Blog  Camper to Counselor to Leadership

Camper to Counselor to Leadership

Crane Lake is a magical place where campers can journey all the way from Lower Nitzanim (9-10) to Olim (15-16). Then they have the option to go beyond to Israel with one another, and, eventually, to become Machon – our counselors in training – where they willlearn to provide the same magical experience that their counselors once gave them. The grown camper can continue to grow and teach in a specialty area – athletics, drama, media, programming, nearly anything else. Here, they learn even more of how camp is made camp. However, some of these campers-turned-counselors or specialists take it a step further and become Crane Lake Leadership. As Leaders, they help to run camp, mentor and train counselors, and make this place somewhere we can all call Home.

These are some of their stories…

Jeremy Levine – Programming Director

Sometimes, I feel like a washed-up detective who took a desk job. Now that I’m in camp’s Programming Department, I spend a lot of my day in an office, planning activities and making schedules — very rarely participating in them. Back when I was a counselor and a camper, I spent my days going from activity to activity, swimming in the lake, playing basketball, and working on art projects all in one afternoon. Not so much anymore.

While it is definitely more fun to swim in the lake than it is to sit in an office, I’m still happy with my new job at camp. I joined Leadership Team a few years ago, but I’m just now starting to realize that I’ve transitioned from kavanah to kevah. Kevah, in the Jewish tradition, is all of the things that are the same: in a service, it’s the words in the liturgy. At camp, it’s the 4th of July Carnival, or Fight Song, or any of the activities that fill up our day. By contrast, kavanah is what we bring to the experience: how we say the words of the service differently every time, depending on our mood, and how each successive program at camp creates different stories. Just because we’ve been doing Fight Song for years doesn’t mean that it’s the same each time: each round is filled with new people and new ideas and new memories. Sometimes, we need kevah in order to have kavanah. In moving into this phase of camp leadership, I still create kavanah and the daily magic of camp — it’s just filled in by other people.

A few days ago, Alyson Bazeley, who was my unit head in Bonim and Olim as well as my youth group director back in high school, arrived at camp for a week on faculty. The first or second night of her stay, we went around Crane Lake, checking out what’s been built since she was here last, reminiscing about people who used to work here, and catching up on what’s happened with us the past few years. With her young son Gavin in tow, we noticed how some things from when she was a counselor are different to how they are now, and how they’ll probably be different still once Gavin is on staff — but how the essence of camp remains the same.

Sameness is a complicated thing at camp; sometimes I think that we spend a little bit too much energy praising tradition for tradition’s sake and not thinking so much about why it is that we do the things that we do. But sameness also gives us an opportunity to do work that people we admire once held. Some of my closest friends in the world are now doing Alyson’s old jobs, which means that I get to watch them do the very same things that made my summer so memorable all those years ago. When I see this, I see that anyone has the potential to step up and create something meaningful for other people — so long as they have the support and the opportunity to do so.



Brenda Mandel – Deputy Programming Director

On closing day of my very first summer, I told my parents I wanted to go back every summer and become a counselor. That was back in 2007 as an Upper Nitzanim camper after spending only 4 short weeks at camp. I went on stay full summer every year after and couldn’t imagine spending a summer anywhere else. As a camper, I came back summer after summer because of the magical community that lives in the Crane Lake bubble. More than that, I wanted to be surrounded by people and support that only exists here – people who I still turn to today. As a counselor, I came back because I got to be a part of making camp as incredible for current campers as my counselors made it for me. At first, this was an interesting transition because I was learning for the first time what goes on beyond what campers see, and finding my new place at camp. However, the more summers I spent as a counselor the more I came to realize camp has become even more magical for me now that I get to see all the exceptional people who work behind the scenes to make sure the campers have the best summer possible.

Now as Leadership Team, and part of Programming, I have gotten to pull back even more of the proverbial curtain. Working with the Program team and the directors, I get to help make Crane Lake magic happen for both the campers and the rest of the staff. Knowing that I help shape the experiences that campers will remember and talk about is incredible, and is a big reason I want to keep coming back after all this time.