About Gordon & Saskia Schaeffer
Gordon is originally from Portland, OR and has been involved with camp since his first summer as an 8-year-old camper on Whidbey Island. His father Sam was involved with camp work-parties when the Tumwater property was purchased. He built walls and rafters on the new cabins and the Beit Knesset in the spring of 1969. Gordon’s family also supported the funding of one of the original girls cabins, and his grandfather and great uncles donated the Menashe Cabin in 1969.
There’s a saying in Portland, “You can’t say no to Rabbi Stampfer.” This also applied to Goldie, who asked him one year if he was interested in working in the camp kitchen. Gordon couldn’t say no and was a camp dishwasher for a summer while Gordon’s cousin, David Menashe, worked as the kitchen manager. He also spent a summer working as the assistant cook under Sarah Blumensweig. In a subsequent year, he also took on the role of business administrator.
In the 90s when his children were young, Gordon helped organize the first family weekends as his family and friends would spend every Memorial Day weekend at camp. During this period, these weekends reached over 100 friends and families from Seattle and Portland.
Also, in the 90s, he joined the camp board. He served as the president during a time of rapid growth for camp and gained insight into Jewish camping on a national level. He worked closely with Rabbi Stampfer, Gene Huppin, and Hilary Buff. It was an honor to work with this group.
In 2003, during changes in the camp director and administration, he filled in as the part-time business administrator and reported to Sandy Menashe, who was president at the time. During that time, he saw the opportunity to develop a rental program during the off-season. With his professional background in online internet marketing, he created an online marketing program for the Stampfer Retreat Center. This program created exposure so groups interested in renting a camp retreat environment could easily find us.
Hiking has always been a passion for Gordon and, throughout his lifetime at camp, he would spend hours in the backwoods exploring. Paul Norr, former camp president and land use attorney, worked with neighbors who were selling off a farm for land development. Gordon, Paul, and Bob Strauss (longtime treasurer and board member) explored the backwoods, walking through the wetlands and hacking trails with machetes for a number of years. During this time the goal was to explore the 170 acres of camp property and create an expanded teva (nature) program for campers. The idea expanded into developing a trail system where the camp could be used as a rental program for outdoor schools during the non-summer season.
Gordon worked with facility manager, Frank Savage, to develop a trail system through the backwoods. During that time, OSPREY Camp (formerly through the Washington State Audubon Children’s Education Programs) rented camp as a children’s nature camp program. Gordon worked with a group of OSPREY volunteers for many years and developed trails throughout the backwoods. In 2019, after 15 years of researching, exploring, and building the trail system, it now consists of 2.5 miles of new trails and was named the Gordon Schaeffer Teva Loop Trail System.
In August 2014, Gordon and Saskia’s daughter, Sarah, was married at camp. Their family and friends spent an incredible wedding weekend together with camp as the beautiful backdrop.
Saskia moved to the US from the Netherlands in 1980 and fell in love with camp, as well. Straight out of nursing school in 1983, she spent a summer working as the camp nurse. She used her skills to support campers and staff and had a wonderful experience.
In the 80s, she and Gordon spent weekends building the steps project from the Chadar Ochel (Dining Hall) to the Beit Knesset (Camp Synagogue) and supported their three children Sarah, Nathan, and Michael through their camp years.
Saskia and Gordon’s two grandchildren live in the Netherlands and the oldest, 7-year-old Noah, has heard all about camp. He’s looking forward to coming for a summer session to enjoy the magic of camp and carry on the family tradition.
Camp Solomon Schechter has been an integral part of the Schaeffer family life. Growing up in Portland with Rabbi Stampfer, camp has shaped their family’s Jewish identity. Gordon and Saskia are thankful to have been deeply impacted by camp themselves and to have made their impact on Camp Solomon Schechter for their children, for Jewish families across the Pacific Northwest, and the future of our Jewish community. They are grateful to be able to use their resources to give back in return and ensure that camp is here for the next generation and beyond, l’dor v’dor.