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a message from our new development director

By Angela Travers

I grew up in a suburb of Washington, DC with a large Jewish population where many of my friends and cousins spent their summers at Jewish summer camps. While I didn’t attend, I always heard stories of the fun they were having, the friends they made, and the longing they had to return when they all arrived back at school in the fall. There wasn’t a summer that passed that I didn’t wish I could join them, but I loved hearing about what a great time they had.

As an adult, my daughter and I are members of a reform synagogue that is closely connected with URJ Camps, and Camp Harlam in particular. I had many friends at our synagogue who sent their children to Harlam and Six Points every summer and came back with the same great experiences that I had always heard about from friends and family! In the winter of 2008, my daughter and I toured Camp Harlam and fell in LOVE. Initially, I assumed we were looking for a summer down the road but as we finished our tour, my daughter was certain she was ready to join their youngest group of campers (Carmel) at 8 years old. That first summer was tough, dropping my daughter off for 4 weeks was much harder than I anticipated – for me. I worried that she would miss me, be sad, feel left out, or not make friends but the experience was quite the opposite. Instead, Sophia immediately felt at home. The first letter I received from her simply said “I’m alive. I’m having Fun. I love you” and the pictures that camp posted were filled with smiles, new friends, and new experiences. When I picked Sophia up at the end of first session, she immediately asked if I could sign her up for next summer and since then, Harlam remains her home away from home.

Even this summer, as she prepares for her 7th summer at Camp Harlam, she regularly texts, calls, and plans weekend visits with her camp friends.  I’ve developed relationships with other camp families too, and I’ve seen, firsthand, the amazing value that camp has had on my daughter and the kids she has met in her time there.  2023 was the year of the Bar and Bat Mitzvah for my daughter and her friends and we travelled to at least 12 different events across the Mid-Atlantic area to celebrate with her friends from camp and when it was her turn, they did the same. Sophia’s time at camp has had a tremendous impact of her involvement as a young Jewish adult, she’s proud of who she is and feels comfortable being a Jew both at home, camp, and anywhere else her life might take her.

After my long-time and continued involvement with the URJ, WRJ, URJ Camp Harlam, and my synagogue, URJ, WRJ, I’ve seen firsthand the magic of camp and all the ways it strengthens Jewish communities and builds positive Jewish identities for young people. I am beyond excited to be a part of the GUCI community as the new Development Director and be a part of countless families experiencing the magic of camp. I look forward to working with the GUCI community, leadership, and families to ensure your experience at camp is as lifechanging as it has been for my family.