Coming of Ageby Buddy Voit January 29, 2018
This past September, I stepped into the role of Executive Director of Camp Mountain Chai. After six years on the camp’s board of directors and more than 35 years in business in the private sector, this once in a lifetime opportunity to combine my passion for Jewish overnight camping with my business experience was a dream come true. My own involvement in the Jewish community can be traced back to my summers spent as a camper, counselor, song leader and cook (so I could be there just one more summer). I am still in touch with many camp friends and counselors I’ve known since I was nine years old. I couldn’t imagine them not being a part of my life today. To say that camp informed and continues to inform my life cannot be overstated. It created a foundation of Jewish values and experience that I have been building on for over 50 years.
Camp Mountain Chai plays a pivotal role in creating and reinforcing Jewish identity for children in Southern California. Campers experience Judaism daily at mealtimes, in their cabins, during activities and of course, on Shabbat. They are surrounded by Jewish role models in the staff, counselors and visiting clergy. The friendships and connections they make will stay with them forever, and will form the basis of their own Jewish practice in the years to come. This nurturing of Jewish values and connections is a responsibility that we treat with great respect and importance. Our senior staff, led by our camp director, Dan Baer, are planning for a very special summer which will mark our 13th year, our B’nai Mitzvah. We will be initiating some new programs and have broadened the scope of others to improve the campers’ experience and make camp more accessible to younger children.
Rishonim (“First Ones”) – In response to the many requests we have received from parents, we are offering two one-week sessions for first-time campers entering 2nd through 4th grades: July 9th – 15th and July 16th – 22nd. Rishonim will be a great introduction to sleep-away camp, and we have hired counselors specifically trained to support our newest campers during their first experience with sleep-away camp. These new sessions will introduce campers to all things Camp Mountain Chai, but in a shorter time frame.
Kavanah – We are kicking our Kavanah 11th grade program up a notch this year! Campers will travel to the Dominican Republic for nearly three weeks and then return to Camp Mountain Chai for four days, culminating with Shabbat. This three-and-a-half-week service-learning program will provide our teens with opportunities to explore Dominican society in a series of educational service projects. They will learn about the history of Jewish Dominican life and meet community leaders. They will be participating in meaningful volunteer opportunities, including running a day camp for local youth. They will also spend time experiencing the island’s natural richness with adventures in the lush highlands, along the beach and out at sea. Teens will earn 50 community service hours for their participation. In addition, volunteer grants are available to all Kavanah participants through our partnership with the Jewish Teen Initiative (SDJewishTeens.org).
Arts – We are very excited to announce a new program to create a camp-wide art installation project. Karen Deicas DePodesta, one of our own camp parents, is overseeing a group who will develop this project, which will then be created by our campers. Karen is an award-winning artist who has shown her work in galleries, museums and fine art fairs all across the globe. This program is currently in the planning stages; watch for further updates this spring!
I am very excited about this summer and look forward to meeting our new and returning campers. I can’t wait to see them create their own foundation from which they will build their Jewish lives.
Buddy can be emailed at:
His number is 858 -499-1330.
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