Our staff is made of the best of the best! People who are passionate about making memorable and lasting camper experiences.
Executive Director – Zach Duitch
Zach is no stranger to Schechter. He spent a total of 15 summers at camp – 7 as a camper, 1 as an Oded, and 7 as summer staff ranging from counselor to the Assistant Summer Director. Zach has definitely kept busy since those lazy, hazy days of summer. He spent the past 17 years at the Stroum Jewish Community Center, beginning as a youth counselor in the after-school program and rising to the position of Director of Data Insights and Security Management. His leadership of the JCC’s summer day camp program increased attendance from 300 to over 1,200 campers this summer. As Director of Programs and Services he engaged over 3,000 community members per year through innovative and creative programming and helped transform their dormant health and fitness program into a thriving business center.
Zach, when asked why he wanted to come back to Schechter, enthusiastically responded, “Schechter is the most magical place on earth! Gaga, Shabbat, jumping off the high dive, double dare, endless shira (singing) sessions, Maccabiah (color wars), Yom Israel (Israel Day), the bullfrog croaking at night, the big dipper shining bright over the lake, toranut skits, degel (flag ceremony), friendships formed, and the counselors make this camp unique, special, and magical. I want every child to experience the MAGIC that I experienced at camp.”
When you see Zach at camp this summer, he will be joined by his wife of ten years, Jessica, and his two great kids, Charley (6) and Bayley (3). In addition to being a positive role model who loves working with today’s youth, he loves to play sports, work out, travel, eat sushi, play with his kids (hiking, swimming, biking, soccer, and art projects, to name a few), watch NETFLIX, and be a diehard Husky, Seahawks, M’s, and anything sports fan.
Director, Innovation & Programs – Josh Niehaus
“It’s hard to put into words how much CSS has given to me. All of my best friendships, my greatest skills, and my relationship with Judaism, were established and cemented at Schechter. I will be coming up on my nineteenth summer at CSS, first as a camper, then Oded, Counselor, Songleader, Boys Side Supervisor, Marketing Manager, Assistant Director, and now the Director of Innovation & Programs. I’m one of the lucky few that gets to say “I’m a full-time camp guy!’“
During the school year I travel around to our many communities in the US, Canada, and Israel, to meet with camp families and recruit new campers! I also plan the fun events and evening programs that our campers enjoy throughout the summer.
Outside of camp, you can usually find me playing guitar or leading services. I tour with Josh & Chava, as well as The Sababas! I often lead Friday night services at Herzl Ner-Tamid and Temple Beth Or, and have a yearly High Holiday gig at Temple Chai in Scottsdale, AZ.
My love of playing guitar began at CSS. My 6th grade counselor, Rich, would play for us and he seemed like the coolest person in the world. I learned how to play campfire songs and lead prayer services and pretty soon I was being hired for gigs. I studied music at Columbia University (although I majored in History), earned a second degree in Audio Engineering from the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences, and I worked as the music assistant on the Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien. I truly believe that none of that would’ve happened without CSS.
Of all the places I have had the privilege to play music, none compare to the chadar ochel (dining hall) on Shabbat. The ruach (spirit) in the room is unlike any place on Earth, and there is nowhere I would rather be. So come and experience the magic this summer at CSS!“
Director of Operations – Jef Nobbe
Jef comes to Camp with over 20 years of non-profit experience. While working on his BS in Math & Computer Education at Purdue University, he spent four summers working at the Flatrock River YMCA Camp in southern Indiana. He continued his studies at Purdue, receiving a Masters degree in Mental Health Counseling. Upon graduation, he moved to Seattle and worked directly with street-involved youth at YouthCare for five years before moving into fundraising and volunteer management. In 2001, he left YouthCare to become the Development Director of the Washington Poison Center, where he started the Mr. Yuk Fundraising Luncheon, increased federal funding to the center tenfold and worked diligently to increase public awareness of Mr. Yuk, the Poison Center services and the need for funding. In 2008, Jef was provided the opportunity to join the staff of Creative Activities/VSA Washington as their Associate Director. Creative Activities/VSA Washington provided art opportunities to people with disabilities across Washington State until it closed its doors due to the economic downturn.
Now part of the Camp Solomon Schechter team for over three years, Jef has seen, first hand, the transformative power of camp and how those experiences and memories positively impact campers and counselors alike years into the future. “I’ll never forget how it was okay to sing off key at the top of your lungs at a campfire with everyone merrily joining in simply because you were trying your best, or witnessing how engaged a camper would become when given some words of encouragement.“
Registrar and Development Associate – Carolyn D’Albora
Carolyn came to CSS the long way. A practicing attorney for 10 years, Carolyn quit the active pratice of law the day her first child was born. For the next 15 years, she did legal research, worked as an American Sign Langage Interpreter at several local community colleges, and together with her husband Mike, raised their two children. Carolyn grew up on the South Side of Chicago and attended Camp Chi in Wisconsin, where she formed her love for camp and her belief in its importance for Jewish children.
Michaela joins the year-round CSS team after having spent the last five years as a member of the summer staff. She has held multiple roles including cabin counselor, T’fillah (Prayer) Specialist, and most recently, Judaics Lead. Over her years at camp, as a camper and staff member, Michaela has developed a true love for CSS.
Prior to joining the CSS team as Engagement Coordinator, Michaela studied at the University of Washington, where she graduated with a degree in International Studies: Jewish Studies in June 2018. During her four years at UW, Michaela worked as a chapter advisor for United Synagogue Youth (USY) and, in her senior year, took on the role of Field Engagement Associate for USY’s Pacific Northwest region. Following her graduation, she continued to work for USY, and served as Youth Director at Herzl-Ner Tamid. Through these roles, she gained a deeper understanding of the Jewish youth experience in the Pacific Northwest as well as a passion for enriching the Jewish life and education of these youth through social experiences. Outside of work, you can find Michaela volunteering as a special needs cheer team coach, tutoring B’nai Mitzvah students, and playing with her dog Charlie.
Michaela is excited to bring her experience and knowledge to CSS where she hopes to continue to help create lasting memories for campers of all ages. When asked to share one of her own favorite memories, Michaela said, “During my first year on staff at Camp Solomon Schechter, I had a cabin of 5th grade girls. Many of them were new to camp and there was one camper who was particularly shy and hesitant to join the group. On the first Friday night, during Shabbat shira (singing), she started to come out of her shell because of the warm and welcoming community that was created in which everyone was welcome to freely celebrate their Judaism and be themselves. This was the moment I truly fell in love with Camp Solomon Schechter.”
Retreat Center Coordinator – Kevin Schmelzlen
Kevin joins the Camp Solomon Schechter/Stampfer Retreat Center family with over a decade of experience in public engagement, brand development, marketing, and customer service. Since 2010, when he began an internship at California Wolf Center (a wolf education, conservation, and research facility located in the mountains east of San Diego, California), Kevin has been passionate about protecting and promoting natural beauty and outdoor experiences.
After his internship and three years as Education & Outreach Coordinator for California Wolf Center, Kevin was lured to western Washington by its natural splendor and purchased 5 acres on the Arcadia Peninsula, near Shelton. Since arriving in Washington in 2013, he has served as Campaign Coordinator for Murrelet Survival Project, a collaborative campaign created to protect critical nesting habitat for the endangered marbled murrelet, and as Community Engagement Coordinator for Mason Conservation District. In addition to his professional work, Kevin founded and led a grassroots movement called Shelton To The Top in 2016 and 2017, which worked with Shelton community members, groups, businesses, and local government to remove over 250,000 pounds of trash from illegal dump sites, abandoned homeless camps, and derelict properties in the greater Shelton area.
“People have a certain expectation of what it means to visit or live in the Pacific Northwest- bountiful forests, clean water, and an abundance of outdoor recreation opportunities- and I’m committed to matching the reality to those expectations. I’m thrilled to be able to spend my days at Camp Solomon Schechter/Stampfer Retreat Center and help spread the word about all it has to offer!”