Summer Spotlight 2014: Summer Staff


The enriching summer opportunities provided for URJ Youth would not be possible without the expertise, dedication, and diversity of our staff.  Each summer, URJ Camps, NFTY in Israel, and Mitzvah Corps employ 1,000+ staff members to help create a positive, well-rounded experience for our campers and program participants.

In order to ensure that counselors and specialists are provided with the tools necessary to make each summer memorable, our programs include week-long staff orientations filled with team-building activities and training programs.

Check out these blog entries, photos, and videos to get to know our staff and find out what goes on before the kids arrive!

Building a Kehilah Kedosha (Holy Community)
Staff Training Week: A Day in the Life
A Staff Member’s Perspective


Building a Kehilah Kedosha (Holy Community)

A significant goal of Staff Training Week is to lay the foundation of a community with a love of Judaism. At Camp Newman, staff members discuss how living by Jewish values and traditions can help create a successful summer experience.

Senior Staff at URJ Crane Lake Camp Acting on the Jewish Value of Tikkun Olam (Repairing the World)

Senior Staff at URJ Crane Lake Camp Acting on the Jewish Value of Tikkun Olam (Repairing the World)

“As we prepare to usher in Shabbat, I am reminded of the idea that Shabbat is a taste of the world to come, an ideal world – And that Camp is like the Shabbat of the year, where we can taste this ideal world and live, celebrate our best selves.”

-Ruben Arquilevich, Executive Director; Camp Newman

Leadership Team Bringing in Shabbat at URJ 6 Points Sports Academy

Leadership Team Bringing in Shabbat at URJ 6 Points Sports Academy

At  URJ Camps, we believe that creating a safe space where campers and staff alike are free to be themselves is essential. In order to learn how to form a truly welcoming community, staff members at Camp Harlam participated in training on LGBTQIA inclusion.

We already know the Hebrew words kehilah and kedosha, but at Camp Coleman, it’s important for staff, campers, and parents to learn this vocabulary:

  • shalom – peace
  • chesed – kindness
  • kavod  – respect

These values are necessary for the formation of a Holy Community.

Shabbat isn’t the only way we connect to Jewish values at URJ camps. During their training, staff members at Eisner Camp also openly discuss what it means to build a kehila kedosha, and why it’s important to do so. By exchanging ideas and answering these big questions before camp begins, staff members are setting the stage for an intentional Jewish experience for our youth.


Staff Training Week: A Day in the Life

Training workshops implemented at Camp George are well-rounded programs designed to provide staff members with the skills needed to become role models, caregivers, and educators.

Throughout the week, staff have participated in a variety of workshops, covering a wide range of topics. They have learned about everything from fire safety, to experiential programming, about how to establish cabin routines…and more”

-Karen Kollins, Associate Director; URJ Camp George

Get a glimpse of Staff Training Week at Jacobs Camp and see how “happy” everyone is to kick off the summer!



Co-counselors at 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy Establishing Counselor Guidelines During Staff Training Week

Each camp and Israel program has its own unique way to prepare its staff for the summer ahead. At URJ Goldman Union Camp Institute, a Parent Panel takes place during Staff Training Week. This is where parents from the Indianapolis area come to camp to provide an important perspective on the staff members’ summer “parenting” responsibilities.

In the world of Jewish camping, Mitzvah Corps at URJ Kutz Camp is not alone in its mission to create a successful camp experience for teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This year, National Ramah invited URJ Camps to attend their Spring Leadership Training Conference, where they focused on how the two movements can collaborate to achieve their goals.

During Staff Training Week, specialists undergo an orientation in their particular area in order to ensure that camp activities are effective, fun, and safe. At Crane Lake Camp, ropes staff go through a three-day training to learn the ins and outs of the ropes course, while simultaneously building a bond with one another. The practical training in each activity is just as important as forming trust between specialist teams.

When they’re not in training workshops, staff members at Kutz Camp are eagerly awaiting the campers’ arrival!

A Staff Member’s Perspective


15 summers. That’s how long this staff member has been a part of the Crane Lake Camp family.  Check out one alum’s journey through the years at a URJ camp.

Yet through all of these changes and as time passes, I come back every year packed in my bright red suitcases and get that same huge smile on my face, hug my camp friends who I love as family, welcome new experiences, and dedicate myself to the time honored camp traditions.”

-Yaelle Nisinzweig, Program Director; Crane Lake Camp

NFTY in Israel Staff 2014

NFTY in Israel Staff 2014

For this NFTY in Israel staff member, being a counselor for Group 8 means growing to become a unified mishpacha (family) with a shared collective history.

At 6 Points Sports Academy, one counselor reminisces on the time she was a camper, noting that her positive experiences were a result of the fantastic role models  that made up the staff.

Being a Counselor at Camp Harlam