Olim Fellows Advocacy Weekend

By Justin Garfield
Olim Fellow & GFC Counselor

Recently, Greene Family Camp’s Olim Fellows and directors attended Fall Kallah for the Olim Fellowship program. Olim Fellowship is a two-year program that teaches camp staff members strategies on how to perform their jobs to the highest potential and involves five URJ camps across the country: URJ Eisner Camp, URJ Crane Lake Camp, URJ Camp Harlam, URJ Camp Coleman, and the newest member, URJ Greene Family Camp. This Kallah was hosted in Atlanta, Georgia, as well as at URJ Camp Coleman in Cleveland, Georgia.

I’m honored to be one of the Fellows representing our camp in this program, along with other staff members Alexa Disraeli, Andrew Braswell, Carly Levine, Jennie Brow, Joey Silver, Noah Kopit, and Ronnie Abolafia-Rosenzweig. The eight of us arrived in Atlanta on Thursday, November 8th, ecstatic to and to discover what was in store for the weekend.

The Kallah focused on being an advocate—speaking out for something when no one else will. We spent the morning on Friday volunteering at MedShare, an organization that recovers and redistributes extra medical supplies and equipment to disadvantaged hospitals in developing countries. We were all asked to bring a box of band-aids to donate prior to the weekend. I had never heard of MedShare until this Kallah, and was fascinated by the work they do for others around the world.

Immediately following our experience at MedShare, we set out for a tour of the Civil Rights Museum and Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Sr. had served as Pastor for more than 40 years. We listened to a presentation about his son, Martin Luther King Jr., along with an incredible rendition of the famous “I Have A Dream” speech performed by the man speaking to our group. I learned how true of an advocate Martin Luther King Jr. was for standing up for the equal rights he believed in. Shortly after, we strolled over to Dr. King’s tomb next to the church which was such an incredible sight to see.

Friday Afternoon consisted of lunch at The Temple, the oldest Jewish Congregation in the city of Atlanta. Afterwards, we were given a tour of the structure by the one and only, Rabbi Berg. Just looking at the impressive architectural designs of the building gave me chills as we walked through. As soon our tour concluded, we loaded up the bus and headed off to Camp Coleman. I was especially eager to see this camp because I go to college in Florida now and a lot of my friends are alumni of Camp Coleman and have told me nothing but great things about it.

After a brief tour of the grounds, the Olim Fellows gathered at the Beit K’nesset and enjoyed Friday night Shabbat services led by the Coleman Fellows. For the evening program, we broke out into five random groups and debriefed our summer experiences as first year counselors. Hearing the counselors from all of the different camps recount all their experiences, gave me some input and encouraged me to further improve my job performance in future summers at Greene.

The next day, we heard from two extremely powerful and inspiring speakers throughout the afternoon. We heard from Sandy Roberts of Whitwell, Tennessee who conducted the “Paper Clips Project”, in which people mailed in millions of paper clips to her middle school class. Each paper clip represented one person who died in the Holocaust. The students were shocked just trying to take in how many holocaust victims there were as the paper clips piled up. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to her speech, and realized she was the true definition of an “advocate”.

The second speaker of the day was David Long—the father of Tyler Long, one of the kids in the movie “Bully”. He began his presentation by showing us 45 minutes of the documentary, and finished it with the reasons he advocates for “The Bully Project”. David’s story touched our hearts and brought tears to our eyes.  It also convinced me to support his cause and help end bullying once and for all.

Saturday evening concluded with a Havdalah service around the campfire that I led with Loui Dobin. The next morning we packed our stuff up, and headed back to Atlanta to fly back home. I got so much out of this weekend.  It not only strengthened my beliefs in advocating for a cause you believe in, but also taught me how vital your voice can be in an apathetic crowd.  I will vow to always be the one to speak up.

The Olim Fellowship is a professional development opportunity for first and second year counselors at Greene Family Camp.  It is a two year fellowship which provides training to the staff members as counselors in our camp, but also in their transition from camper to counselor and from high school to college.  For more information, please contact GFC Senior Assistant Director Stefani Rozen, srozen@urj.org.

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