Q&A with Fieldwork Supervisor and Student: JCC Camp Chi

Evan (sixth from left, back row) with campers at Camp Chi, Lake Delton, WI.

Evan (sixth from left, back row) with campers at Camp Chi.

Jamie Lake and Evan TaksarIn this interview we talk to field supervisor Jamie Lake (left) and Evan Taksar, MA/MA'16 (right).


Evan did her fieldwork at JCC Camp Chi in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin during the summer of 2015. Learn more about JCC Camp Chi.

Fieldwork Supervisor: Jamie Lake

Senior Director of Education (currently Director of Development at Keshet)
Q: What did you know about the Hornstein Program before Evan came on board as an intern?

Although I was familiar with Brandeis University, I was not overly familiar with the Hornstein Program. During the interview process with Evan, I learned more and could only wonder why we had not had an intern through Hornstein prior to Evan.

Q: What was your impetus for accepting Evan as an intern? (That is, were you undergoing any significant changes that made having an intern especially helpful? Or did you have special projects that benefited from some extra help?)

Evan came to Camp Chi through Hornstein and the JCC Association Chizuk Fellowship. When the Chizuk staff pre-screened Evan, I think they knew she was a great match for Camp Chi as the Jewish Program Director. I was thrilled to have an intern who was looking for a professional career in Jewish communal work, had fantastic overnight camp experience, and could fill a leadership role in a pluralistic setting.

Q: I’ll ask Evan about the specifics of her project and/or responsibilities, but you will be better able to tell me if, and how, her work moved the organization forward toward your goals.

In my role at camp, I often have lists of program ideas that I do not have time to put into place. Evan was able to actualize many of these ideas and implement even more of her own. She delivered high-quality, engaging Judaic programs, particularly around values and community service.

 

Q: Is there any specific advice you have for other organizations that are considering hiring a Hornstein student intern.

Our experience with Evan was exceptional. She was well-prepared to work and contribute to our organization.

Evan Taksar, MA/MA'16

Assistant Director, Camp Alonim
Q: How did you learn about Camp Chi and what prompted you to do your fieldwork there?

From the very beginning of my time at Hornstein (and part of the reason why I choose to attend), I knew I wanted to go into camping and I knew I wanted to study with Professor Joe Reimer (who ended up being my faculty advisor!). When the time came for me to choose my fieldwork, luckily, because I did the MA/MA, I was able to schedule my fieldwork during the summer. Fieldwork became a perfect opportunity to go back to summer camp! I was recruited into the Chizuk Fellowship, which is a fellowship through the JCC Association that places senior Jewish educators as Judaic Programming Directors in various JCC camps across the country. I had grown up in the JCC Movement, spending my entire life at Camp JCA Shalom in Malibu, and felt (and continue to feel) very attached to their programming. One of my mentors at JCA Shalom knew that I was participating in the Chizuk Fellowship and recommended that I reach out to Jamie Lake, the then Assistant Director at Camp Chi. I remember speaking with Jamie and it felt like a really great fit for me programmatically and also something totally out of my comfort zone (I had never even stepped foot in the Midwest before my summer at Chi!).

Q: You are from California. What was it like for you spending the summer in rural Wisconsin?

Terrifying! Have you seen how big the bugs are?! Like I said before, spending my summer in rural Wisconsin was something that completely pushed me out of my comfort zone and ultimately, I was better off for it. It was great to be able to experience a totally different type of Jewish summer camp, one with a lake and other traditional camp activities. I remember the first day I went to Wal-Mart and one of the staff members at Chi told me to pick up a pair of rain boots. My response was “rain boots! Why would I need rain boots during the summer!” Little did I know it rains pretty much everyday at 4:30 on the nose!

Q: What projects did you work on and/or duties were you responsible? In what ways did your Hornstein coursework prepare you?

I was mainly responsible for the daily Judaic programming for upwards of 1,000 campers throughout the summer, which was a tall order. I helped organize weekly Shabbat services, community service opportunities, and worked with the various specialty areas to help infuse Jewish learning into all different areas of camp. I was not raised in a traditional Jewish household and came to Hornstein with very little traditional Jewish knowledge. My first year at Hornstein gave me a lot of confidence in being able to go out and be responsible for Judaic programming, something that I would not have necessarily felt ready for just a year earlier.

Q: What projects did you work on and/or duties were you responsible? In what ways did your Hornstein coursework prepare you?

I was mainly responsible for the daily Judaic programming for upwards of 1,000 campers throughout the summer, which was a tall order. I helped organize weekly Shabbat services, community service opportunities, and worked with the various specialty areas to help infuse Jewish learning into all different areas of camp. I was not raised in a traditional Jewish household and came to Hornstein with very little traditional Jewish knowledge. My first year at Hornstein gave me a lot of confidence in being able to go out and be responsible for Judaic programming, something that I would not have necessarily felt ready for just a year earlier.

Q: What projects did you work on and/or duties were you responsible? In what ways did your Hornstein coursework prepare you?

I was mainly responsible for the daily Judaic programming for upwards of 1,000 campers throughout the summer, which was a tall order. I helped organize weekly Shabbat services, community service opportunities, and worked with the various specialty areas to help infuse Jewish learning into all different areas of camp. I was not raised in a traditional Jewish household and came to Hornstein with very little traditional Jewish knowledge. My first year at Hornstein gave me a lot of confidence in being able to go out and be responsible for Judaic programming, something that I would not have necessarily felt ready for just a year earlier.

Q: What projects did you work on and/or duties were you responsible? In what ways did your Hornstein coursework prepare you?

I was mainly responsible for the daily Judaic programming for upwards of 1,000 campers throughout the summer, which was a tall order. I helped organize weekly Shabbat services, community service opportunities, and worked with the various specialty areas to help infuse Jewish learning into all different areas of camp. I was not raised in a traditional Jewish household and came to Hornstein with very little traditional Jewish knowledge. My first year at Hornstein gave me a lot of confidence in being able to go out and be responsible for Judaic programming, something that I would not have necessarily felt ready for just a year earlier.

Q: How were you challenged (professionally and/or personally)?

Oh man, where to start! I think the biggest challenge was stepping into a new place with a rich culture and being expected to bring new ideas that also fit in with the pervasive sense of “this is how we do things.” For the first time since I was seven years old, I was the new kid at camp, and that was weird. Camps are very interesting places with rich traditions that people feel very attached to and are sometimes averse to change. It helped me understand just how challenging it can be for newcomers to step into any type of organization, but also how rewarding it can be when you finally do make that breakthrough. When I speak with our summer staff now at Alonim about welcoming in newcomers (we always have a large international delegation), I use my own experience of my summer at Chi as a touch point for them to understand what it can be like.

Q: Did your fieldwork experience inform your career path decisions? (That is, did it affect your choice of employment after graduation?)

Yeah, my fieldwork was probably the single most helpful experience I had at Hornstein when deciding my career path after school. If anything, it made me realize just how right I was in pursuing my goal of being a Camp Director. I knew that if I could make it at Chi, I could make it at other Jewish summer camps even if I hadn’t “grown up” there. I also think my experience at Chi helped me get my job as an Assistant Director at Camp Alonim where I work now. I think my current boss was impressed with the fact that I had sought out a different type of camp experience than the one I had grown up in, and it ultimately made me a more well-rounded candidate when applying for jobs.

Q: By way of parting advice to current students, please review the objectives listed above and recount a specific fieldwork experience you had that was especially meaningful.

Here’s a secret... my first night at Camp Chi I got lost trying to get back to my sleeping quarters! It started raining and I totally broke down in the middle of the road crying. I was scared and uncomfortable in a brand new place and I didn’t know one single person. But you know what? I found my bunk. And I made some friends. And I put myself out there in a way that I had never really had to do before. Ultimately, I was way better for going somewhere very foreign than say, just back to the camp I had grown up at. I guess if I could impart some wisdom from what I learned, it is to push yourself out of your comfort zone, because you can probably stretch yourself further than you can imagine. That, and find yourself a fieldwork advisor that really cares about your growth as both a person and a professional.