While many college students see summer as an opportunity to take on internships or find a summer job that can help pay for their expenses during the academic year, University of Arizona communications sophomore Amanda Silverman only sees summer as one thing: time to go to camp. “I don’t see my summer any other way. I could get a job that might pay better, but working at camp is amazing. There are kids that look up to me, I have fun 24/7, and it’s the most rewarding thing I can do.” Silverman will be returning to Camp Daisy and Harry Stein (formerly Camp Pearlstein) in Prescott, Ariz., as a counselor this summer, after serving as the camp dance specialist last year.
For UA pre-physiology freshman Jamie Klein, becoming a camp counselor at Camp Daisy and Harry Stein was an easy transition. After spending six summers as a camper, she will be returning for her second year as staff. “I loved my experience so much,” said Klein, “I didn’t appreciate Judaism until I was at camp, in beautiful surroundings, and with my friends.” Klein also credits her time at camp with helping her figure out her career path. “I knew I wanted to be a doctor, but I’ve realized I want to be a pediatrician because I love working with kids.”
Working at summer camp provides staff exposure to many different situations and skills. Courtney Pomush, a UA communications sophomore, has tried several positions in her twelve years at Camp JCA Shalom in Malibu, Calif. “I went from being a camper for nine years, to a CIT (counselor-in-training), to the head of arts and crafts last summer. It’s fun seeing all of the different sides and how it all works.” Pomush also sees working at camp as a way to connect with other Jewish people around the world. “I have friends all over, not just from California. There are kids from Arizona, too. I have even made friends from Israel, who I will be visiting this summer.”
Unfortunately, for most camp counselors, the job cannot continue forever. Pomush thinks this will most likely be her last summer at camp before she needs to pursue something that will help her on her career path. Alex Rosenthal has had to come to that realization sooner than he had hoped. After 11 years at Camp Daisy and Harry Stein, the UA junior is trying to figure out how to balance camp with his studies. “I need to focus on school, but I’m going to try to work at camp in some capacity.” Crediting camp with providing him an environment in which he could question and explore Judaism, Rosenthal returns each summer hoping to provide the same for the current campers.
After she graduates from the UA in May, sociology senior Hannah Crawford will be working at Shwayder Camp in Colorado for her fifth, and final, summer. “I was offered a senior staff position, which I’ve always wanted. Jewish summer camp was the first time I felt a real connection to Jewish community because it combines the excitement, fun and specialness of camp with Jewish identity. I’ll miss it, but I have to figure out what I will do in the real world.”
Laura Wilson Etter is a freelance journalist, grant writer and artist in Tucson.