I just finished a beautiful Shabbat at Camp Solomon Schechter in Olympia WA. It is a wonderful place with small cabins, a private lake and huge trees and marsh land all around. There is a river that runs through the tip of the land by a unique ecosystem of wet lands with tall grass surrounded by trees.
But the true beauty of CSS is the people here. Sam Perlin, my dear friend, has turned a camp that was struggling to survive both financially and socially into a haven for Jewish values, Israel enthusiasm, with spirit and Ruach that is unique not only to northwestern U.S but to all Jewish camps around the world.
Sam has capitalized on the camp’s non-affiliation status to create an environment based on his life experience from the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, two decades of educating kids and an ongoing connection to Israel. The outcome of his vision is very special and his staff and counselors have identified with his vision and that energy is passed down to the campers.
I have been lucky to help bring Israeli kids to CSS for this meaningful experience. It is here that Israeli kids can see the celebration of American Judaism at it’s best. They learn about religious pluralism while sharing their life in Israel. The Americans make a life long connection to friends in Israel making Israel more understandable and accessible.
I had the opportunity to speak to the campers about Alex z”l and share my experience as a new immigrant to Israel and the family story. It was extremely moving for me to speak here and made me feel part of what Sam has done here. I can now go home to Israel and see in my mind and feel the energy of a small camp located about as far from Israel as possible while being so close to Israel through the spirit of the staff and counselors.
This year Sam will begin the first program of CSS campers coming to Israel and close the circle of campers who have heard and felt Israel over the years at CSS. I am sure that Sam will be able to create a unique program among the hundreds of programs that exist today for young Jews coming to Israel.
I recommend to everyone I know to be part of this beautiful place and unique Jewish experience by sending your children or grandchildren or by making a donation to the Israeli Camper Fund that helps to subsidize the cost of bringing young Israelis to enjoy and create CSS. The camp is about to embark on rebuilding some of the main buildings after sixty years and preparing the camp for the next sixty years while making it a place that can touch people of all ages around the country not only in the summer months.