Cornerstone Retreat: A Week Full of Laughing, Learning, and Dancing

by Justin Fedich, third year staff member at URJ Camp Coleman and 2013 Cornerstone Fellow (a program run by the Foundation for Jewish Camp)

As a third year staff member at Camp Coleman, you are given the opportunity to participate in the Cornerstone program and become a Cornerstone Fellow.  This is something I knew I wanted to do, but, to be honest, after spending nearly a full year of my life at Camp Coleman, I still knew little about the program.  After last summer, I realized I couldn’t leave Coleman for good.  So I decided to try this Cornerstone thing out.  On Monday, May 20, I packed my bags and boarded a plane to Capital Camps in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania with not much of an idea to what I was getting myself into.

Camp Coleman 2013 Cornerstone Fellows and Liaisons

Camp Coleman 2013 Cornerstone Fellows and Liaisons

Upon my arrival at Capital Camps, I was greeted by the wonderful Andi Solomon [Coleman’s Senior Assistant Director] and incredible Hanoch Greenberg [Coleman’s co-Specialist Supervisor and Israeli Delegation head], both of whom would help serve as our Liaisons for the Cornerstone Program.  I also reunited with the other 9 Coleman Cornerstone Fellows.  The days at Cornerstone were busy but extremely enlightening.  We spent our days visiting various sessions taught by awesome faculty (one of whom was our very own Program Director Sara Beth Berman!).  57 Jewish camps from around the United States and Canada attended the Cornerstone seminar, so it was extremely interesting to learn how the camps were the same in some ways as us and different in other ways.  I went to one session about Maccabiah and talked to a bunch of other camps on how they do their color war.  I learned that some camps only have Mac for one day, and other camps always have four teams for their Macs.  I visited the “Brody” at Capital Camps, and all their plaques were small and in the shape of a Jewish star.  In talking to some of the other camps, I realized that we probably put a lot more work into our plaques than other camps do.

I went to another session that taught us some “backpocket” games that are useful for any down time you have with your campers.  Among the many games we played was one game that combined a Rock, Paper, Scissors tournament with Capture the Flag.  That was pretty fun.  I took a few sessions about the importance of music at camp and different ways that I can infuse music into some of my programs.  I also got to play the kazoo, which may just be my new favorite instrument.   Some of our other Fellows took a session dealing with gender and sexuality, and together we brainstormed ways to make Coleman an even more accepting environment.  Former Coleman Assistant Director, Amy Smyler McFarland, taught one of the sessions as well, and it just so happened that her session was filled with a majority of Colemanites.  She taught us the power of telling stories and how every story should have intention and some sort of lesson behind it.   Every night we had a song session and learned some cool songs and silly dances to teach to camp this summer.  All in all, it was a great week full of a lot of good stuff that we can take back to camp.

It’s kinda funny how random our group of Cornerstone fellows is.  Within our strong group of 10, we have the Self Defense Specialist (Bryan Kellert), the Jewish Cooking Specialist (Nick Contino), the Model Airplanes Specialist (Ran Bonfil), and even a counselor who was never a camper at Coleman (Hailey Eisenberg).  If you had asked me in my final year as a camper, in Chalutzim, which 10 people I thought would end up being Cornerstone 2013, my prediction would look nothing like this.  Nonetheless, I grew extremely close to these people over the 4 days we were there, and really couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to be a part of this year’s Cornerstone Fellows.  I am so excited to get back to camp and do everything I can to make this the best summer yet!

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