The artwork on this note card was created by 5768 WRJ Art Calendar artist Césan d’Ornellas Levine.
All told, I’ve spent almost a full year of my life at URJ summer camps, and over half of that year at Camp Coleman in Northeast Georgia. For many years, Camp Coleman was not only my summer home, but also one of the only places where I really felt comfortable in my own skin. So, when I was asked to come speak at the Olim Fellowship retreat there, I couldn’t say no.
Olim is a fellowship program open to a select group of counselors at five URJ camps—Eisner Camp (MA), Crane Lake Camp (MA), Camp Harlam (PA), Greene Family Camp (TX), and Camp Coleman (GA). Fellows commit to working as counselors for two summers and attend retreats like the one at which I spoke, and they receive an additional stipend each summer. Almost 60 fellows from the five camps attended the retreat this weekend.
The motto of the Olim Fellowship is “changing the world one bunk at a time,” and the Olim Fellows focused much of their weekend on how to change the world. In Atlanta, they visited the memorial of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and toured the brand-new (and incredibly impressive) Center for Civil and Human Rights. Back at Camp Coleman, the fellows learned about events in Israel from Joel Chasnoff, heard from teacher Brad Cohen, who became a teacher while living with Tourette’s Syndrome, and listened to Sandra Roberts from the Paper Clips Project, which presents a unique way of studying the Holocaust.
Talking to the fellows at the retreat, I heard stories from many of them about their own experiences with the RAC at L’Taken Seminars, from a student who lobbied about Israel to one who learned about United States torture policy. Seeing so many of the leaders in our camps there, I was inspired to see how much social justice was a part of their Jewish identities. I look forward to working with these Olim Fellows to help carry on the causes they’re interested in on their college campuses, at their summer camps, and across the country.