Leaders Assembly 11.07.17

Why I Attend Leaders Assembly as a Day Camp Professional


By Elana Rivel

During the interview process for my position as Director of Ramah Day Camp, I asked our Executive Director about professional development opportunities. It had been almost 20 years since I was in an administrative position for a camp and I was curious about what outlets I might have to network and grow my skills. “The camping business loves conferences!” he assured me. And, in fact, with my start date in early February, I had two camp conferences within the first month of my hire.

I was fortunate to have Foundation for Jewish Camp’s Leaders Assembly be my first venture into camp conferences. It served as a grounding space for me where I was surrounded by people who truly loved Jewish camp, and the potential within it for ourselves, our staff and our campers.

At Leaders Assembly in 2016, I learned new techniques for task management that led to a change in my own system. I studied data about staff retention and learned about ways to increase that retention (including using the language around 21st Century skill development), and was able to identify a number of initiatives to test out in each of the two summers; I attended a session on security, jotting notes down furiously, and adding questions and ideas to a long list of “Yikes! Things I hadn’t thought about before that now I absolutely must.”

While at Leaders, I had the opportunity to connect with my new Ramah colleagues; people whom I knew would not only support me in this new venture but would teach me how to be a strong Director. I was pleasantly surprised to reconnect with numerous professionals from different times in and places in my life, who have all, in one way or the other, connected themselves to the field of Jewish camping.

What Leaders Assembly ultimately provided me with was the opportunity to take a step back from the whirlwind of a first month on the job, explore, consider, question and connect, and then use the following months to identify what could be implemented, further researched, or put on the back burner for another time. I am so thankful for the experience.


Elana Rivel is the Director of Ramah Day Camp, Philadelphia. Elana has worked in the field of Jewish education for nearly thirty years; across the movements, across the country and in both formal and informal education settings. Elana’s history with Jewish camping starts when she was 7 and spans day and overnight camps as a camper, staff member and director in addition to being a parent of campers and camp staff. She is thrilled to have made her way back in an administrative capacity in the camping world with Ramah.