By Alex W.
As I have made my way into the Jewish professional world, I have often found that many of my colleagues share a common denominator: Jewish summer camp.
While I never attended sleep away camp, I spent nearly every summer of my youth at Camp Gan Shalom here in the San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys. While many of my peers rave about their experiences as campers, I have found that my most important growth happened during my 4 years as a counselor. Working to recreate the magic that I experienced as a kid has shaped who I am today.
When I began as a counselor, I was just about to turn sixteen - complete with braces and a learner’s permit. Over the years, my Jewish and professional self have been largely shaped by what I learned through my colleagues and the camp work environment, though admittedly casual. As a counselor, I was called on to provide meaningful, educational experiences for our campers, and challenged to work in collaboration with my fellow staff, senior staff, the Jewish Federation, and our campers’ parents - a tall order for a kid of 16.
Now, I am near the end of my time at Loyola Marymount University, a working Jewish communal professional, and preparing to apply for rabbinical school.
My sister Aaren, Camp Gan Shalom’s Director, and I firmly believe that every young person should spend at least one summer working at camp, because of all of the amazing lessons to be learned and experiences to be had; from selflessness to self-care, from patience to reliability, being a member of a team.
Camp this summer was a blast from start to finish. We created a magical experience for the kids, and the friends and partners that helped me in that endeavor are now some of the most important people in my life. While I have given my all to Gan Shalom for the last half-decade, it is only a fraction of what Gan Shalom has given me as a young man.