April 24, 2024
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Local Jewish Camp Directors Graduate From Elite Executive Leadership Institute

This past week, 16 Jewish-camp directors graduated from the Executive Leadership Institute (ELI) at the Boca Raton Marriott, including Rabbi Joe Seltzer, executive director of Ramah Poconos; Lisa David, director of URJ Camp Harlam; Rachel Levine, Perlman camp director; Esther Staum Katz, director of Camp Shoshanim; and Adam Weinstein, executive director of Berkshire Hills Eisenberg Camp. The ELI program was created by Foundation for Jewish Camp in 2006 to improve Jewish summer camps by significantly upgrading the leadership and management skills of camp directors.

The Executive Leadership Institute is a 20-month program using experts and recognized leaders from various disciplines from the business world and the nonprofit sector to challenge the fellows to widen their lens of leadership and management. The program includes six seminars with industry leaders and Jewish educators, individual mentorship, the use of customer feedback data and a new aspect added to include travel with peers and faculty members to visit at least one camp other than their own. The program also enables each participating director to implement a project specific to their camp.

The project implemented by Weinstein at Berkshire Hills Eisenberg Camp was a new Culinary Camp. Weinstein explained, “Without ELI, Berkshire Hills’ brand new Culinary Camp could not have happened. Because of the program, we were able to create a dynamic Culinary Camp that increases the [innovative] options for families searching for a Jewish camp for their child.”

The fourth cohort to participate in an ELI program, the current group of graduates includes 16 fellows from across North America, representing five movements (Union for Reform Judaism [URJ], Ramah, Association of Independent Jewish Camps [AIJC], JCC Association, Young Judaea) and independent camps.

Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) has long invested in field professionals, developing and implementing some of the most highly regarded professional development opportunities in the Jewish professional world. ELI has graduated 52 participants in three cohorts (the previous one ended six years ago in 2012.) Many of these graduates have described the program as the training that has most positively influenced their careers and professional development.

The commencement address at the graduation was given by Bernard Marcus, co-founder of Home Depot and chairman of the Marcus Foundation. In 2005, the Marcus Foundation gave FJC its first $1 million grant to establish the Executive Leadership Institute. Fourteen years and four cohorts later, the results have helped to transform the field. In addition to sharing leadership lessons from his experience as co-founder and first CEO of Home Depot, he recounted his own positive experience as a scholarship kid from Newark to attend Cedar Lake Camp (part of NJY Camp).

The participants themselves have repeatedly stressed first and foremost the value of a professional community specifically in their field. Becca Meyer, director of Camp Tawonga, San Francisco, noted, “The ELI Fellowship has been a fantastic professional and personal growth experience. Being a camp director can be a little isolating because there are so few people who understand everything that goes into the role. I have loved the opportunity to get to know the other fellows. I’ve learned from them, been inspired by them and built a new network I can rely upon. ”

Josh Pepin, executive director of Camp Bnai Brith in Montreal, Canada agreed: “This program has awarded me such a unique opportunity to spend time and learn from like-minded professionals from our field. While everything was top level, it’s the relationships amongst this cohort that will stand out the most.”

Jeremy Fingerman, CEO of FJC added, “While ELI undoubtedly impacts the individual lives of the participants (which we saw in the tears and touching words in the closing circle at the event), we’re gratified to know that the camps they work for are better off for their participation as well—as is the North American Jewish professional community.”

Rachel Moore is the owner of Hub Etzion and Moore Connected Communications, and in addition to her own blog, ima2seven.com, has written for Times of Israel, JNS, Jerusalem Post, Israel Forever Foundation and more.

By Rachel Moore

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