From Fellows to Staff: A Cornerstone Journey
One of the highlights of the year at Foundation for Jewish Camp is our annual Cornerstone Seminar, where the strongest returning counselors representing more than 60 camps from across North America come together for a transformative five days of innovative workshops, inspiring discussions, and meaningful community-building in service of an important goal: growing their skills as Jewish educators in order to effectively enhance Jewish life at their camp. Former Fellows may return to the Seminar as Event Staff, generously offering their time and skills to maintain the continuity and quality of Cornerstone.
We invited the five former Fellows who served as Event Staff this year – Talia Bromberg (Camp JCA Shalom), Mark Kachuk (Camp Solelim), Jonathan Marx (Camp Havaya), Hilla Sheinberg (Camp Moshava Ennismore), and Henry Weltman (Perlman Camp) – to speak with us and share some reflections on their experience.
FJC: You’ve had quite the Cornerstone journey! You all started as Fellows; can you describe that experience?
TALIA: I attended Cornerstone 2016 as a Fellow and it was one of the best weeks of my life. I loved being surrounded by educators and camp staff who shared my passions for Jewish education, social justice, and working with kids and teens.
HILLA: Attending Cornerstone was a unique privilege. It was so eye-opening to interact with individuals from so many different walks of life.
HENRY: When I was a Cornerstone Fellow in 2017, I was blown away by the amazing folks working with FJC. The perspectives and ideas shared by the group were incredible, and Cornerstone gave me loads of ideas on how to bring innovative Jewish programming back to my own camp.
FJC: Why did you decide to return to Cornerstone 2018 as a member of the Event Staff?
JONATHAN: After attending Cornerstone as a Fellow in 2014, I was so inspired by the amazing role models there that I started to seriously consider the possibility of pursuing a career in Jewish camping. When I heard about the possibility of staffing the event that helped put me on my current career path, I jumped on it! I was excited both about the possibility of influencing more potential Jewish professionals and by the opportunities for learning within the amazing Faculty team and from the various camp Liaisons and Directors in attendance.
TALIA: As soon as Cornerstone ended, I knew that I had to find a way to go back. When I received an email telling me about the chance to become Event Staff, I applied immediately.
MARK: Cornerstone has always been a magical and transformative experience for me. I have had the pleasure of attending Cornerstone since 2014 as both a Fellow and Liaison. As I was not returning to my summer camp, I felt that becoming an Event Staff would be the perfect next step for me.
HILLA: After being a Fellow in 2017, I realized how special and influential the Cornerstone community was. I knew that I wanted to be a member of the Event Staff team so that I could play an essential role in creating and helping contribute to the overall Cornerstone experience. I felt that it was a great opportunity to develop various skills and learn from the incredible educators all around me.
FJC: What was it like to return to Cornerstone in a new role?
JONATHAN: Cornerstone was a blur, but in the best way – rejuvenating, thought-provoking, and magical through and through. The best part of my experience was probably the conversations and interactions I had during “down” times – getting to observe and engage in awesome programs and just chatting about the Jewish community with a variety of thoughtful people from Fellows to Camp Directors to FJC staff.
HENRY: In my new role, I enjoyed creating strong bonds with the Educators and Advisors, learning about their tracks, their experiences, and their lives and goals outside of Cornerstone.
TALIA: Participating in the May conference was truly spectacular. I felt supported by FJC staff, Educators, Advisors, and my fellow Event Staff. Not only did I have the chance to see behind the scenes of Cornerstone, but I was able to have actual input on the programming and curriculum of the conference.
MARK: In three words, I would describe Cornerstone as thrilling, informative, and empowering. The best part of my experience as Event Staff was being able to work with the incredible group of Advisors and Educators. It was a privilege to work with the FJC staff, and to be considered a part of this team of daring thinkers and changemakers. I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to help plan and implement a program for the fellowship.
FJC: What did you take away from your experience at Cornerstone 2018?
TALIA: Members of Cornerstone faculty come from so many different personal and professional backgrounds; through discussion and observation I felt that I was able to see the abundance of paths open to me as a Jewish educator, activist, writer, and person. I came away from Cornerstone 2018 with an overwhelming sense of joy, curiosity, and anticipation. I don’t know exactly what is in my personal and professional future, but my time as Event Staff has given me a sense of optimism and excitement about all the opportunities that lie ahead.
MARK: I learned that as a collective, we have so much power. Although we have our individual camps and movements, having this uniting force of changemakers means that the world will have a bright and bold future.
JONATHAN: I feel like I reaffirmed my love for the world of Jewish camping by working on the Event Staff – seeing such a complex and daring program unfold and watching people of vastly different backgrounds learn from one another.
HENRY: My goal is to lead a professional life in the Jewish camp world. This experience on the Event Staff allowed me to talk about my future, make connections with others in the professional Jewish world, and see the benefits of working in such a fantastic community.
HILLA: Cornerstone was truly a magical experience that allowed me to feel empowered, encouraged and optimistic about the Jewish future.
FJC: What would you tell someone who’s interested in attending Cornerstone, either as a Fellow or as a member of the Event Staff?
HENRY: I am so grateful for my time with the FJC, and I encourage anyone at their summer camps who has the opportunity to attend the Cornerstone Seminar to absolutely go!
HILLA: I would tell anyone interested that it is such an amazing opportunity to be able to work in such an incredible work environment alongside such talented and passionate individuals.
MARK: If someone were interested in being on the event staff team, I would say do it! Having the chance to grow personally, and with a group, in this setting is invaluable. And it was just an overall fun experience.
JONATHAN: Anyone who thinks they might want to stay at camp for life (or even just next summer!) should definitely come join the Event Staff team – it’s a great learning experience filled with good people, innovative programs, and snazzy matching outfits!
Many thanks to Talia, Mark, Jonathan, Hilla, and Henry for taking the time to talk to us (and of course, for their ongoing passion for Jewish camp)! Returning counselors may be the “cornerstones” of their camps, but our Event Staff is the “cornerstone” of Cornerstone!
For more information about the Cornerstone Fellowship program, visit our website or contact Cornerstone@jewishcamp.org. Now in its 16th year, this program is generously funded by The AVI CHAI Foundation, Crown Family Philanthropies, The Marcus Foundation, and The Morningstar Foundation.