The Junior Counselor Experience

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By Manny Hutter, Olim ‘19

I was last a camper in the summer of 2019– my Olim year. And with the cancellation of our Israel trip in 2020 due to the pandemic, Olim ‘19 was faced with the choice of finally going to Israel or becoming a part of the brand new Junior Counselor Fellowship. What would normally have been the typical Machon experience, Hebrew for “Institute,” was now a completely different program and uncharted territory for both the camp and us, the participants.

The last time we were all at Eisner Camp as Olim, we took the challenge upon us to “go up,” both physically to live on the top of the hill, and to rise to the challenge as the leaders of camp. We were faced with this same proposition just two years later: to jump into a fellowship that would train us to be full counselors from camp’s Opening Day. Once again, we took on an important leadership responsibility.

From day one all the participants in the JCF live in cabin as a full staff member. We have our co-counselors, our campers, and our unit heads just the same as anyone else. Understandably, this transition from camper to staff is not easy. When we were last at camp as Olim, a unit that can often feel like everything is about you, we were the oldest campers. The opposite is the case now: we’re the youngest members of Eisner’s staff and it’s our job to give the campers meaningful experiences as the creators and facilitators, rather than as the consumer.

Though some might look at this as a challenge at first, we see it as a beautiful opportunity. This change requires a change of mindset and may take time, but the special thing about the JCF is that I now have the responsibility of creating experiences for campers the same way my staff did for me. In a way it feels like a mitzvah to make Eisner the place we all know and love, after everything it has done for me.

Being a counselor at camp this summer has been a great way to build my leadership skills as I move into my senior year of high school and professional career. With each day and week, we’ve grown as individuals, as bunks, as our Olim ‘19 unit, and as a camp. I can’t wait for what the rest of session two will hold, but I know that we’re more prepared than ever: for this summer and everything beyond.