Josh Niehaus

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March 26, 2021
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Shalom, CSS Camp Community:

The Board of Camp Solomon Schechter would like to recognize Executive Director Zach Duitch for navigating the organization through the unprecedented disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the resulting economic crisis, and also for taking the initiative to organize and create the Washington State Camp Coalition (WSCC).

Zach recruited other camp leaders to form the WSCC, which now has over 70 member organizations from across Washington State. With the help and support of the WSCC Steering Committee, Zach worked with Governor Inslee’s office, the Washington State Department of Health, and key stakeholders to secure guidance that allows overnight summer camps to operate safely this summer.

Zach has demonstrated true leadership and advocated for all 145 overnight camps and their camp families. Zach and the WSCC Steering Committee crafted a solution that works for small camps as much as it does for large programs. CSS’s Board is so proud of Zach’s initiative and commitment to the entire camp community. It’s the ultimate expression of tikkun olam (repairing the world), and we couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome.

Thanks also to David Shore of Environmental Health & Engineering and Michelle Branconier of the American Camp Association for their invaluable input and guidance to ensure a path that complies with Washington State’s expectations, as well as those of the CDC. We are also grateful to Max Patashnik and Nancy Sapiro of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and Andy Kaplowitz of Tikkun Olam Consulting and CSS’s Immediate Past President for their assistance on strategy and advocacy during the process and, of course, to the WSCC Steering Committee members for their dedication to getting this right.

Our children will now have access to another memorable summer at the place where Judaism and Joy are One!

B’Shalom,

Mark Kalenscher


February 24, 2021
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Every year, Jews all around the world come together to hear the reading of the Megillah of Esther. Children and parents alike dress up in costumes and listen to the amazing story of how Queen Esther saved the Jews of Shushan from an evil plot by a mean man named Haman (booooo). The story is filled with drama, humor, plot twists, fascinating characters, and plenty of opportunities to shake your grogger (noisemaker)! But even more amazing than the plot points and events that take place in the Purim story is the secret, hidden story, woven throughout the Megillah of Esther. 

To understand what I’m talking about, we need look no further than the name of the book itself. Esther (אסתר) shares the same root as the word “hester” (הסתר), which means “hidden.” What a fitting name for a woman who hid her Jewish identity from the king! The word Megillah comes from the root “megaleh,” which means “reveal”. So, “Megillah of Esther” literally means “the revelation of the hidden.” On the surface, it may seem as though Esther’s secret Jewish identity, which was revealed to the king at the end of the story, would be a good enough reason to name the book the “Revelation of the Hidden.” But, I think there’s a second, and even deeper, lesson waiting to be revealed. 

Queen Esther was not born into royalty. In fact, she was born an ordinary Jewish girl by the name of Hadassah. The Megillah is filled with various names and titles for Esther, but those are mere distractions from her true identity. On the surface, it may seem amazing that this ordinary Jewish girl became the queen of one of the largest empires in world history. But, she was only able to become queen, and save the Jews, because with every step of her journey she discovered a little bit more of the courage and potential that was always inside of her. The real point of the story is to show us that an ordinary kid can grow up to be an extraordinary person. It is a story about radical self-actualization. And, to drive home this point even further, we must look at the next hidden element within the Purim story – G-d!

The Megillah of Esther is one of the only books in the Bible to not explicitly mention G-d. Unlike most biblical stories where the divine directly interacts with humans, here, salvation from evil Haman’s plot is the work of human agency, ingenuity, and courage. G-d’s hiddenness within the story teaches us that we need to take action and stand up for ourselves, rather than let G-d do the work for us. 

Purim teaches us that you do not need to be born into greatness to accomplish extraordinary things! Nor do you need to wait for a sign from up above to take action. A single act of courage may impact the lives of a few people nearby, or end up changing the course of world history. But, no matter the outcome, it all begins with an ordinary person who is willing to discover their hidden potential. 

At Schechter, we are in the business of revealing the hidden. We encourage every child to try new things and to hone in on the skills they want to get better at. Our campers learn to navigate social situations, independent of their parents. They act courageously, which for some kids means jumping off the “leap of faith” on the challenge course, and for others means sleeping away from home for the first time. Each time a camper acts with courage, fosters a friendship, tries their hand at a new skill, challenges an accepted idea, refines a talent, expands their comfort zone, builds confidence… a little more of the hidden is revealed. Our campers routinely leave camp knowing that they are capable of far more than they thought they were when they arrived. In essence, Camp is a place where one’s potential is revealed. 

We’d like to wish everyone a Happy Purim and remind you that no matter which superhero you dress up as, there’s another superhero hiding underneath! 

!‏חג פורים שמח

Happy Purim!

Josh Niehaus

Associate Director

Camp Solomon Schechter


February 11, 2021

We are so excited to be welcoming back Ilana and Matt Lipman to camp this summer; and, of course, their four wonderful children. Ilana and Matt added so much to our camp program in 2019, and we can’t wait for them to share their expertise and ruach with our campers again this summer!

Ilana will be back as our Jewish Life and Learning Professional, overseeing Judaics and tefilla (prayer), and ensuring that all aspects of camp life are enriched with Jewish values and rituals. Ilana is a lifelong Jewish educator and currently teaches at Yachad High School in Modi’in. Ilana grew up in the Young Judaea camping movement, but she has quickly become a beloved part of the CSS community! Ilana’s favorite ice cream flavor is Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup, and her favorite TV show is Shtisel.

Matthew is originally from London, England. He loves practicing his American accent, but most Americans tell him it isn’t very good!! Matthew is an Israel Educator and works in several college gap year programs teaching students about Zionism, Israeli history, politics, and culture. He is an avid soccer (but he calls it football) fan and enjoys listening to 90’s pop music while running through the streets of Modi’in.

Both Ilana and Matthew earned Master’s degrees in Jewish education from Hebrew University as well as certificates of advanced Jewish text study from the Pardes Institute of Jewish studies. Before immigrating to Israel, they taught Jewish Text, Study, and Practice at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, MD. They live in Modi’in, Israel, which is halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. They love hiking, going to the beach, and having family workouts together!!


February 10, 2021
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At CSS, we aim to be the premier outdoor adventure and educational program on the west coast, and we know just the guy to help us get there! We are thrilled to announce that Josh Lake of Outdoor Jewish Adventures will be our 2021 Teva Director! We can’t wait for our campers to explore the great outdoors with him this summer!

Upon completing his Master’s Degree in Jewish Education from the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1997, Josh headed to the Northwest for the first time to work as the Teva specialist at Camp Solomon Schechter. It proved very fruitful, as the Teva/nature program at camp had been dormant for years. At Schechter, Josh revived the Mt. Rainier Oded trip, took the 10th graders camping, and created fun, meaningful and interesting Teva chuggim (nature programs) for the Aleph, Bet, and Gimmel campers. From meditation to meeting trees, campers learned about nature and how we, as Jews, relate to the natural world. Schechter was Josh’s first opportunity to create his vision of making nature a Jewish classroom.

After leaving Schechter, Josh helped to create the Shalom Nature Center at Camp JCA Shalom in Southern California. There he infused programs with the skills and pedagogy he learned and refined at Schechter while continuing to learn from campers, staff, and the natural world. After five years at the Shalom Nature Center, Josh started his own company, Outdoor Jewish Adventures, a company whose mission remains making nature a Jewish classroom.

Josh continues to evolve and to lead Jewish groups outdoors around the country. From canoeing Bar/Bat Mitzvah adventures, staff trainings, Jewish hiking and backpacking excursions, developing and writing curricula, and unique Bnai Mitzvah training, Josh continues to push his mission into new environments. In the summer of 2019 Josh developed a Teva curriculum uniquely for Schechter and trained the Teva staff to implement the curriculum.

Josh currently lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife Tamar and their two daughters, Ayelet (a camper at Schechter and student at PJA) and Dov (a future camper at Schechter, as well as a current student at PJA), along with their dog, Stanley. In Portland, Josh is the chair of the Climate Action Committee of the JCRC, a part of the Jewish Federation of Portland. Josh has hiked, backpacked and biked around the Pacific Northwest and has summited numerous peaks in Washington and Oregon. Josh is excited to be part of the Schechter family again and is looking forward to a phenomenal future of dreaming about nature and Judaism together!


May 17, 2019
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After an exhaustive search spanning multiple continents and dozens of Rabbinical schools and Jewish institutions of higher learning, CSS has finally found it’s dream Jewish Life and Learning Professional, Ilana Lipman! But wait, there is more! Ilana’s husband, Matthew, is also an inspiring Jewish educator, and he will be joining our staff as well! And as if that weren’t enough, they will be joined by their four wonderful children. We cannot wait to welcome the entire Lipman family to camp this summer! Check out their introduction letter below.

Shalom CSS Family,

We are all super excited to be joining you all at CSS this summer. We have heard so much about the ruach, the fun, and the wonderful people at CSS. We are looking forward to being part of this special place. We live in Modi’in, Israel which is half way between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Our family loves hiking, going to the beach, and having family workouts together!!

Ilana is joining the senior staff at CSS as Jewish Life and Learning Professional. Ilana hails from NJ (Exit 4!!), grew up in Young Judaea camps, currently is the principal of an online Jewish day school, and after camp ends will be going back to school to train as an English teacher. Ilana’s favorite ice cream flavor is Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup, and her favorite TV show is Shtisel.\

Matthew is originally from London, England. He loves practicing his American accent, but most Americans tell him it isn’t very good!! Matthew is an Israel Educator and works in several gap year programs teaching students about Zionism, Israeli history, politics, and culture. He is an avid soccer (but he calls it football) fan and enjoys listening to 90’s pop music while running through the streets of Modi’in.

Both Ilana and Matthew earned their Masters degree in Jewish education from Hebrew University as well as certificates of advanced Jewish text study from the Pardes Institute of Jewish studies. Before immigrating to Israel, they taught Jewish Text, Study, and Practice at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, MD.

We can’t wait to introduce our four children to the American sleep-away camp experience. Noa is 11, learning for her Bat Mitzvah and is an active member of our local tzofim (scouts) chapter. Matan is 9, a dedicated tree climber and an expert stick collector. Adiel is 6 and will be joining Katan and some of the 2nd grade activities too. Don’t tell anyone but his alter ego is really Iron Man!! Neomi will have just turned three when they arrive to camp. She will be bring a selection of her baby dolls to camp with her.

Wishing everyone a great end of the school year and see you in a short few weeks at CSS.


February 11, 2019
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This week we honor an individual who has done so much for our camp community, despite never having attended Schechter as a camper or counselor. Rabbi Jonathan Infeld is the Senior Rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel in Vancouver, BC. Rabbi Infeld is married to Lissa Weinberger, who serves as camp’s Maschgicha (kosher authority) during the summer. Rabbi and Lissa send their three children Avishai, Yair and Naomi to camp as well! During the summer Rabbi Infeld can be found telling Shabbat stories, teaching Jewish values, playing with campers… He even won a dance-off in the chadar ochel (dining hall)! Rabbi Infeld truly embodies the camp ruach (spirit).

In addition to being a great advocate for CSS in Vancouver, Rabbi Infeld makes time every week to skype with camp leadership and review Jewish texts and liturgy. Rabbi Infeld is an inspiring storyteller, a committed Jewish educator, and a true friend of Camp Solomon Schechter. Without further ado, here is our spotlight on Rabbi Infeld!

CSS: How long have you been involved with Schechter?

Rabbi Infeld: Lissa and I, along with our two boys (Naomi had not yet been born), came to camp a few weeks after we arrived in Vancouver in 2006 for a USY Kinnus convention. Then of course we were at CSS the following summer.  We have tried to make it to camp almost every summer since then.  Some summers we have been at camp for just a few days. Other summers we have had the blessing of spending a number of weeks at camp.

We have come as parents of our children Avishai, Yair, and Naomi.  Lissa has worked as the Maschgicha.  I have come as both the Rabbi of Beth Israel in Vancouver and served as a Rabbi-in-residence at camp.

CSS: What do you love about spending time at camp?

Rabbi Infeld: I love having an opportunity to spend meaningful time with my family, congregants, and Jewish children from around the Pacific Northwest in a Jewish utopia. I love seeing Jewish children excited to be in such a wonderful environment that enriches their Jewish knowledge and identity. I love working with great staff who are dedicated to our children!

CSS: What is your favorite memory from your time at camp?

Rabbi Infeld: Playing Gaga on Shabbat.

CSS: We recently announced our 2019 summer theme, Jewish Superheroes! Can you tell us about a hero of yours, and why they mean so much to you?

Rabbi Infeld: Solomon Schechter is my favourite Jewish hero. We named our camp after him for a good reason. He was an adventurer, risk taker, organizer, innovator and scholar. These are great attributes for a person to have.

CSS: What is your favorite camp meal?

Rabbi Infeld: I love camp breakfast. There is nothing like eggs, potatoes, and cottage cheese to get one through the day.

CSS: Tell us a fun fact that people might not know about you.

Rabbi Infeld: I met my wife Lissa in a parking lot at the University of Pennsylvania. We were both leaving an orientation program for students from the East Coast who were about to spend their junior year at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.


February 8, 2019
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Michaela joins the CSS team full time 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.”


February 5, 2019
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You may be wondering, “What’s Jewish about Superheroes?” Where to begin?! Forstarters, many of the DC and Marvel Superheroes were created by Jews (Superman, Batman, Captain America, Black Widow, Spider-Man, Jean-Grey, Iron Man… just to name a few). Many of the characters have expressly Jewish backgrounds and model Jewish values and practices (Fantastic Four’s The Thing even had a Bar Mitzvah in one comic). And, of course, we can’t forget Gal Gadot, a real life Wonder Woman!

But heroes aren’t simply confined to fictional books and movies. Jewish history is filled with courageous individuals and epic adventures. It’s hard to read about the wisdom of Solomon, the might of Deborah, the determination of Moses, or the courage of Hannah Senesh, and not think there was something “super” about them.

And there are the amazing and heroic acts that happen every day at Camp Solomon Schechter. Every time a camper pushes themselves to try something new, they display courage. Every time a camper learns a new skill or navigates a social situation independently they grow.

With so many avenues to explore within the theme of heroes, this summer is sure to be filled with inspiring lessons, fun educational projects, Jewish values, and young Jewish heroes-in-training! We will be releasing a series of posts on this summer theme over the next few weeks.

So stay tuned to find out which comic book heroes are Jewish, which Jewish heroes had extraordinary gifts, and how your camper will discover their inner Jewish hero at Camp Solomon Schechter this summer!


January 24, 2019
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One of the most crucial roles at camp is the Director of Camper Care. This Head Staff position oversees the social and emotional well-being of our campers. We are so fortunate to be welcoming back a longtime Schechter staff member and alumna, Michelle Danzig-Crandall to lead our Camper Care team and make sure our campers feel safe and happy while at camp! Check out Michelle’s message below.

Hello Schechter family! I’m looking forward to spending another summer at Camp SolomonSchechter. Every summer of my youth was spent at CSS. I have very fond memories of and adoration for camp. I would have to say my top 3 best memories are Ga Ga, Rafting, and Shabbat…evening programs are up there too! I’ve been on the CSS Camper Care Team in previous years and I’m excited to be coming back!
My professional life represents a mosaic of interests. I earned my Masters in Education from Gonzaga University (the one with the stellar basketball team) and my undergrad in psychology with an emphasis on adolescence. I went on to explore my love for Jewish Education, always adding a bissel of environmental experiential education to the mix. I did a tour as co-education director at the synagogue I grew up in, as well as having the opportunity to lead youth as a Kadima and USY advisor. More recent adventures include teaching a variety of subjects in Spokane Public Schools, as well as working for the Hawaii Department of Education. Currently, I reside on the beautiful island of Maui.
My professional interests include innovating organizational systems; effectively measuring performance, problems of practices and solutions through the lens of a humanistic perspective as well as facilitating meaningful youth leadership.
My personal interests include contemporary food issues (anything food related really), agricultural and environmental sustainability, natural health, and paddling. I also have an interest in the impact of mind, body, and spirit on overall health.
I am looking forward to the opportunity to reunite with the Schechter community, new and old, and help facilitate an amazing 2019 season!
See you this summer!
Michelle Danzig-Crandall

November 29, 2018
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Few people have dedicated as much of their time, energy, heart, blood, sweat, and tears, to Camp Solomon Schechter as Mike Schiller. Mike first arrived on the Schechter scene back in 1973 and he continues to be an integral part of the CSS community. Mike has dabbled in just about every aspect of camp life, first as a camper and Oded, and later as a kitchen staff, board member, Open House Chair, 60th Gala Chair, and camp parent. Mike’s two children, Karli and Marcus, worked at CSS last summer, and his family sponsored a cabin in honor of Mike’s mother, Babette Schiller, a longtime supporter of CSS (look for Bubbe’s Bunk on the boys side!). As if all that wasn’t enough, Mike just donated a new electric boat to camp last week, so we can get around our new aqua park more quickly. We sat down with Mike to find out why he has dedicated so much of his energy to supporting CSS.

CSS: How did your Schechter journey begin?

Mike: I started out as an Aleph camper back in 1973. Back then, there were certain age crossovers that made it possible to go for two sessions in one summer. I always went to two sessions when I could, as I had friends from multiple age groups. In fact, I was an Oded in 1980 and oddly stayed on after the Oded program ended and attended Gimmel session as a camper. That was a bit weird as I was friends with all the staff. But I didn’t want to miss out on time at camp!

In 1982, I worked as the camp cook (I didn’t plan meals, I just cooked them).  It was a hard summer as I was up at 5:00 AM everyday, and didn’t leave the kitchen until after evening dishes were done.

CSS: Wow! That sounds like a long day. I’m surprised you still wanted to give more time to CSS after that! When did you join the board?

Mike: I joined the board in 1991, and served for fifteen consecutive years. I left the board in 2016, and today I am just happy to be a camp parent, as both of my kids now work at camp. Karli was the Mental Health Professional at camp last summer, and Marcus was the Sports Director.

CSS: Tell us about a favorite memory or two from your years as a camper.

Mike: I loved just sitting on the hill and hanging out with friends. I also loved that moment when the bus first arrived at camp, and you would run down to the office to see what cabin you were in.

CSS: How has CSS impacted your life?

Mike: I found my Jewish identity at camp. It wasn’t about learning about Judaism, it was about immersing myself into Judaism. I didn’t love services, or some of the “classes”, but I did love being surrounded by Jewish youth from all over the region. Shabbat was special and the evening ruach sessions made me love and appreciate my culture. I am still extremely close with campers I met in 1973. Camp is and will always remain an important part of my life. (And I hope, some day, my grandkids’ lives!) Today, one of the Boy’s Side cabins is dedicated to my Mom. It will forever be Bubbe’s Bunk.

Thanks Mike and we can’t wait to see you at camp next summer!

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Questions About Camp Solomon Schechter? Get in touch!