By Rob Stamper, Adventure Director and head of international staff
From the very moment we open the Camp America or Camp Leaders page to apply to camp, we’re all stepping out of our comfort zones to fulfill a dream we’ve had since children: to come to America and to have a summer that lasts a lifetime.
Georgia Gornell and I have been coming to camp for 6 years, starting way back in 2011 for me and 2012 for Georgia. We might have missed a year or two in between, but Eisner will always be our home. A famous saying from staff who came here as campers is “I’ve grown up here,” and that applies to both of us as well. We might not have experienced an Olim year or the excitement of getting our favorite chugim for the week, but we became the outgoing confident Scousers (people from Liverpool) because of camp! Two strangers from Liverpool who became best friends, we gained the confidence to stand on stage in front of the entire camp and dance up and down the aisles in the Chadar Ochel. Camp made us both the people we are today!
That’s why International Night is a massive and must-have event at URJ Camp Eisner for the foreseeable future. It showcases the amazing talents and new-found confidence camp allows us to build for the campers and staff alike. The international staff come from all types of backgrounds from Australia, Britain, Poland, to even Slovakia. The international staff is made up with many faiths and beliefs. We wanted to share what camp’s Jewish culture has taught us, so during the Havdalah service three staff members shared their camp journey and how camp teachings have enhanced them to better people. For example, Scott Summers, who came from an English conservative Jewish background, spoke about what the Reform Movement means to him, and how it has made him a much better Jew.
Georgia and I wanted to make the event a fair, to allow the campers to travel to all these places and taste the food and experience the culture by just walking a few steps on the Quad. We had Tea and Scones with cream and strawberry jam (must be strawberry) from England and a football shootout, putting our catching skills to the test. There was also baked sausage wurst—a sausage and onion combination served on bread—made by Jakub Prochazce and friends from the Czech Republic! Australian vegemite tasting was a popular station too, more for the entertainment of the funny faces the campers would display. As the staff warned, “you’ve got to love it or hate it!” A Scottish picture matching was put to the test, where campers needed to match identical photos by flipping over the card, testing their memory. The winner got to try the amazing Scottish biscuit shortbread! And these were just a few of the many stations the campers loved!
Following the fair, we all moved into the Beit Am for a showcase of talents and skits from all our international staff. There was dancing, singing, and even an embarrassing moment when our presenters for the evening thanked Georgia and me and brought us, their “Mom and Dad,” on stage to present us with some gifts. The cheering, laughter, and applause from the campers showed how excellent and entertaining the staff made the night.
Campers have always loved learning new things from their International Staff, from hearing us saying words in our accents (if I had a dollar for the amount of times I’ve been asked to say “pussy cat” in a British accent…) to just what we do for fun back in our home towns. Camp isn’t just for the campers, it’s for the staff too, and we have so much fun being us and bringing a little bit of our home to yours.
I really hope the tradition carries on for years to come. Thank you for having us and making us the best people we can be!