Olim: Changing The World One Bunk At A Time

By Ronnie Abolafia-Rosenzweig, 2nd year GFC Staff member

Thursday night, April 4, the Greene Family Camp Olim second year fellows: Andrew Braswell, Alexa Disraeli, Jennie Brow, Justin Garfield, Carly Levine, Joey Silver, Noah Kopit and I flew into Philadelphia. The following day we participated in a tour of Philadelphia lead by Rabbi Sussman. We viewed historical landmarks such as Benjamin Franklin’s memorial while learning about his connections with American Jews. We went on to tour the National Museum of American Jewish History.  This was my favorite part of that Friday. This museum is the only joyous Jewish museum I have ever visited.  Seeing the American history of the Jewish people and the footprint they have made instilled a greater pride for my religion and heritage in my heart. I learned that it is difficult to find a part of American history which a Jew did not have their hand on. From the revolutionary war, to personal relations with Benjamin Franklin and Teddy Roosevelt Jews have helped shape the American history I grew up learning.

Friday night the Olim fellows left the heart of Philadelphia to Camp Harlam, a couple hours outside of the city.  When arriving the first thing I noticed was the beautiful nature the camp was built on.  The green hills sprinkled with tall pine trees was a breath taking site that many of the Texas Fellows had never seen before.  After arriving, the second year fellows had their last exclusive second year program.  Three experienced Harlam staff members gave speeches on mistakes in mindset they made as counselors and how we could learn from them.  We went on to talk about “tipping cows,” or breaking traditions that are held sacred to some, but have no place at camp anymore.   This conversation hit home for me.  I became a counselor at Greene Family Camp because I wanted to give back to the camp that gave me so much.  I planned to do this by giving my campers the same amazing experience I had when I was a camper.  The “tipping cows” speech was targeted to stop this mindset.  The campers who I will be responsible for will be different from me when I was a camper.  They will enjoy different activities, music, and camp traditions than I did.  I learned to not focus on giving my campers the same experience as me, but to adapt to my campers to give them their own equally different, but amazing camp memories.

The first and second year GFC Olim Fellows with Loui, Stefani and Scott at Camp Harlam

For the first time, later that night the second year Fellows were united with the first year fellows.  Being with the first year fellows helped me see how far I have come throughout the year as a Jewish leader.  Seeing their excited and eager faces, ready to begin their journey as Jewish leaders reminded me of myself when I began the journey, and allowed me to reflect on the changes I have made due to Olim retreats and my Summer at Greene as a counselor to strengthen my ability as a Jewish leader.

Saturday I felt was the day I evolved the greatest as a counselor.  Rabbi Eskovitz Rigler presented the second year fellows with a film about igniting the spark in all campers.  “Youth are not empty vessels to be filled, they are fires to ignite,” is the quote which the film circulated around. As a counselor I am taking a valuable lesson from this video which I will try to pass on to my fellow staff members.   Every camper has their own spark, something that makes them tick, their burning passion.  An ineffable desire that makes them excited to wake up each morning. One action item for the counselors is to help each camper find and ignite their spark.  An amazing example I heard from a second year fellow from Camp Harlam was about a shy camper who loved to play the guitar and sing.  Every day during free time this camper played his guitar and sang inside the cabin, but was too timid to play outside.  Halfway through the session the kid began playing outside the cabin with the confidence he gained instilled in him by his fellow campers and counselors. By the end of the session the camper had an audience of people around him whenever he performed outside of his cabin.  This camper had a spark for music, and due to his counselor and bunkmates helping him gain confidence, the spark was ignited.

Sunday concluded the voyage through Olim for the second year fellows.  Throughout our retreats as Olim fellows during the year each and every one of us has gained tools, passion, confidence, and inspiration to impact the Jewish youth one bunk at a time.  I am proud to be one of the Greene Family Camp Olim Fellows of 2013, and hope the Fellows of 2014 have their own unique learning experiences throughout the year, and can help improve on the most amazing camp on Earth, GFC.

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