By: Raquel Binder, alumna and Coordinator, Israel Engagement & Diller Teen Fellows Program
I remember my first night at Camp George like it was yesterday. It was the summer of 2001 and I was in Barak. I was petrified of being at a new camp, very nervous for what the summer ahead would bring. I remember sitting on the patio of my cabin crying to my counselor about my nerves. Some background – I grew up at Jewish Summer Camp. While I loved the community aspects of camp, I was a very nervous camper who was not ready to be at overnight camp as a young child. I took a break from camp for a couple of summers, until my parents found Camp George and thought it would be an amazing place for me. Boy, were they right!
Fast forward to 2001 – on the cabin porch. My amazing staff (shout out to Yonina Levine), talked me through my nerves and before I knew it, I was having the summer of my life. I became entrenched in camp ruach (Maccabiah, cheering at dining hall, dance chug, etc). I spent as many hours as I could at the ski docks, wakeboarding for as long as possible. As a Barak camper, my counselors provided me with the platform to create the first Barak Dance Show. I counted down the days to Maccabiah, easily my favourite part of camp, always eager to choreograph the team dance competition (which we always won, of course). I returned to camp for C.I.T. year and then as a Kochavim counselor. Each summer, I would return from camp a little bit more confident in who I was as a person, a Jew, and a leader. I am still friends with so many people from camp. Camp was everything to me.
So what made Camp George feel like home? If you asked me this question 10 years ago, I would have said the activities and programs. Looking back now, it was, without doubt, the staff. My counselors asked what I needed, and ensured that my needs were not only met, but surpassed. My C.I.T. director, Daniel Abramson, asked me on the first night of camp what my 3 goals for the summer were. One included getting over my fear of heights. He literally held my hand as I trembled across the ropes course, but I did it with his help. KK supported my growth and development from camper to staff, including helping to create a full-time dance chug. I felt valued and like a part of a really amazing community. What I said and who I was mattered.
Since Camp George, I have been working professionally in education, most recently in Teen Leadership at UJA Federation of Greater Toronto. The skills I learned at camp, and the bonds I learned to build, are still incredibly relevant to my life personally and professionally. Camp taught me how to develop a welcoming and caring community, which I value in my current role as Diller Teen Fellowship Coordinator. Diller is a 15-month leadership development program that fosters an international network of teen leaders who are ready and able to make a huge impact in their community.
Over the past 4 years of the Diller program, four Camp George campers have participated. Dani Stancer, Abby Libbus, Max Bacher, and Toni Spilfogel each chose to spend part of their C.I.T. or 1st year staff year in Israel with the Diller Teens, enhancing the foundation of leadership skills already learned at camp. They return to camp with a new set of tools and skills that they are ready to apply to Camp George. On July 4, I will be travelling to Israel with Max and Toni. They LOVE Camp George. In Diller, they have had the opportunity to lead camp programs for the Diller teens, and they are excited to bring Diller programs to camp. As a Program Director, I am appreciative of Camp George’s partnership with Diller. I am so proud of Max and Toni’s (and all of our Camp George alumni) growth as leaders in Diller and beyond. I know that they will be incredible Camp George C.I.T.’s and staff who will create a lasting impact on their campers. I cannot wait to see what they bring back to Camp George!