A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

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Why these St. Louis teens are choosing camp over other summer jobs

As school lets out, many teenagers are eager to find a summer job. From fast food restaurants to car washes, countless places of employment are available for teenagers to work. Many, however, choose to spend their summers working at a place of familiarity: camp.

Brooke Williams, a rising senior at Parkway Central High School and a member of Congregation Shaare Emeth, spent many of her summers growing up at her congregation’s Camp Emeth. Williams is approaching her third summer as a camp counselor there.

“I’m looking forward to getting to see all of my old campers again and creating new relationships with new ones,” Williams said.

Noah Schweitzer, a rising junior at Marquette High School, is working as a counselor at Congregation Temple Israel’s Camp Shook this summer. Although Schweitzer has previous childcare experience, this will be his first time working in a day camp setting.

“I’ve babysat before, but I think it’s a little different when you have more kids,” Schweitzer said. “I hope to take more responsibility and learn how to interact with kids more.”

In addition to learning how to interact with children, Jordyn Lange, a rising senior at Ohio State and a former camp counselor at the St. Louis Jewish Community Center (the J), has acquired many skills as a counselor.

Brooke Williams, Jordyn Lange, Zac Cantor and Ava Sherman.

“When working with kids, I definitely learned how to work in a team because you can’t do it alone,” Lange said. “It’s important to work with your co-counselors and the admin team.”

Growing up, Lange attended a J day camp in Chicago. After moving to St. Louis and turning 16 a few years later, Lange applied for a camp counselor position at the J.

“I just thought [being a camp counselor] was very natural,” Lange said. “I had gone to some sort of camp since I was 4, so I just felt…that camp counselor would be a perfect fit for me.”

With five summers of day camp counselor experience under her belt, Lange is working her first summer at Camp Sabra, a sleep-away camp in the Lake of the Ozarks. There, she is responsible for rising ninth-grade campers as the Older Habonim Unit Head.

“It’s going to be very hard leaving some of these kids that I’ve been with since I was 16 and since they were 5, [but] I’m excited to start that at Sabra.”

Sabra Camp Director Kimberly Holtzman Sloan has spent numerous summers hiring Jewish teens like Lange as camp counselors. When doing so, Holtzman Sloan seeks out individuals who strive to be good role models for campers.

“When the staff have those friendships and those bonds with one another, they are actually quietly showing the campers how to do it as well. I just think that there’s something so special about that,” Holtzman Sloan said. “There’s something about a Jewish mentor that doesn’t have to be loud.”

While Lange is just beginning to establish herself as a Jewish mentor at Camp Sabra, others have been doing so for many summers. Zac Cantor, a rising sophomore at the University of Missouri and a member of Congregation B’nai Amoona, is returning to Camp Sabra for his 13th summer this year.

“I have some friends that I’ve had for 13 years because of camp,” Cantor said. “I think [camp] is the easiest way to meet other Jewish people, especially [those] who are around the same age as you.”

While connecting with other Jewish individuals, Cantor has also been able to deepen his connection to Judaism.

“[Camp] is super interactive, and I feel like it can make you feel more spiritual,” Cantor said.

This sentiment is shared among many campers and counselors across Jewish summer camps. Ava Sherman, a rising freshman at Miami University and a member of Congregation United Hebrew, has spent time connecting with Judaism at Camp GUCI in Zionsville, Ind.

“[Camp] is just such a good way to be with the people who you relate to the most, [and] it’s good to have that community to pray with.”

For Sherman, this community included camp counselors who helped define her summer camp experience. After serving as a counselor-in-training last summer, Sherman is looking forward to assuming a counselor position this year.

“I feel like I owe it to GUCI to be a counselor,” Sherman said. “I don’t think my years at camp would have been the same without the counselors that I [had] making it the best experience ever.”

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