Summer Staff Spotlight Series: Marissa Haber, Rosh Unit HeadPosted on July 26th, 2019
To my Stars in the great big sky,
When you find a place in this great big world that makes you feel brave enough to take on new adventures, and yet it makes you feel supported in all directions, do not let it go. Camp is that very place for me. I would like to share my camp journey with you. I was never affiliated with any particular synagogue as child nor as an adult, but as a family we believed it was important to stay connected to our faith and members of the community. My story with Greene began when my mom and dad googled “Jewish summer camp, Texas.” Sure enough, GFC was the very first result.
Bonim. I was 7 years old, and I still remember I how I felt on my first day. I was so ready to have the chance to be “on my own.” I told my mom that I could handle unpacking all by myself and that she should go help my brother. I thought I was the queen of the world… until she actually left. I was scared and in tears shortly after. My bunkmates were all gathering in a circle on the floor, and I was not ready to join them. My counselor came over to my bed, sat on the floor and asked if I liked having sleepovers with my friends. What 7 year old doesn’t? She went on to explain that camp is just one giant sleepover. Every day you get to do activities with your friends, and every night you try to stay up whispering and playing silly games, although you only manage to stay awake for 10 minutes once your head hits the pillow. I decided that 10 days and 10 nights was a challenge I could accept. Bonim taught me to accept challenges.
Bring on 10 years of giant sleepovers as a camper.
Bonim: Challenge accepted.
Avodah: New challenges ahead to accept
Each summer was a summer of growth and a summer where I took a further step being comfortable with the person I was and the person I wanted to be.
In 2013, I was a first year counselor in Niviim (both sessions). There is nothing more special than getting your very own bunk of campers. Of course you share them with cos, but they are yours. It is your privilege to be their role model all Summer. To help them when they need comforting, to facilitate activities and programs that make them laugh and work together, to challenge them to take on new adventures, and to be their caregiver for 3 and a half weeks. I would find that this was the year I realized that Niviim was my favorite unit!
As a second and third year counselor, I felt even more assured with my counseling skills. I acquired many helpful techniques from my previous cos, my unit head, and other people on camp. I remember that I had one camper who missed home every night, so me and my cos hatched a plan. We started to take her to the shortcut hill in tow with towels and lovees to make us feel extra brave and comfy. If you laid down on the hill and looked up, you would find that the tree tops created a “C” shape. That camper and I decided to name our special safe place “The C Tree.” There we would name several stars and several of the trees that surrounded us. We pretended that the stars were actually planets, and it was up to us to say what beings dwelled there. At the end of our C tree trip would say good night to our trees and our stars and reminding them that we will see them tomorrow. On the last night of the session, that camper invited our entire bunk there, where each of them named one of their own stars. At the end, that camper told them to say good night to their stars and to remind them that they will see them again next summer.
I can say for a fact that I have never experienced so much learning and teaching while I camp, then when I was a boy’s counselor twice. They taught me several card games, magic tricks, and sport techniques. I taught them about empathy, patience, and how to be an active listener. They also taught me to differentiate my procedures and routines to fit the needs of individual campers. Campers are not a one-size-fits-all so we shouldn’t treat them all exactly the same. Everyone needs something a little different to make them successful at camp, and that is okay. Thank you to those two bunks who taught me so much. I can never repay you for that knowledge.
Marissa Haber, Niviim Unit Head, 2016, 2017, 2018. Those were the years I put all of the knowledge I gained from my camperhood and my councilorship to work. As a unit head you are not just one bunk’s person, but an entire units. With the case of Niviim, this could mean that 115 campers and 30 counselors. You are the liaison for your unit to the rest of camp. It is a very special and precious undertaking. SO much caring and so much presence must occur for you to feel successful as a unit head. One of my biggest challenges as a unit head was learning how to supervise counselors. At first it was very difficult to go from many of my counselor’s peers to their supervisor, but I learned that those I had the truest friendships would respect me as someone who sometimes had to redirect them or provide them with feedback. As a unit head, you learn that the most important part of your job is to learn how to best support your counselors, who in turn can better support their campers.
Rosh (head) Unit Head. This summer I was awarded the opportunity to supervise the units heads working with Bonim, Niviim, Kohanim, and Shoftim. I have to be honest with you and say that I had a lot of FOMO, but It was amazing and inspiring to see the amount of caring that went in to the work they were doing with their units. Thank you Eliana, Blake, Ellie, and Leonard for reminding me how magical it is to be a unit head. I hope that at some point I was able to teach you one thing, as I felt I learned an abundance from you all.
Camp is a place that will challenge you to grow (which maybe a little scary), but it will also hug you from all sides and make you feel capable of so much, that your challenges become your accomplishments. No matter if you start as early as Bonim or later in your life as a counselor or out of bunk staff member, you are one of my Stars in the great big sky. It has been a pleasure seeing so many of you grow up to be such strong caring individuals.
Signing off for the Summer,
Camper, Avodah, Counselor, Unit Head, Rosh Unit Head, Middle School Teacher, Friend, Marissa.
This year, I had a campers in every unit (except Bonim)