Meet Our Team
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 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 annually. 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 has been the Executive Direct of CSS since December 2017. When asked what he loves most about camp, he 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, Jessica, and his two great kids (both CSS campers), Charley and Bayley. 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, spend time with his kids (hiking, swimming, biking, soccer, and art projects, to name a few), watch NETFLIX, and be a diehard Husky, Seahawks, M’s, Kraken, Sounders, and anything sports fan.
Director of Operations – Jef Nobbe
Jef comes to camp with over 30 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 since 2011, 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.“
Summer Camp Director – Adam Nickels
Adam Nickels (he/him) is so excited to be joining the Camp Solomon Schechter community as the Summer Camp Director. Adam was born and raised in London, England, and moved to the United States in 2021 to join the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program at Brandeis University where he graduated with a Master’s in Jewish Professional Leadership and an Education Master’s in Jewish Educational Leadership. Prior to joining Hornstein, Adam served as the Executive Director of BBYO UK and Ireland, where he worked for four years.
Adam’s love and passion for Jewish summer camping began in 2014 when he spent his first summer working at Camp Interlaken JCC in Wisconsin. Over the past eight years, Adam spent five summers working at Interlaken, including last year as the Operations and Leadership Director. Last summer, Adam stood at a closing campfire and talked about the power of Jewish summer camps. He described the magical way it changes a person’s life and the impact it has had on his life. Since his first summer, Adam has dedicated his career to creating safe and inclusive Jewish informal education spaces and is looking forward to expanding his love for Jewish summer camp at Schechter.
At camp, you can find Adam hanging on the dock by the lake or helping put together a funny shtick for the talent show. His favorite meal at camp is mac & cheese, although he can’t wait to try the famous Schechter babka! You can also find Adam by the campfire singing some of his favorite camp songs. Outside of camp, Adam is always seeking new adventures, whether traveling to and exploring new states in the US or to new countries around the world. Adam loves to cook and has worked hard over the past few years to perfect an 8-knot braid for challah! You can always find Adam listening to new Spotify playlists, searching for new brunch spots, or at the theatre watching a musical.
Adam is so excited to experience and share all of Schechter’s magic and traditions. He looks forward to getting to know each and every member of the Schechter community.
Development Director – Leah Conley
Leah has been working in Jewish educational leadership and community building for more than two decades in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Portland. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Literature from UCLA and her Master of Arts degree in Divinity from the University of Chicago. She believes that when we build Jewish communities of connection and belonging, we create the sacred environment where our best selves can unfold.
Leah grew up in Los Angeles immersed in the Jewish community. She attended Jewish day school and is a lifelong synagogue member, but nothing has been stronger in shaping her Jewish identity than Jewish camp, both as a camper and a counselor. She is so grateful to have found her way back to camp and is excited to become a part of the magical place where Judaism and joy are one. She loves playing guitar, knitting, running, travel, adventures, and being at camp! She lives in Portland OR with her husband, Josh, and two children, Elliot and Amelia, who are also Schechter campers.
Director of Retreats & Engagement – Michaela Covner
Michaela is no stranger to camp. She has been involved in our community for many years as both a camper and staff member. She’s held multiple roles, including cabin counselor, summer t’fillah (prayer) specialist, summer Judaics lead, engagement coordinator, camp registrar, assistant director, and most recently, program director. 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 in 2019, 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 before joining Schechter’s full time team. 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 coaching a competitive cheer team, tutoring B’nai Mitzvah students, and playing with her dog, Charlie.
When asked to share one of her own favorite camp memories, Michaela said, “During my first year on staff at Camp Solomon Schechter, I had a cabin of fifth 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.” Michaela is excited to continue working with the CSS team to help provide fun and educational opportunities at camp year-round.
Assistant Director of Camper Life & Inclusion – Adi Azoulai
Adi is thrilled to be part of the CSS team as the Assistant Director of Camper Life and Inclusion! She grew up in San Diego and graduated from the University of California – Berkeley with a degree in society and environment. Throughout the last couple of years she has worked with Diller Teen Fellows in San Francisco and Hillel in Florida as an engagement associate. In her free time Adi likes to run, practice yoga, random dance, and eat vegan ice cream! She also loves cuddling with her dogs and spending time with her family.
Adi’s time at Jewish overnight camp inspired her to pursue a career working in the Jewish community. She has always felt the magic of camp in her life and cannot wait to create the same feeling for CSS campers!
Development Associate – Sam Berry
While working on his degree at Humboldt State University, Sam spent his summers in the foothills of Sierra Nevada at Camp Tawonga where he worked for 7 years. He is originally from San Francisco and moved to the beautiful Pacific Northwest in 2018 and again found himself engaged in the Jewish Community working at Temple De Hirsch Sinai in Membership and Development.
In his free time Sam can be found playing dodge ball, picking up his guitar, cooking dinner with his friends, spending time with his cat, and, as of late, perfecting his chocolate chunk cookie recipe. Sam is incredibly excited to join the Schechter family and can’t wait to bring its mission to life year-round!
Marketing & Communications Coordinator – Alex Ruby
Alex and camp are like mutual acquaintances, they’ve heard of each other through their friends and connections but haven’t had the chance to meet until now. After a few years of working in corporate PR and communications, Alex is coming back to work in the Jewish community he made home in high school and college. As Camp Solomon Schechter’s Marketing and Communications Coordinator, Alex is creating new stories and sharing them with the greater community to show just how special camp is to the people that visit every summer. Alex and camp are about to be the best of friends!
Alex graduated from the University of Oregon in 2018 with a B.S. in Journalism/Public Relations and started working at Raffetto Herman Strategic Communications soon thereafter. During this time, Alex worked with enterprise technology and cybersecurity companies on searching for new media opportunities and creating content to share their messages to the public. At his heart though, Alex is a storyteller and loves to strategize about how one story can reach and connect with as many people as possible. Alex believes that stories are what connect us all and can build the best community possible.
Facility Manager – Mike Dieckman
Mike comes to CSS with a lifetime of experience in construction and facilities management. He was raised in the Thurston County area and worked for his family’s construction and site maintenance company starting in high school. After owning his own business for 15 years, he decided to move on and pursue youth camp management. He ran a private camp in Mason County, worked at Camp Cispus in Lewis County, and was the facility manager for the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad.
Mike has enjoyed coaching youth soccer for the last 25 years. He has coached both club and school soccer and is currently the head coach of a high school team. Mike has a son and a daughter, with whom he enjoys going to Disneyland.
Mike appreciates the passion of the CSS management team, and their commitment to upgrading and expanding the facility to enhance the camper experience.
Head Chef – Frank Marmo
Originally from San Diego, Frank attended the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco in the mid-80’s and has worked in the San Francisco Bay area, Los Angeles, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. With experience in a wide range of concepts from small scratch kitchens, fine dining, resorts, and large venues (including B.B. King’s Blues Club, Wolfgang Puck’s California Pizza Café, Il Fornio at Levi’s Plaza, and 49 Degrees North Ski Resort). Chef Frank brings over 40 years of hospitality experience to camp.
Building a new food & beverage program from the ground up is the goal. We will be re-crafting menus to include vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, and other dietary choices to accommodate campers more sophisticated and health conscience diets. We will, of course, be keeping the camp favorites . . . after all, what is camp without grilled cheese and tomato soup day?!?
We are also turning the clock back a bit and making more items in-house. We’ve started a small baking program, making our own challah, cupcakes, and birthday cakes for campers, as well as some other scratch dessert choices. When we make the food here, we know what goes into it, and we control the quality and variety of our menus.
Frank and his wife, Susan, moved to Lacey WA from the Spokane area in 2019 with their menagerie of pets: Punkin’ Pie, Muffin, Fluffy, Moose, and Abbey.