Archive for 'General Posts'

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.’


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.

No Comments

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.

No Comments

Israel To Webster (My Herzl Story)

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


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,

No Comments

That Long Dirt Road

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


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.


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.

No Comments

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.

1 Comment

Herzl@Home: Chanukah

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


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.



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


Make your own Hanukkiah (Menorah)


  • 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


  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


  • 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.

No Comments

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.

No Comments

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.


1 Comment

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.

No Comments

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.

No Comments

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.

No Comments

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.

No Comments


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.


No Comments

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.

No Comments

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. 

No Comments

Tutus and Clown Shoes

October 8, 2014 by , under General Posts, Letters from Campers, Letters from Parents, Letters from Staff.

By: Hannah (2014 Noar Camper)

Editor’s Note: This blog was originally written by Hannah for a creative writing assignment to write about a special place.  It is posted with permission from her parents. 

Herzl Camp

Herzl Camp is just so magical because when you walk into camp you are free to be yourself.  You can wear a tutu and clown shoes and nobody really cares.  When you walk out from the bus, counselors are screaming their heads off, give you high fives…but it is only just because you are here.  They sing songs and then comes the most exciting part of all…you get to find out who is in your cabin!  After that, they call our names, we sit down and eat cookies and lem-lem (which stands for lemonade).  We sit in a circle and we say our names and our favorite ice cream and stuff like that.  Then, we go to our cabin and each cabin has a theme like “the cupcake makers”.  My theme was sailors.  We learned a song for our cabin.  My song was “we are sailors va va va”.  You will learn one too.

Each cabin has a Hebrew letter or a number – it matters where you are.  For example, I was in cabin Vav in Kadimah Land.  And then came the lake swim.  The cold lake swim. Boy was it cold.  But can I tell you a secret…When you go into the lake, go in holding hands all as a cabin and just run in and then, if you want you, can do ring around the rosie and then you dunk when you say “we all fall down”…that’s what I do.  Or, if that does not help, do high knees.  After the lake swim you get your bed all ready and then that brings you right to dinner and there was a really cool saying for dinner on the first night and it is “GET READY FOR SPAGHETTI!”  After dinner, there was an after dinner activity and then after that was over you will walk back to your cabin and you will go into your cozy bed and the counselors will sing you a song and then you go to sleep then the next day will be the funest day ever and so on for the next days.

P.S. Soon you are going to make your best friend ever and you are going to email your counselors.

Herzl Camp is my second home.

Family Camp 2014

A Note from Hannah’s Mom, Wendy Clyman: 

After I had the chance to read the above journal entry that Hannah wrote for school, my first thought was – is this the same kid that had second, third and fourth thoughts about going to camp?  My second thought went instantly to her Noar counselors and how amazing each one was because they helped her have the most amazing summer.  Raleigh Kibort, Becca Lear, Rachel Alter – I would love a chance to let your parents know what a profound impact you made on my daughter this past summer.  You are role models for her, she looks up to you and there isn’t a day that goes by where she does not mention one of you.  Being an only child, Hannah doesn’t get a chance to have an “older sister” type relationship…but then she goes to camp and can have young ladies like you around for an extended period of time.  It is absolutely priceless.  Your parents should be proud of each of you and I would like to let them know how thankful I am that they raised such wonderful young ladies.  For parents that are reading this and wondering if Herzl Camp is the right place for your child, I can honestly say it is, you will not find a better group of young people to help guide your child, teach your child and love your child as if they were one of their own.

No Comments

Lessons from Camp and the High Holidays

October 3, 2014 by , under General Posts, Holidays.

By: Rachel Saks 

Editor’s Note: This blog was originally posted on The Canteen and is reposted with permission from the Foundation for Jewish Camp and My Jewish Learning, Inc.

The buses have rolled away, the bags are unpacked, the phone calls between your campers and their friends are sending your phone bill sky high, and the countdown until next summer has already begun. As the days and weeks tick by, the Jewish calendar asks us to take pause and evaluate ourselves and account for our deeds. With Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur right around the corner we begin the process of looking at what we have done and how we have grown so we can do more and grow more. The High Holidays aren’t just about beating our chests in repentance; they are also about accepting responsibility for our individual and communal actions and learning from our past experiences. Click here to continue reading.

No Comments

Herzl @ Home: Rosh Hashanah

September 24, 2014 by , under General Posts, Holidays, Letters from Staff.

By: Jamie Diamond, Director of Jewish Education

Rosh Hashanah always creeps up on me. Between camp ending and the school year beginning, life seems to get a bit crazy.  Then all of a sudden, before I know it, it is time for Rosh Hashanah- built in time for me to take a step back from the craziness of the beginning of a new school year to reflect on the past year and be mindful of the things I hope for in the year ahead.  A time to set goals- I will make a new friend this year, I will make more time for my family, I will try a new chug at camp, I will include someone who feels left out, Rosh Hashanah is a reminder that we get a fresh start to be the best versions of ourselves.

As we approach Rosh Hashanah, we can look at Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words, “Make the most of yourself…for that is all there is of you.”  This is not an easy charge.  It is easy to go through the motions of every day just to get by, but if we add a little mindfulness to each day, looking at the type of person we hope to be, we can reach that lofty goal of being our best selves.  Go out and be the best version of yourself, whatever that means for you.  Try to set a few goals for yourself as Rosh Hashanah is quickly approaching.

Below you will find some of the blessings and some activity suggestions that you can do with your family to help celebrate Rosh Hashanah with a little of our Herzl magic.  I hope you and your families all have a Happy and Healthy New Year.

Herzl @ Home:  Rosh Hashanah

At Herzl, we strive to create experiences to help foster a sense of love for being Jewish in our campers. We are excited to introduce a new series of Herzl @ Home resources to give you ideas about how to enhance your families’ celebrations throughout the year with a Herzl twist. We hope the Herzl Magic can extend past the summer and into your home celebrations of the Jewish holidays.

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year. It is a time where individuals, families and communities reflect on the past year and think about what they want to change in the upcoming year. Rosh Hashanah is the first and second day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei. This year, Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown on September 24.

Special things we can do for Rosh Hashanah include:

  • Eating apples and honey for a sweet new year
  • Blowing or hearing the Shofar
  • Going to Synagogue
  • Having a festive holiday meal with our families


Candle Lighting

Ba-ruch ata Adon-nai Elo-hei nu melech ha-olam asher ki-de-sha-nu be-mits-votav ve-tsi-va-nu le-had-lik neir sher (shabbat ve-shel) Yom Tov.

Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the universe, who has made us holy with commandments and commanded us to kindle the lights of (Shabbat and) this “Yom Tov” Festival

Apples and Honey

Slices of apple are dipped in honey, before eating, the following is said:

Ba-ruch ata Ado-nai Elo-hei-nu melech ha-olam bor-rei pri ha-aretz.

Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the universe, Creator of the fruit of the tree, Creator of the sweetness in life.


It is customary on Rosh Hashanah to have a round Challah

Ba-ruch a-ta Ado-nai Elo-hei-nu me-lach ha-olam, ha-motzi lechem min ha-aretz.

Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.

Family Activities

Family Goal Collage:

At Herzl, we push our campers to be the best versions of themselves. Challenging themselves daily both physically and socially, camp helps them grow in many aspects. Rosh Hashanah is the perfect time to set goals for the upcoming year. Here is an activity to help facilitate that conversation as a family.

  • As a family come up with a list of things you want to improve on in the New Year as both an individual, a family unit, and as part of the Jewish community.
  • Have one person in the family keep a list of the goals created.
  • Suggested Discussion Questions:
    • What are things in the past year which you wish you could have done better?
    • What Mitzvot (good deeds) can you do in the coming year to be a better person?
    • What types of things do you hope to learn in the New Year?
    • What contribution can you give to help your family be the best it can be?
    • Why is it important to think about the past year and set goals for the upcoming one
  • Once you have created your list, make a family collage to hang on the refrigerator from old magazines, newspapers, and your own artwork to represent your Rosh Hashanah goals as a reminder of what you want to improve upon.

Bake a Round Challah:

One of the favorite Friday activities at camp is baking fresh challah. The difference between the challah we bake at camp and the ones you will have for Rosh Hashanah is that for Rosh Hashanah we eat round challah symbolizing the cycle of the year.

Tashlich – Throwing away Transgressions:

  • As a family, discuss that Rosh Hashanah is a time to reflect about the past year.  It is a time to think about what we might have done wrong and things we would like to do better.
  • Explain that there is a custom on the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah that symbolizes getting rid of anything bad we might have done in the past year.  This custom is called Tashlich.
  • Go to a body of flowing water and empty your pockets of any crumbs by tossing them into the water (you may want to take a little piece of bread to make crumbs with you).   The bread represents our transgressions.

L’Shanah Tovah.

No Comments

Beyond the Empty Nest

September 19, 2014 by , under General Posts, Giving Back, Letters from Parents.

Matt, Brett & Adam as campers...Or, Brett, Matt & Adam. Can you guess the order?

By: Cindy Tarshish (mom of Gabe, Evan & Adam and former Herzl Camper) and Wendi Rosenstein (mom of Brett & Matthew)

While volunteering at the Herzl office last week (which is great and you should try it sometime), we were asked how we were handling being empty nesters.  We both sighed and admitted that we really missed our boys.  We then decided that we would simply ignore the fact that Adam, Brett and Matthew are in college but rather pretend they are just staffing camp for the next eight weeks.  What happens at the end of eight weeks remains to be told, but we will keep you posted.  In all seriousness however, we are grateful that having our children attend and staff Herzl Camp in some way has prepared us to let our sons go off in the world, or at least to Brandies and UW – Madison.

We know these boys have learned wonderful life lessons behind those orange walls.  They have learned daily living skills such as sharing a bathroom with several cabins at a time, how to wake up on time (or have an OZO wake you up), how to get dressed and to flag within 10 minutes, and how to share meals, chanut and care packages with your cabin mates.  They have also learned larger life lessons, such as comforting a friend who is homesick, being inclusive to campers with special needs, and respecting the staff and camp.

Adam's in the middle...can you guess which one is Brett & which one is Matt?

They have earned the respect of their peers and older Herzl staff because they are menches.  We give them up to Herzl every summer and know they are safe and loved.  They are embraced in their summer home just as they hope to be at home among their college friends and professors who will guide them through even more life lessons.

What is the take home from this blog?  We are grateful that Herzl has had such a positive influence in our boys’ lives and we can rest assured they will use this experience to transition well into college life.  While on the one hand we are happy and excited for them, we both still seem to be transitioning to the life of empty nesters.  So, if you see us a little too often volunteering at the Herzl offices, you will know it is our new way of handling being empty nesters.

Shabbat Shalom.

Editor’s Note: If you, too, find yourself with an empty nest and are looking for something meaningful to do,  join the Herzl Chaverim – a group of volunteers who join us in the office on a monthly basis to help with a variety of projects.  Click here for more information about volunteering. 

No Comments

If You Will it, It is No Dream

September 12, 2014 by , under General Posts, Letters from Alumni.

The 1995 Ozrim

By: Cara Greene Epstein (Camper and staff member between 1989-97; Family Camper in 2014)

The first real thing that I ever directed was the 1995 Ozo play. Yes, I consider that a real thing and no, I didn’t do it by myself. I co-directed it with this guy you’ve probably never heard of (unless, of course, you read BuzzFeed’s The Official Ranking of the 51 Hottest Jewish Men in Hollywood and then, fine, he’s Number 2).  But back to me.

Growing up, I had two big dreams: 1. To be a writer/director/actor. 2. To be an Ozo. If you’d asked me which one I wanted to be more, it honestly would have been hard for me to decide.  So when, in the summer of 1995, I became an Ozo and got to write, direct, and act in the Ozo play, it wasn’t just a dream come true, it was two. 

That summer was one of the most joyous of my life.  It was also the hardest I had ever worked.  Turns out the cliché is true – dreams don’t come easy.  They take dedication, hard work, courage, a lot of ruach and very little sleep.  If you’ve ever been an Ozo, or a parent, then you know what I’m talking about. Dreams don’t just happen – they’re a labor of love. 

This summer I was lucky enough to have another opportunity to turn a dream into reality.  I spent six weeks in Minneapolis shooting Dragonfly, an independent feature film that I wrote and am co-directing and acting in. Dragonfly follows the story of struggling artist Anna Larsen, who returns home to Minnesota to help care for her mother who has been diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimer’s. It’s a beautiful little film about homecoming and healing and it also features Herzl alumni David Greene and Robyn Frank. They’re great!

While this film is a dream come true, tackling a dream of this size takes a village.   Last week we launched our Dragonfly Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds we need to see our film through to completion. I’ve been overwhelmed and humbled by how many of my Herzl friends have generously supported our campaign, but I know that I shouldn’t be surprised. I chose to set Dragonfly in Minnesota because that’s where my village is.  It’s where the people live whom I know will always support me, encourage me, and have my back, and the Herzl community has always been a huge part of that village for me.

That’s why this summer, in the middle of shooting my first feature film, I took a break and I took my family to Herzl.  I did it for a lot of reasons – I wanted to get off the grid, I wanted to jump in the lake with my kids, and I wanted my husband to understand what this whole “Jewish camp” thing is about.  But underneath all of that, I really just wanted to reconnect with my village and with the magic of Herzl, the place where I first learned that with enough hard work, ruach, joy, and determination, no wall is too high, no lake is too wide, and no dream is too crazy.  Because after all, if you will it, it is no dream.

Shabbat Shalom.

Editor’s Note: To learn more about Cara’s film Dragonfly and how to support it, click here.

No Comments




  • - Aiden Pink
    - Albie Powers
    - Alex Locke
    - Alissa Kaplan Michaels
    - Amy (Feldman) Cytron
    - Amy Shapiro
    - Andrew Zidel
    - Andy Halper
    - Anna Simon
    - Anne Hope
    - Avi Baron
    - Bryan Grone
    - Danny Soshnik
    - Debbie (Berman) Wolfe
    - Debra (Fiterman) Arbit
    - Doug Baldinger
    - Drea Lear
    - Flip Frisch
    - Holly Guncheon
    - Jeff Usem
    - Laura Silverberg
    - Lois Butwin
    - Mark Usem
    - Marissa Krystal
    - Max Puchtel
    - Mike Neiman
    - Missy Korenblat-Hanin
    - Neer Lect
    - Pam Wilson
    - Rachel Powers
    - Ross Tulman
    - Tali Minsberg
    - Zach Puctel
    - Zack Zaban
    - Zander Abrams
    - Zoe Stern