Humans of Jewish Camp 03.26.19

Humans of Jewish Camp: Briana Holtzman


Briana is the Director of Organizational Development at Foundation for Jewish Camp.

Tell us about someone you met at camp who impacted your life in a meaningful way. 

When I first started as an assistant camp director, I didn’t have a lot of camp experience. What I did have, however, was an incredibly supportive boss who trusted me enough to own my work and gave me enough help to build a strong knowledge base. In my first year in the role, he taught me the importance of building a network of people who will share resources, take a phone call no matter the hour, laugh at the absurdities, and brainstorm through the challenges. It’s hard to pinpoint just one person who made an impact on me when I was getting my start in the field because part of what I learned was how to build a community of support. I know that I benefited from his community – all of the people who answered his call to help me were ready to pitch in because he had done the same for them. And once I built my own network, I never forgot how supported I felt when I was just starting out. That’s what is really special, in my opinion, about the people who work in all of our Jewish camps – there is not only a willingness but also an eagerness to help out… and in the process of helping and being helped, you make some pretty enduring friendships.

Who is the camp person you’ve spoken to most recently?

I JUST got off a call with all the FJC Cornerstone Advisors. Woah. They are a fantastic, dedicated, diverse group of people who get to work with each of the camps that participate in the Cornerstone Seminar. This is a group that is seriously fun! They work hard and laugh a lot. Whether you need a new game, the perfect piece of Jewish text, someone to troubleshoot with, or a person to help get you focused – these advisers will have your back.

Prior to working at FJC, did you participate in any FJC programs/trainings/initiatives? If so, how did they impact your journey as a camp professional?

I have a lot of stamps in my FJC programs passport! I was a participant in the first Yitro cohort where I met friends and colleagues who I still talk to on an almost daily basis.

At Leaders Assembly, I learned that the field was even bigger and more diverse than I previously understood. Leaders was a great chance to reconnect with colleagues from my movement and from my Yitro cohort and was the perfect opportunity to challenge myself to attend a session on a topic that I might not usually have exposure to. Leaders Assembly always challenges me to think differently about our work, whether I was attending as a participant, partner organization, or planner!

Though I was never a Fellow or Liaison, I participated in Cornerstone during Director Day and loved the way that the program empowered counselors to consider what Jewish life and culture at camp could and should look like. The chance to visit with our Fellows as they were developing their ideas and had access to so many different fantastic educators set a great foundation for how we could support our Cornerstone Fellows back at camp.

I feel an incredible amount of gratitude to FJC and the Bildners for investing in me as a Bildner Graduate Fellow. This fellowship enabled me to pursue a master’s degree in business while working full time at camp. I would certainly not be the professional I am today if not for the chance to learn from outside of our field, while applying the lessons in real time. I felt – and continue to feel – so proud to work in a field that invests in the people who give camp so much of their blood, sweat, and tears (I mean, we’ve all given all those things to camp, right?). It’s that same feeling that motivates me to get to work each day – I’m fortunate that I get to do my part to help our field learn, grow, and feel invested in.

What camp activity makes you wish you’d been a camper, and why?

It’s difficult to pick just one activity that makes me wish I had been a camper. More than any one particular activity, I love that camp is a place where you can grow by trying things you’ve never tried before. At every Jewish camp I’ve visited, I’ve seen campers and staff embrace the idea of perseverance (netzach) – giving something a try no matter how difficult it might be. That is an amazing and positive attitude, and one that makes every camp visit something special for me – at the end of the summer I have a list of things I’ve tried for the first time or gotten better at, and I know that others do too!