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Camp Barney Medintz Announces a New Executive Director

By Jewish Camp Initiative

The Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta (MJCCA) has announced that Danny Herz will be the new Executive Director of Camp Barney Medintz, following a nationwide search.

Herz’s role will be to lead and oversee strategic planning, day-to-day operations, facilities management, programming, and staff development. He will also partner with MJCCA leadership to set the vision for the future of Camp Barney Medintz.

MJCCA’s CEO, Jared Powers, says, “As we got to know Danny and learned about his commitment to helping campers, staff, students, and athletes fulfill their goals, build Jewish identity, and develop personally, it became clear his vision and ideology were the right fit for Camp Barney Medintz. We’re thrilled to have him taking the helm at Camp Barney Medintz.”

Camp Barney Medintz is a leading Jewish summer overnight camp, and one of the largest in the country. The camp sits on more than 500 acres in the North Georgia mountains and features two lakes. Established in 1963, the camp gives children from across the country the opportunity to make lifelong friends, explore their hobbies, build a sense of independence, and be immersed in Jewish culture.

Herz is currently the Executive Director of the Union for Reform Judaism’s summer camps 6 Points Sports Academy, 6 Points Creative Arts Academy, and 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy. He has been an integral part of that organization for more than 13 years. Previously, he worked for more than 15 years in education, serving on the senior administrative team at Jewish schools in Southern California and South Florida, as well as being a teacher, coach, dean of students, and athletic director.

He will officially assume his new position as executive director on Tuesday, January 3rd, 2023. Herz says, “Camp Barney Medintz has established itself as a premiere Jewish summer camp for families nationwide, and I’m extremely excited to take on this role. I look forward to bringing my experiences in overnight camping, education, and athletics to the Camp Barney Medintz community and to meeting our campers, staff, and alumni.”

Federation is proud to support MJCCA and thrilled to welcome Herz to Jewish Atlanta!

jessie-schwartzman-at-camp-coleman-holding-torah

How Camp Led Me to my Career at a Jewish Nonprofit

By Jewish Camp Initiative

By Jessie Schwartzman

 

In the fall of 2007 I was watching a  presentation about a sleep away camp at my synagogue. The five minute video immediately captured my attention and shortly thereafter I was begging my parents to let me go. I somehow convinced my parents to say yes even though I didn’t know anyone else going, and by July 2008 I was off for my first year at URJ Camp Coleman. I came back from my first summer totally in love with the place and to this today it has been one of the biggest blessings in my life. 

Over the past 14 years Camp Coleman has given many things: the best memories, the truest friendships, and a sense of direction with my career choice. After my time as a camper at Coleman was finished I quickly applied to be on staff. I knew I wanted to give back the place that had given me so much. In the Summer of 2016 I started my journey as a camp counselor, it’s still till this day one of the hardest and most fulfilling jobs I have had. I also was just starting my sophomore year at Florida State University ,where I was very much involved in the student life at Hillel. 

After that summer at camp I knew my Judaism was important to me, I just didn’t realize how much until I was offered a part time job at that Hillel. During the year I was helping my peers and other students stay connected with their Judaism and over the summer I was doing the very same thing for my campers. After my second year on staff it had clicked for me that working in the Jewish non profit world was where I wanted to begin my career. 

Fast forward to the spring of 2019. I was about to graduate and I was vigorously applying for jobs. Through many hours and many different interviews I landed a job with the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta…. JumpSpark Teen Engagement Coordinator. I was super excited about the opportunity to work with teens and I was even more excited that it was a unique combined position with Union for Reform Judaism. Over the last three years this job has allowed me to work with teens in the Atlanta community on so many levels, and the best part it allowed me to stay at camp a little while longer. I was able to sit on the Coleman year round team and influence the next generation of teens.

I am now starting a new full time position at Federation in the teen space and I owe this transition and success all to camp. Camp taught me the importance of giving back to my community, the importance of doing work that matters, and the importance of Judaism in everyday life. Because of camp I get to do what I love and I don’t think 10 year old me realized what was in store after that first summer at camp. 

Working Hard to Have Fun at Camp

By COMMUNITY, Jewish Camp Initiative

By Allyson and Mark Tibor
Our daughter, Rachel, has attended Camp Barney Medintz since she was a rising 3rd grader. There was no two-week session for her, as she was ALL IN from the very beginning. (She was so excited to have a vacation from her brothers!) Camp quickly became her true happy place.

Rachel entered 10th grade last Fall, along with her twin brother. She was returning to school in-person, like so many other kids, after a year and a half of remote learning. Unfortunately, this school year would prove to be very different. The pandemic had taken its toll, and it became evident that she would need extra assistance, and likely also summer school.

Panic began to set in, since her whole world revolves around camp and the friends she’s made there. She was devastated to learn that she might not be able to go. This summer she would be a JIT, which is the last year teens are eligible to be campers. Her friends were all registered and chattering about camp. But our hands were tied—with only a month or so left in school, nobody had any hope that she would pass her classes.

But Rachel became a machine, churning out her work and staying after school. Two weeks before school got out, she had brought up all her grades, and even passed an online course to make up for a science class from the Fall. I had always told her that if she could make it happen, I could make it happen. So now it was my turn.

I kicked it into high gear, much like she had. I made calls, completed paperwork, and prayed. I hoped the donors in our community would want a deserving young girl to have the opportunity to go to camp. Camp Barney was very understanding, supportive, and generous. The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta’s Jewish Camp Initiative placed the last piece into the puzzle. Though we were very late in making our request, they understood our predicament and played a big role in “making it happen.”

Rachel attended Camp Barney’s first session, making new friends and participating in experiences that she could never have had anywhere else. This was the year for “solo,” in which she had to survive alone for 24 hours. She was so proud of herself for not only surviving but thriving! The confidence she gained from that one activity will surely serve her well in the future. If she could do that, she will have faith in herself, knowing what a strong woman she is becoming.

We are forever grateful to our Jewish community for assisting our child in having this life-changing opportunity. She was truly happy, and it showed in all the photos and letters from camp!

Never Underestimate the Power of Jewish Day Camp

By COMMUNITY, Jewish Camp Initiative

By Melissa Scholten-Gutierrez, 
There is no question that summer is in full swing in Atlanta and summer means day camp for so many of Atlanta’s families. Each summer, approximately 3,000 children will attend Jewish day camps, where they will experience unique joyful Judaism and experiential education which they get to bring home to their families each evening.

“Jewish Day Camp is where my children can be most proudly, happily and authentically themselves,” says Eliana Leader. “They can be joyfully and loudly Jewish, explore their creativity, take chances, and expand their horizons. As a parent I love seeing the connections my kids make with their counselors as cool Jewish role models.”

Another day camp parent shared that they love that their children get to meet kids from a wide array of Jewish backgrounds, while other parents love that the language of Shabbat and kashrut is interwoven throughout the programming.

Jewish Atlanta is blessed to have so many phenomenal day camps to meet the needs of the diversity of our community. We know that the impact goes beyond the summer as these connections continue throughout the year and into the future summers and their families’ collective Jewish journeys.

Scholarships Send Hundreds to Camp This Summer

By CARING, COMMUNITY, Jewish Camp Initiative

Federation’s Jewish Camp initiative has lots to celebrate as 2022 summer camp season approaches. As of mid-May 2022, our generous donors have raised $960K to help send nearly 700 kids to overnight Jewish camps. Atlanta kids aren’t just going to Jewish camps in our region, they will be attending 38 FJC (Foundation for Jewish Camp) affiliated camps across North America!

One grateful scholarship family said: “My family and I cannot thank you enough for your generous support. It has been an extremely difficult year and our daughter would not be going to camp without this help. This is the first time she has ever liked a sleep away camp, so we are thrilled to be able to send her back for a second summer! Thanks again for all of the hard work you do!”

Here’s how the funding breaks down:

  • One Happy Camper Grants: $275,550 to 363 campers
  • Needs Based Scholarships: $671,868 to 319 campers
  • Russian Speaking Jewish Access Grants: $12,000 to 11 campers

Todah rabah! We are so incredibly grateful for this gift. You have truly made camp happen for our son.  Thank you for helping us send our child to camp, it truly is his happy place.”

“Wow! I am overcome with emotions right now and am beyond grateful for this generous scholarship! It definitely alleviates the financial stress, allowing me to feel at ease with sending my daughter to camp this summer!! She had the most amazing experience as a first-time camper last year and really wanted to go back this summer! Please know that I am forever grateful. I know her Jewish camp experience will only help nurture her connection to Judaism and to becoming more connected the community in Atlanta. Thank you thank you so very much!”

More Family Camp Weekends!

By CARING, COMMUNITY, GLOBAL JEWRY, Jewish Camp Initiative

Earlier this month 27 families totaling nearly 100 people gathered for Family Camp: Passover Edition at Ramah Darom. Once again, Federation helped create and convene an immersive family camp weekend along with partners 18Doors, Be’Chol Lashon, PJ Library Atlanta, Ma’alot, and the Israeli American Council.  Other family camp experiences have included PJ Library Atlanta’s Book it to Shabbat celebrating the love of Jewish books. In March, families gathered at camp for The Grand Getaway, bringing grandparents and grandkids together in partnership with Ramah Darom, the Jewish Grandparents Network, and PJ Our Way.

The Passover themed weekend targeted diverse families and was specifically geared for little ones, ages 0-5. Over the weekend families connected with one another in Hebrew, Russian, and Spanish. Bonds were forged over fireside chats, making charoset recipes from around the world, and dancing with handmade tambourines. Families who had previously felt marginalized due to their cultural identity, family structure, etc. shared that it was the first time they felt not only welcomed but embraced and celebrated by the Atlanta Jewish community.

Families said:

  • Our favorite part of the weekend was simply being immersed in Jewish culture with other Jewish families. All of the hosts and co-leaders were extremely welcoming, nice, and accommodating. It truly made us feel welcome, at home, and less-stressed in a new environment, when surrounded by so many new families.
  • We’ve always wanted to attend a weekend like this. We aren’t as involved in our Jewish community as we once were, and we’d love to be more involved again. After attending this weekend we know that there is a space for us in the community

Following the success of these weekends Federation is interested in expanding additional experiential offerings as well as a weeklong family camp. Interested? Let Melissa Scholten-Gutierrez, Director of Family Engagement & Education, know what kind of experience you’re looking for.

The Southeast is Making Jewish Camp a Priority

By COMMUNITY, Jewish Camp Initiative

In October 2021 the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) opened its Southeast Center in Atlanta. I am grateful to have been selected as its inaugural Director, and also to the Zalik Foundation for their support in helping the Southeast Center become a reality. During our first year, we have been primarily focused on Atlanta and the FJC Camps that are strongly tied to the community including Camp Barney Medintz, MJCCA Day Camps, Camp Ramah Darom, URJ Camp Coleman, URJ 6 Points Academy, In the City Camps, and Camp Judaea.
We are focused on building a strong professional Jewish Camp community by listening and learning the needs of each camp. Since nearly all seven of the Directors serving Atlanta are new, we offered them and their Facility Managers a Southeast Jewish Camp Tour. It was a wonderful way to learn about the camps and deepen the connections between our camp professionals. Additionally, the FJC-Southeast Center has been collaborating with Hillels throughout the SE to plan camp staff recruitment events and explore other ways that we can work together to strengthen our camps and campuses. 

It is also very exciting that FJC Leader’s Assembly 2022 will take place in Atlanta, December 4-6, 2022. FJC Leader’s Assembly consistently draws 750 or more attendees from throughout North America and even overseas including camp professionals, Board Members, Foundations, donors, and many others working closely with the Jewish camping community. Our local host committee is committed to sharing our city’s unique elements, culture, and talent with those who will be joining us from throughout North America and the world. 

 Bobby Harris spent 36 years serving as Camp Director/Jewish Educator at Camp Young Judaea-Sprout Lake, JCC Camp Arthur-Reeta, and 30 summers as Director of URJ Camp Coleman. Bobby is now working to strengthen Jewish camps in the Southeast.

Bobby Harris

Director, Foundation for Jewish Camp

You Can Help Send More Kids to Camp

By COMMUNITY, Jewish Camp Initiative

“Though he’s attended Jewish day camps since Pre-K, our son’s experience at overnight camp last year was deeply impactful. Our little boy came back a strong, confident, independent young man, filled with tears of joy, excitement, and memories that will last a lifetime. What an amazing opportunity to know years from now, our children will have lifelong friends because of their time at camp. It’s an experience they won’t be able to have without financial support, and we are truly grateful for the opportunity to reach out to you for this help.”

DONATE TODAY

When you support the Start a Campfire campaign you can help nearly 1,000 kids go to Jewish overnight camp this coming summer! We’re huge cheerleaders for camp because study after study proves that camp builds positive identity and creates life-long Jewish connections. Last year, over 200 Jewish Atlantans helped raise $50,000+ which provided 400+ camp scholarships for Jewish overnight camp. Your donation will be matched 1:1 through February 28!

One Happy Family: The Einhorns Go to Camp

By COMMUNITY, Jewish Camp Initiative

With assistance from One Happy Camper incentive grants and Federation’s Jewish Camp Initiative scholarships, four out of five members of the Einhorn family, including Dad Ronnie, went to Ramah Darom this summer and had a blast. Cela was the family’s returning camper. The other Einhorn kids, Sam and Goldie, didn’t really know what to expect, but all had a sense that it would be a unique, shared family experience. It was!  

Ronnie Einhorn, who is a teacher at The Epstein School, had the pleasure of seeing each of his kids blossom at camp every day and also experienced personal and professional growth coming to Ramah Darom as a seasoned teacher and learning to be a camp educator from his colleagues. “Each week seeing the community coming together for Kabbalat Shabbat and ending Shabbat in an explosion at Havdalah, was a thrill,” he said.  

Meanwhile, back in Atlanta, working mom Heidi Einhorn held down the fort at home and delighted in the happy reports she got from Ronnie and the kids. “Their favorite parts of camp were all over the place,” Heidi said. “The lake! The pool! Rikkudiah (an all-camp dance performance)! For me, having all of them come home so independent and grateful to be together again, was a joy.” 

For Cela, the Einhorn’s oldest child and a returning camper, being back at camp felt both like meeting new people and also like they hadn’t been apart at all. Meanwhile, her younger brother Sam was planning to only go to camp for two weeks, but stayed for four because, in addition to the activities he loved, he knew he would, “be so happy with all [his] friends and grow up with them.” Camp helped them connect not only to their friends but also to Judaism. Cela shared that she will be using many of the camp tunes from tefillot (prayers) in her Bat Mitzvah this coming year. 

Neither Heidi nor Ronnie Einhorn attended overnight camp as kids, but they made a commitment early in their relationship to build their family on a foundation of Judaism and Jewish community. “We’re so grateful to have rich relationships with Congregation Shearith Israel, Jewish Kids Groups, Intown Hebrew School, Federation, and so many other organizations in Atlanta. The fact that each of them recognizes the impact of camp on Jewish identity tells it all. Seeing the lifelong relationships coming out of camp would be enough, but our kids come home choosing our Camp Ramah playlist on Spotify, choosing after-dinner rikkud (dance shows) over screens, ‘accidentally’ referring to things by their Hebrew names, confirming that we are seeing the theory in practice!” 

MJCCA Day Camps — The Smiles are Even Bigger

By Jewish Camp Initiative

If it’s possible, the smiles are even bigger, the laughs even louder, and the joy even more palpable at MJCCA Day Camps this summer. Campers are loving every activity and type of camp, from zip lining, coding, archery, tennis, and boating to swimming, performing arts, fishing, cooking, and gymnastics. They are connecting with friends, trying new things, making new friends, and showing off their ruach (spirit) as they get back to making lifelong memories after a challenging year. 

“As we all know, COVID-19 created formidable challenges, and we are grateful for the significant financial support and expert guidance regarding navigating this pandemic that we received from the Federation in meeting those challenges,” said Jared Powers, CEO, MJCCA. “It was paramount for us to pivot to ensure a transformative, meaningful, and safe summer for all our campers. I wish everyone could witness the magic that is happening every minute of every day at MJCCA Day Camps. We are impacting lives and building lifetime connections. There is truly nothing like it.” 

For the Day Camps team, ensuring a continuation of impactful programing, even during the pandemic, has been the top priority. From planning last summer’s vital Summer Days @ the J, to innovating the school year’s Club J Your Way, they continually monitored and evaluated all public health guidelines and adjusted accordingly with health and safety as the top priority. 

Though some aspects of camp are different, like masks indoors and cohorts, the fun and adventure is more evident, and maybe even more important. There is also much that is new, like a climbing tower and zip line, full archery range, and theme camps including Delicious Disney, Extreme Art, and Video Game Builders. 

After a year unlike any other, MJCCA Day Camps is thrilled to bring the magic of summer to hundreds of campers this summer.