Portlanders Take Reins of Camp Miriam

Portlander Morriah Kaplan will head the summer program this year at Camp Miriam, one of seven Habonim Dror youth movement camps in North America. Camp Miriam is located on 20 waterfront acres on Gabriola Island, a 20-minute ferry ride from Vancouver Island, BC.
With its focus on developing Jewish leadership, the camp selects a new rosh (head) every one to two years from among the young counselors and staff who have come through the program. About 95% of the counselors have been campers at Miriam. “Camp is a special place,” says Kaplan. “My closest friends are people I met at camp.”

As rosh, Kaplan will be responsible for hiring other staff and will coordinate with the camp committee. About 50 counselors and 300 campers (two sessions of 150) will be at the camp this summer. “We want to make sure we continue to provide good programs and to raise leaders onsite who can become leaders one day,” she says.

The camp’s vision of “youth leading youth” means that top staff, all between the ages of 18 and 23, create an atmosphere in which every camper has a part in running camp. Participation in camp on this level gives individual campers confidence, feelings of belonging and ownership, and leadership.

After attending Camp Solomon Schechter for many years, Kaplan transitioned to Miriam the summer before 10th grade. Her sister, Esther, and parents, Hank Kaplan and Marni Glick, had all attended Habonim camps and encouraged her to try Camp Miriam. “Camp Miriam puts a lot of focus on personal responsibility and sets high standards for how campers should treat each other,” she says. “It’s exciting to be in a position of leadership. We give counselors a lot of responsibility to plan program- ming. Each counselor puts together a two-hour block every day, which creates a lot of responsibility for making it happen.” Kaplan also spent one summer and her gap year before college in Israel on Habonim programs. During her gap year program she lived on a kibbutz for three months then spent five months team-teaching English in Jewish and Arab schools in northern Israel. “Being there made it a much more real place,” she says of her two visits to Israel. “Seeing the country and the people made me feel more personally responsible for the place.”

“Camp Miriam is an access point into the Jewish community for a lot of kids,” says Kaplan. Having attended Portland Jewish Academy through eighth grade, Kaplan says she was much more immersed in the Jewish community than many of the campers. Now a junior at Washington University in St. Louis, Kaplan is also involved in J Street U. She had the privilege of introducing keynote speaker Amos Oz at the 2012 J Street Conference.

Though the camp has a kosher kitchen, most of the campers are not religious and for many the camp is their primary Jewish experience.
“Habonim is a progressive Zionist movement so the camps have a lot of Jewish education, but we are on an island so we have lots of stuff on the water like kayaks and 15-person canoes and visits to tidepools and beaches,” says Kaplan.
skills, all fostered by a staff of experienced, dedicated young people.

For more information about Camp Miriam, visit camp- miriam.org or call 604-266-2825.

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