News + Thanks from Ben + Lauren

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Dear Camp Tevya family of parents, alumni, staff, donors, and friends,

Jonathan Cohen, President of the Cohen Camps, recently announced some exciting Cohen Camps leadership changes, effective in early January:

WeTevya Director Ben Portnoy and Tevya Assistant Director Lauren Fishmanwill each step up into new roles. Full details are here.

  • Ben, currently Director of Tevya, will become Executive Director of The Cohen Camps, working in close partnership with Jonathan on all operational aspects of all three Cohen Camps and its teen programs.
  • Lauren, currently Assistant Director of Tevya, will become Director.

Lauren and I are both excited about these opportunities to expand our work within The Cohen Camps on behalf of campers, teens, staff, and you. We wanted to share a few thoughts to give you a more personal window into this transition.

From Ben:

When Lauren and I interview new candidates to join our staff team, we start off by introducing ourselves and our connection to camp. My intro involves how I grew up at Tevya with my older brother and sister, how my mom went to Tevya, how my wife and I met at camp. Lauren’s intro involves how she attended Pembroke as a camper, her husband went to Tevya, and how she joined the Tevya community later in life as a Head Counselor and sending her 3 children to camp. We tie our intros together with a shared message: Tevya is a home and a family for both of us, and that feeling of belonging is what we want all of our campers and staff to experience. Tevya has given both of us our best friends, chances to learn, make mistakes, and grow, and opportunities to bring hundreds of campers and staff into a positive Jewish community with the mission of empowering everyone to be their best selves.

That mission isn’t achieved alone, and it’s a mission that is ongoing. Lauren and I have had the benefit of working with an amazing staff team over the years, especially our Senior Staff. We were both mentored by former Tevya Director (current DLD Director), Mindee Greenberg, and continue to have an extensive Senior Staff team with high retention in key leadership positions. These people care about camp, our campers, and our staff so deeply, and they work so hard year-round to make the camp season successful and magical. Just like our campers, our Senior Staff also lives 10 for 2. I am proud of the work that Lauren and I have done together and with our team. What makes me confident in taking on my new role is knowing that Lauren is the ideal person to continue this work for the Tevya community.

Lauren joined Tevya in 2015 as a Head Counselor and became our Assistant Director in December 2019. Lauren is kind, caring, authentic, level-headed, honest, trustworthy, supportive, and a great friend. Lauren consistently goes the extra mile to ensure the needs of our campers and staff are always met.

At the Cohen Camps, I have been extremely fortunate to work with and thankful to learn from all the dedicated, passionate, and smart camp professionals here. Each person in our office brings such knowledge and commitment to our Cohen Camps mission, a mission which is more important now than ever before. Jewish youth thrive when they have a community that embraces them for who they are, and a place where they can find connection, grow, develop skills, and explore their identity grounded in Jewish values. Our camps, Dor L’Dor, and Kadima each create this kind of community in unique ways. I am excited to work even more closely with all our Leadership Teams and Senior Staff to support them in achieving their goals and to enhance what makes each camp special in our shared Cohen Camps family.

At the same time, I am sad to step away from Tevya. There is no place I have experienced more growth, laughed more, been challenged more, been inspired more, or been more proud of the work that a group of people with a common goal can accomplish together. There is no amount of Thank Yous that will do justice to what I owe to my time at Tevya, the people I have worked with, the parents, and all the campers. The “second half” of my Tevya career has spanned more years than when I was a camper and counselor. It’s been a summer home not just for me, but for Margo and now for our son Brenner. I’m excited to visit and see Tevya in action, and I’m looking forward to experiencing first-hand the magic of Pembroke and Tel Noar.

I want to thank our staff for giving so much of themselves to camp over the years. I will never, ever, take for granted how much our staff do to help make camp successful for our campers. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to lead, learn from you, and grow.

I want to thank our parents for trusting me to keep their children safe. Every decision we make at camp is grounded in camper safety, well-being, and growing valuable life-skills. Sometimes that growth is challenging, and I appreciate the partnership and faith of our parents in making this life-changing experience possible for their children.

I want to thank our dedicated alumni for your support as I carried the “Tevya torch.” Tevya means so much to all of us, and there is no one better to pass the torch to than Lauren.

Most of all, I want to thank our campers. Your creativity, passion for camp and each other, and humor is why I love my job, and why I started down this career path in 2012. Continue to take care of each other and find joy in every single camp moment. Your time at camp doesn’t last forever, but the memories do – make it all count.

There is so much I will miss about being at Tevya everyday during the summer. However, I am fortunate enough to be in a role where I have regular reasons to come visit, continue to offer my support, see Tevya thriving, and jump into a 4 square game (or two).

From Lauren:

I am thrilled to take on this new role and to continue the work we have done over the past 10 summers at camp.  This is not a transition that I take lightly, knowing that I will be continuing the long history of Tevya’s traditions and strong leadership. Ben has been a great mentor and friend to me since we were Head Counselors together my first summer at camp. Our professional relationship continued to grow with several years of collaboration, and I look forward to working with him in new ways as he transitions to Executive Director. 

One of my favorite parts of camp is the relationships that are built here. While I was not a camper at Tevya, I feel incredibly fortunate that some of my closest friendships today are with those who I have met over my time working at camp. I have loved getting to know so many families, staff, alumni, donors, and friends of camp, and I am excited to get to know even more of you, whether you’ve been part of our community for years, or this is the beginning of our relationship.  

As a parent, I have seen the amazing gifts that camp gives our campers including lifelong friendships, a stronger sense of Judaism, increased confidence, resilience, and a sense of belonging. I want all our campers to have this same experience. My goal is that everyone leaves camp a slightly better version of themselves, albeit likely a little dirtier too!  Our team is already working hard to plan another incredible summer with great programs and activities for our campers. We have also been busy hiring wonderful staff, both returning and new, with whom I am so excited to share the Tevya spirit. If you would like to join in, we are hiring!

This summer will also mark our 85th Season. Alumni, I can’t wait to welcome you back to your summer home for your June 22 Reunion and Celebration.

I value open communication and partnership and, to that end, please reach out for any reason. Whether it’s to help ensure an awesome summer for your camper or to explore how you can get more involved with Tevya, I look forward to hearing from you!

With excitment and Tevya Spirit,
Ben + Lauren

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