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August 5, 2022
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Shalom everyone,

I can’t believe we are about to celebrate our last Shabbat of second session and the last Shabbat of summer ‘22! This week has flown by and what a week it has been.

On Wednesday we welcomed around 70 new Rookie Campers to join us for the last week of the session. It has been so wonderful to see all of our Rookie Campers throw themselves into camp and they are enjoying every single minute. On Wednesday night we kicked off their week with an opening campfire where we sang songs and representatives from each cabin came up to the fire and made a wish for something they hope to come true this week. It was such a blessing to hear the Rookie Campers tell us what they are excited for and hope to come true. After they made their wishes, they threw a stick into the fire in the hope that their wish comes true as the fire burns the stick. The campers have already made so many new memories and friendships, and I can’t wait for what lies ahead this week for all of them.

As we approach the end of this summer, I find myself feeling a mixture of emotions. One part of me is so sad that this incredible summer is about to come to an end. This truly has been the summer of a lifetime and I am so proud of everything that our campers and staff have accomplished. Every person who has entered the gates of camp this summer, has left a better version of themselves. I have seen people grow in confidence, learn new skills, make new friends to last a lifetime, explore their Jewish identities and so much more. Yet, on the other hand, I am so enthusiastic and excited about the future of Camp Solomon Schechter. I cannot wait until all of our campers are back on the Machaneh (camp) next summer and I’m counting down the days until the first day of first session 2023! My wish for all of our campers is to keep the memories from camp alive as they return home and go back to their regular lives. Keep talking about the fun times they had at camp this summer, the friendships they made, the times they laughed until they cried and all of the happiness they found here at camp. Take it home, share it with a friend, with their families and camp will stay in their hearts and minds each and every day until next summer.

For now, I have to go get ready to celebrate the last Shabbat with our wonderful camp community. I can’t wait to go to services, get tucked into a delicious meal and sing the night away at Shira (song session). The final days of the session are going to be incredible, and I can’t wait to spend it with all of our campers. The countdown is on until registration opens for summer 2023!!

Shabbat Shalom,

Adam


August 1, 2022
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This year I had the privilege of going on the Gesher Israel Program. In this program we were partnered with Alexander Muss High School in Israel (AMHSI) to go on a month-long travel through the Holy Land. We started in Ein Gedi and we ended in the Golan in a kibbutz called Ayelet Hashachar. For me, this was an eye-opening experience into the different types of Jewish people who live around the world. I have never travelled to Israel before so it was an amazing experience being able to see how one can live as a Jew openly and proudly. I have always wanted to join the army but visiting Israel was the confirmation I needed. My favorite place we visited in Israel was the Golan Heights. We visited one of the last handmade shoemakers in all of Israel and we visited Tzfat and the beautiful shul there. Overall, I could not have asked for a better Israel experience, and I am so glad I got to share it with my Schechter friends and community!


July 29, 2022
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Shalom everyone!

What a week it has been! Our Session 2 campers have already been here for over a week and time is flying by. Despite the heat wave that we’ve been experiencing this week, camp has been alive and filled with ruach (spirit) and our campers are having the most unforgettable summer. As the days go past, I see our campers becoming more confident, making new friendships and memories and ultimately becoming better versions of themselves.

On Wednesday I had the pleasure of going to the airport to welcome back our wonderful Gesherim campers who had spent that last four weeks traveling Israel. Even though they had just been traveling for over 20 hours back to Seattle, their faces radiated with joy as the bid farewell to their friends after an amazing trip together. Our Gesherim embarked on a journey where they got to see first-hand and learn about the many different facets that contribute to the land of Israel. The group managed to hit several different cities across the country. They got to explore the urban, metropolitan city of Tel Aviv, learn about the religious diversity of Jerusalem, climb Mount Masada, snorkel in Eilat, spend time with the Bedouin community, meet with charities such as Save a Child’s Heart, a non-profit that supports the quality of pediatric cardiac care in Israel, and so much more. For many, this was their first visit to Israel and this phenomenal experience allowed all of the Gesherim to explore the homeland of the Jewish people and build a love for the State of Israel, which is one of Camp Schechter’s values. I am so excited to see what the Gesherim learned on their trip and how they bring this wealth of knowledge back to their home communities and specially to camp next summer when our Gesherim join us as staff.

I want to give a special shout out to the Gesherim’s Madricha (counselor), Or Chen Worcman who traveled with the group and supported them with their learning and bonding as a community. I hope that our group enjoys catching up on their sleep now that they are home, takes time to reflect on all of the happiness they found on the trip, and starts to get excited about becoming counselors in summer ’23!

Otherwise in camp, we have been having an incredible time. On Wednesday and Thursday, the whole of camp participated in Maccabiah (color war). Our four teams competed for the coveted title of Maccabiah champions, and it was the Miriam/Green team, who were victorious! Mazal Tov (congratulations) to the Miriam/Green team and a big Kol Ha’kavod (well done) to each and every camper for participating and making the most of Maccabiah. We have so much more to come in the next two weeks of camp and I am so excited for everything that is to come. I am so proud of everything that our counselors and staff have been doing to support our campers and I know just how much they are changing their lives for the better.

As we head into Shabbat, I wish you all a Shabbat Shalom and look forward to updating you next week on all of the exciting and fantastic things that will take place in camp next week.

Love from Lake Stampfer,

Adam


July 15, 2022
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Shalom everyone!  

Coming to you from a warm and sunny day on the Machaneh (camp). What a week it has been! On Sunday we welcomed almost 90 Rookie campers who joined us for the final week of camp. It has been truly wonderful to see how all of our Rookie campers have integrated straight into camp, embraced all of the fun and joy, and are making new memories each day. For many of these campers, this is their first year here at CSS and I already know that this group of campers are our future. As I walk around camp, I think of L’dor V’dor (from generation to generation) and how their journey at CSS is only just starting. Our staff, many of whom were campers themselves, have grown up dreaming of being staff at camp and empowering the lives of their campers, just as how their lives were changed by their own counselors. An entire new generation of campers joined our community this week and I for one am so excited for their Schechter journeys and to watch them grow from camper to counselor and beyond.  

So many wonderful things have happened at camp this week. On Monday night, our Shorashim and Garinim campers took part in a Lip Sync Battle for their evening program. It was such a joyful evening with many incredible performances. The display of talent continued into Tuesday when the entire camp gathered together for a Talent Show! Our campers took to the stage to show off their wonderful talents, whether it was singing, dancing, acting, or more, I am so proud of all our participants for showing off their skills. On Wednesday, our “Jew Crew” team led camp in a Jewish Holiday Day, where we learned about all the different Jewish holidays in many different ways. Our meals were themed, and we got to try our different foods that we eat on certain holidays such as hamantaschen pizza, blintzes and even food from a Passover Seder! It was a great day which ended in camp getting dressed up as if they were heading to a Yom Tov (holiday) dinner. I loved seeing everyone in their nice clothes, eating a festive meal together and trying new foods, too!  

As we head into the last Shabbat of first session, I feel a mixture of emotions. I am sad that our campers will be leaving us on Sunday morning, but I feel so much pride when I think everything that our campers have achieved this session. Each and every camper will leave the Machaneh on Sunday truly a better version of themselves. Whether it has been through learning a new skill, trying out a new Chug (activity), making a new friend or finding new ways to connect to Judaism, camp has transformed the lives of our campers in so many ways and I am already counting down the days until summer 2023! In one of our Shira (song session) songs, we say “Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend and together we will talk in the path of Hashem”. My wish for all of our campers is to treasure the memories and new friendships made at camp. Stay in touch with each other throughout the year, keep the camp relationships alive and never forget all of the fun times made at camp.  

Shabbat Shalom! 

Adam  


July 8, 2022
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Shalom everyone!

It is so good and wonderful to be here! It has been such a joy to have spent the past almost two weeks with our campers. It’s hard to believe that we are over the halfway mark of first session, the days are flying by! We have been having so much fun as a community, our campers have been making new friends every day, trying out new activities and making memories to last a lifetime. Our counselors are constantly shining in their roles across camp. They are truly the key to all of the successes at camp and their efforts to ensuring that each camper has the most memorable summer have been astonishing. Each day as I walk through camp, I see counselors crying in laughter with their campers, sharing stories, singing songs and getting stuck into many activities. I know that our counselors are changing the lives of our campers for the better and I couldn’t be prouder of them.

Over the last two days, our campers have been participating in Maccabiah and boy has it been a blast! Our four teams; Red, Green, Blue, and Purple, competed for the coveted titles of Maccabiah champions. On Wednesday afternoon we participated in a relay race across the entire camp. It was a close call but eventually it was Team Purple who were victorious. We also participated in different sports events, cheer competitions, water sports, and even a silent lunch, all to win more points for their teams. After an incredible two days competing, it was Team Red who won! Mazal Tov (congratulations) to the winning team and Kol Ha’Kavod (well done) to all of our campers for their hard work and enthusiasm during Maccabiah.

In addition to Maccabiah, our campers have participated in many other exciting programs. Our Theater Chug performed a wonderful play of The Sword in the Stone with over 40 campers acting in the show. It was incredible to see the abundance of talent that was shown, and I am so proud of each and every one of the. Elsewhere in camp we had a Lip Sync Battle for our Nitzanim and Anafim campers, and our Shorashim campers participated in Science Night with lots of exciting different experiments such as making volcanic eruptions and even a Cooking Night where they got to show off their best cooking skills and present their dishes to a panel of judges. The ruach (spirit) in camp has been electric and there is so much more to come!

As we enter our final week of the session, we say ‘see you soon’ to our combo campers and are already counting down the days until we see them back on the Machaneh next year! We miss you already! On Sunday we will be welcoming almost 90 new rookie campers who will be joining us for the last week of the session. I am so excited to meet all of them and for everything that lies ahead in their journeys here at camp. The saying goes that at Jewish summer camp “you get to be the best version of yourself” and it could not be truer here at CSS. I see campers becoming more confident in themselves every day, trying out new things, learning new skills, learning more about their Jewish identities and so much more. We have so much more to come this summer and I can’t wait for everything that lies ahead.

It’s almost time for Shabbat so I have to go and get myself ready for Kabbalat Shabbat services!

Love from Lake Stampfer,

Adam


December 1, 2021

“Do not separate yourself from the community.” – Rabbi Hillel, Pirke Avot

At Camp Solomon Schechter, we create a community where our kids can be their full selves and experience the power of belonging. Over the past two years, they have been through an extraordinary number of challenges and hardships. I was losing sleep at night worried our campers and staff would miss another summer at camp, so I created the Washington State Camp Coalition, representing the 145+ camps in the state, which advocated for the importance of resident camp at the state level. In collaboration with the Governor’s office, we wrote the state guidance for reopening resident camps. In late April, our guidance was adopted, and the state approved us to reopen. We celebrated and then shifted to the joyous work of welcoming campers back to camp.

Fast forward to opening day, Sunday, June 27th. Yes, it was 116 degrees out! (I’m still shvitzing.) We had waited two long years to see our campers arrive back at the most magical place on earth; move over Disneyland! The pure joy and energy of watching our staff welcome the arrival of our campers was contagious. They smiled from ear to ear, embracing their camp friends with monster hugs. It was a beautiful sight to see and took my breath away. It was magical, inspiring, and everything of which we could have hoped and dreamed. It was the exact antidote they needed to remember what it was like to be a kid. As that transformation set in, all the hard work to reopen camp was worth it.

Kids need to run free, be courageous, be creative, be curious, and be compassionate. At camp we create a space for our campers to build confidence, surround themselves with friends on which they can count, build a deeper sense of community, and celebrate being Jewish. Campers get to shine at camp and be the best version of themselves. It is truly remarkable. Creating a safe and healthy place for our campers and staff was especially impactful this year.

“In summer 2021, I was able to attend CSS. This meant everything to me. I had a very hard year feeling isolated because of COVID, and my dad was very sick fighting colon cancer. Camp was a place where I could actually have fun, meet new kids, and be myself. I was able to feel like a normal teenager again with other people who were understanding and sensitive to me. Camp really helped me cope with all the hard things and allowed me to have some fun. It was very important to my dad for me to go to camp.”

–  Max, 2021 First Time Camper

We tried to anticipate the mental, emotional, spiritual, and social needs of our campers and staff. As much as we prepared, we were surprised in many areas. We knew some of our campers were going to struggle, we just didn’t know how much. We integrated therapists and specialists into the camp community to learn, listen, and talk with our campers. We intentionally hired additional staff to ensure we could meet the needs of all our campers.

The support system and network needed to support our campers was, and will need to continue to be, extensive. When you zoom out, summer 2021 was incredible and life changing, but it is important to call attention to the campers and staff who struggled. We want all our campers and staff to thrive at camp, but how do we continue to fully support them? How do we provide a safe community for our greatest gifts? How do we take the time to listen and not judge this vulnerable demographic?

Camp is the answer; the power of camp is real! Let’s make sure camp is affordable, available, inclusive, welcoming, filled with loving and capable childcare professionals and resources, and infused with Jewish values and immersive programming. We need to continue to double down and invest in our kids, who are our future and most prized possessions in the world.

Please join me in supporting the power of Camp Solomon Schechter and our campers with a donation of $18, $36, $180, or $360 paid today, monthly, or quarterly. Donate today by clicking here or on Venmo at @Camp-Schechter.

DONATE NOW!

Happy Chanukah!

Zach Duitch, Executive Director

 

PS:  Save the date for Schechter Spark. We will honor Judith & Garry Kahn, the 2022 recipients of the Rabbi Joshua & Goldie Stampfer, z”l, Migdal Or Award! It will be held virtually on Sunday, May 1, 2022.


August 6, 2021

The Magic of Fences

According to the Bible, one is supposed to stay close to home over Shabbat. It was a great rule in ancient times because it ensured strong family and communal ties. Anyone who has ever fought rush-hour traffic gets why such a rule is important. As Jewish towns and neighborhoods grew in size, however, the Torah’s law made it more difficult to create meaningful community—the exact opposite of its original mandate. Geographical spread meant that one couldn’t spend time with cousins or friends who lived more than a mile away.

A workaround was developed, called an eiruv. In colloquial Jewish usage, this refers to the creation of a virtual wall consisting of wires and small “posts,” all of which allowed larger Jewish communities to operate like a single home. While the laws of eiruv are technical, their purpose is especially valuable in our era when people are busy trying to figure out how to strengthen real communities in our increasingly virtual and fragmented world.

Over the past couple of years, Camp Solomon Schechter has been reconstructing parts of its eiruv. As the camp’s religious advisor (mara d’atra), I have provided advice on this project and been sent photographs of the work. This past Shabbat, I was able to visit in person. Like so many of you, I am deeply grateful that we were able to resume camp operations this summer. It was great to meet Frank, the new chef, and check in with Avishai, the onsite camp mashgiach, or kosher supervisor, whom I oversee and communicate with whenever kosher questions arise. I always appreciate my in-person conversations with Zach Duitch.

What mattered most to me, however, was to see how well the eiruv was functioning—and I don’t mean the physical eiruv, which looks great. I mean the spiritual eiruv. After effectively a two-year absence because of Covid-19, would the camp’s community be as strong as I remembered? Would our campers be able to regain their long dormant social skills that are so necessary to live well with one another? Would what happened within the eiruv be meaningfully different from what life outside those posts and wires looks like?

I am not one to wear rose-colored glasses or to sell the sizzle over substance. Without a doubt, some kids were a little bit rusty at the beginning of their session; camp provided them an invaluable opportunity to continue their social growth. What a valuable opportunity for them! I am also pleased to announce that, overwhelmingly, the magic of CSS remains intact. Campers were happy. Real friendships were evident wherever I looked. Laughter rang out on the footpaths, in the amphitheater, and by the lakefront. In conversations with counselors, I got to hear specific details about the impact of Covid on our youth, and the important work camp was doing to restore a sense of normalcy and joy to our precious youth. It didn’t hurt that I also got to watch my younger son’s cabin clinch the basketball championship, but that’s just one poppa’s pride.

A dozen more stories fill my head. Let me share two moments that should make us all feel confident about the camp’s spiritual foothold and community. One happened as I was walking to meet someone and this excited camper loudly exclaimed to friends, “I love being Jewish.” Wow! What an amazing spontaneous outburst, especially since it wasn’t meant for adult ears. I was just fortunate to overhear it.

The other moment occurred during havdalah. Havdalah is always a special moment at CSS as the entire camp gathers around the lake and bids farewell to Shabbat. It is always a heightened moment of connection. This particular Saturday, a new camper came forward to speak. She shared her nervousness as a first-time camper. Would she need to pretend so that she could fit in? No, she said with touching conviction. The camp she found allowed her to be fully herself and she witnessed how that story was repeated over and over. Camp Solomon Schechter supports people in their individuality, and she got it. What a powerful advocate for Jewish camping in general, and the special juju (or JewJew) of CSS!

At the end of Saturday night, the inner gate, which was closed on Friday to form the final link of the eiruv, was reopened. With that simple act, the physical eiruv for the camp disappeared. But the power of fences and what they allow to happen within? That remains. As I drove off on Sunday, I left feeling deeply content. The world outside the gates of Jewish community doesn’t always look or feel like we might desire. Yet so long as there are places where Jewish communities can thrive, so long as we maintain strong camps and synagogues where our values can be given expression—well then, when we leave our strongholds of faith, community, and inclusion, we get to bring some of that out into the larger world.

That’s the magic of fences. That’s the magic of Camp Solomon Schechter.

Warm regards,

David

Rabbi David Kosak (Rav D) is the mara d’atra of Camp Solomon Schechter and serves as the senior rabbi of Congregation Neveh Shalom in Portland, Oregon.


July 3, 2021

Shalom CSS Community,

What a great first week at camp we’ve had! Our chanichim (campers) have settled well into the exciting daily routine at CSS. The first days of intense heat and adjusted schedules are behind us, and we are now enjoying a full range of chuggim (activities). The aqua park and boating continue to see lots of action, but campers are also now participating in a wide range of experiences such as sports, cooking, and music. The challenge course and teva (nature) teams are taking advantage of the cooler weather to get the campers out into the stunning nature around camp.

The natural beauty at camp provides the perfect setting for thought-provoking conversations and programs centered around the theme of wonder and awe. We give campers the opportunity to deepen their appreciation for the natural world and find meaning in things they may have thought of as routine or mundane. Our tefillah (prayer) program teaches campers new prayers and songs and how to enhance their connection with the concept and content of the daily prayers. 

The Judaics team has been exploring the Exodus narrative with campers and leading programming that asks the campers to explore the narrative through the lens of miracles, wonder, and awe. The campers have been showing incredible curiosity and contributing to the sessions with someamazing questions such as “what if Moses had never found the burning bush?” and “why was darkness a plague if it gives you privacy?” The Judaics team had a great time answering these questions with the campers. Our Bet and Gimmel campers have been making Pesach (Passover)-themed Rube Goldberg courses to encourage interpretation of the narrative. And, of course, we are excitedly preparing to welcome in Shabbat with our Friday challah bake for the entire camp. 

The evening programs have provided campers with awesome bonding experiences. They have participated in varied entertainment such as a camper talent show, inter-cabin “Jewpardy” and filming music videos to songs of the cabin’s choice. Campers are forming close friendships, and the counselors are developing meaningful relationships with their campers. We are so proud of the yedidut (friendship) that is developing at session one of camp. We are excited for the opportunity to further strengthen our community during Shabbat. Shabbat at camp is a magical experience, and we can’t wait for our campers to share that with each other. 

Wishing a Shabbat Shalom to the entire Camp Solomon Schechter family!

~The CSS Team


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


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