Desert Mountain High School student Dylan Brooks has attended Camp Daisy and Harry Stein every year consecutively for 10 years. Last summer, he was able to participate in Camp Stein’s Big Trip Israel. It was so profound for Brooks that he was motivated to find a leadership role afterward.

“Israel definitely changed my perspective on the kind of Jewish person that I want to be,” Brooks said. “I now want to inspire younger kids the same way I was inspired when I was their age.”

This summer, Brooks will return to Camp Stein. Not just as a camper, but in the Ozrim counselor-in-training program, which allows teens going into the 12th grade an opportunity to learn the core values of being a counselor. Brooks was also elected to become the regional president of North American Federation of Temple Youth Southwest Region for its upcoming 2019-2020 session. 

During his election campaign, Brooks wrote that NFTY “has taught me important leadership skills that I can use for the rest of my life and has allowed me to explore my Judaism in various ways.”

Brooks said he plans on working on inclusion for all people of all political persuasions in NFTY.

Brooks is one of many students who attended Camp Stein’s 2018 Big Trip and then took on a leadership role in a youth group afterward. Thirteen of the estimated 30 campers who went to Israel last year went on to hold a leadership position in a youth organization. In addition to NFTY, some of the teens have been elected to roles in Beth Israel’s Temple Youth program, Temple Chai’s Temple Youth program and in BBYO, a Jewish teen movement. 

Solomon Lerner, a Sunnyslope High School senior who also attended the Big Trip last year, will be BBYO Mountain Region’s regional treasurer. Lerner has attended Camp Daisy and Harry Stein for 11 years and feels the camp’s sense of community was his main inspiration for wanting to take on a leadership role. 

“In years past when I was in camp I always saw these Ozos — which is what we call the counselor in training ­— have a lot of fun training all the campers,” Lerner said. “Their position is unique and I wanted to be a part of that, something bigger than myself.”

Lerner and Brooks both had fond memories of their trip to Israel. 

“I’ll take any opportunity to go to Israel because it’s an amazing place,” Brooks said. “My brother went on that trip and the camp really has an amazing system to make sure that you see all of the country.”

Camp Stein’s Big Trip Israel is a four-week Israel experience, led by the camp’s staff members, and is available for campers entering 11th grade. The trip took the campers from Tel Aviv to Haifa and then to Jerusalem, where the trip ended. One of Lerner’s favorite memories in Israel was at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, at Israel’s national cemetery. 

“We were getting a tour through the cemetery and it was very emotional, and it made me really think about what I want to do with my life,” Lerner said. 

Camp Stein, owned and operated by Congregation Beth Israel, was established in 1975 as Camp Charles Pearlstein. The camp became Camp Daisy and Harry Stein in 2012. 

Both Brooks and Lerner consider camp to be a significant part of their childhoods, and both feel that it has shaped their Jewish identities and has given them the confidence to take on new positions. For them, and many other campers each year, their summers at Camp Stein have brought a sense of community.  

“I guess for those who have never really done camp it can seem a bit like going to Mars,” Lerner said. “But for those returning, they know the camp so well that they return to see all these people they only know from camp. And campers will keep building up experiences and making new friends.”

For Brooks, his experience at Camp Stein has provided more opportunities for growth as a Jewish teen. 

“It’ll be interesting this year to see how I’m not just following the counselors, I’ll now have to lead programming and keep reiterating the core values of the camp,” Brooks said. “I’m hoping that I’ll inspire them to want to continue to be Jewish by staying involved in the Jewish community. I don’t think I would have been involved in all the other Jewish programs that I am currently in without camp as a starting place.” JN

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