July 8, 2018

International Staff Impact

By Stephanie Buzza

Every summer, we have several staff members from Israel, England, Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, and Ireland who travel thousands of miles to work for us as specialists and counselors. I have the privilege of interviewing and hiring these staff each summer. International staff are an important part of the EKC family, teaching campers and fellow staff about their respective cultures back home. It isn’t uncommon for our international staff to be asked how to pronounce words in their native tongues or to describe food, sports, dance, and music from around the world. Bunks and specialty areas throughout camp are often decorated with flags from the various countries represented among our staff.

Many international staff members come to EKC for very personal reasons. They often begin their summer with the goal of simply experiencing American culture and seeing a new part of the world. They quickly realize that their time at camp is about so much more. Before too long, our international staff grow to appreciate the rich facilities EKC offers and the role nature plays in creating a meaningful summer away from the daily grind of the big city. Many of them learn for the first time what it means to practice Jewish values and traditions while maintaining an open and welcoming environment to campers of all backgrounds. It is truly remarkable to watch as our international staff begin to see the enormous impact their time at camp has not only on themselves but on others and how returning international staff become a part of the fabric that makes up the tightly woven EKC community. We can create many aspects of camp by utilizing resources close to home. However, we will never be able to recreate the contributions that international staff bring from afar.

As we celebrated Israel Day this past week, I must also mention how fortunate we are to have seven (7) schlichim (Israeli emissaries) at camp this summer. Having just finished their army service, these shlichim bring such a different perspective for our American staff, many of whom have just finished high school. They also offer so much to our campers in their units and specialty areas. While we have Israeli culture as a scheduled activity, there is nothing we can teach about Israel that is more effective than the experience campers get from living with and amongst young adults from Israel. Our shlichim are a staple in the EKC culture.

With Maccabi Color War starting today and as we enter our final week of Session 1, we know our international staff — from bunk counselors to specialists to unit leaders to specialty supervisors — will continue to have a tremendous impact. They play an integral role in the overall EKC experience, helping EKC to leave its mark on all who enter its grounds and to leave an indelible mark that will never be forgotten, propelling both campers and staff on the journey of life and embodying the EKC mantra, “We are family.”