only children can.

#1 – Of course number one has to be being with my children and grandchildren.  Hearing my son reminisce with  former campers and sharing my grandchildren’s new experiences.  Shabbat morning, Nelson in his PJs,  playing chess with his cinnamon bun sticky fingers.  Isabelle with a huge smile on her face each time she rang that bell on the rock wall.  Ansley dancing with her Dad on Saturday night.  When did she get so tall?  So much happiness and no batteries required.

Because I was the oldest one at Family Camp, I give myself permission to ramble.  My son was a very good hockey player.  In 1997, he was playing for the University of North Dakota when they won the Division I national championship.  While in high school, the team parents were shocked to find out that Aaron was not spending his summers at one of the many elite hockey camps.  They didn’t understand that he was going to an “elite” camp.  The skills he would develop, and I am not talking about doing laundry, were far more reaching than what happens at an ice rink.  Whether he was a camper or staff, his summers at Herzl challenged him, energized him and grounded him.  I know his experience was not unique.  At Herzl Camp, no matter what you bring to the table, you are made to feel that is exactly what is needed.  Seeing my grandchildren briefly interact with the staff I felt that legacy of caring is as strong as ever.  When we left camp, Nelson asked his dad to stop so he could take a picture of the Herzl sign.  In one way or another, I think everyone took home a little piece of Herzl. I know I did!

Editor’s Note: Interested in joining us in Webster for Family Camp 2015? Click here for details and registration information. 

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