Last weekend our dedicated Camp Coleman Olim Fellows participated in an eye-opening kallah. The Olim Fellowship is one of many staff training opportunities and provides first and second year staff with the tools and guidance to realize their potential and be the best counselors that they can be. The Fellowship’s motto is “changing the world one bunk at a time,” and staff who participate truly learn how to do this through year-round kallot (retreats) where they learn from top-notch influential leaders and share with their counterparts from five other URJ Camps.
Below is a reflection from one of our Second Year Olim Fellows, Hailey Kessler:
The decision to return to camp to be a counselor was something I did not have to think twice about. Therefore, applying for the Olim Fellowship, and signing a two-year contract was something I knew I definitely wanted to do. Fast forward a year, and my third and final Olim Kallah (retreat) has come to a close.
This last Olim Kallah was the most inspiring and impactful for me personally. The kallah weekend focused on resilience and grit. The second year fellows arrived in Philadelphia on Thursday and spent the next day touring the National Museum of American Jewish History and volunteering at the Mitzvah Circle Foundation. The Mitzvah Circle Foundation is an organization that provides necessities to people in crisis, including poverty, homelessness, or sickness. We split up into groups and packaged boxes for each unique family with what they were in need of.
We then made our way to URJ Camp Harlam to celebrate Shabbat and continue our weekend. One of my favorite parts of the weekend was the speaker the second year fellows heard Friday night. We had the opportunity to learn from Maya and Stacy Rigler, about how Maya was able to overcome cancer twice, all before the age of 13. Maya is a very inspiration young person, and her story helped me put my life into perspective and truly think about what is really important. The rest of the speakers and experiences throughout the weekend helped us learn how important it is to not only focus on the details and pivotal moments in our lives but also the lives of our campers.
The Olim experience as a whole taught me more lessons and values than I could have imagined. When I decided to apply for this opportunity, I did not expect that it would provide me with so many tools that can not only be applied to camp and being a staff member, but also to my life both personally and professionally. The Olim Fellowship has played a large role in the leader I am today and am continuing to become. As second year fellows, with a summer on staff already under our belt, we are looking forward to applying many of the ideas and experiences we learned during this kallah to this upcoming summer at camp. We are also looking forward to sharing these things with the rest of the staff to do our part in making this summer exceptional for both campers and staff alike.