By Rosie Elysa Gurman, URJ Camp Newman Counselor


Walking around camp on an average day, one can see campers playing sports, doing arts and crafts, talking, laughing, and busy in other programs. But what about Rishonim? What do they do?

With 88 kids going into 8th and 9th grade, Rishonim is doing a lot. Rishonim’s overall programmatic theme is “nature,” a topic that really resonates with these campers who are inheriting a world that’s facing global warming, overpopulation and food insecurity. Althou

gh every session at camp engages with nature in their own way, Rishonim engages with their surroundings in a much deeper way than most. This is Tikkun Olam at its finest. They learn hands-on skills for bettering our environment, and how to create a more sustainable world.

Every morning, campers split up into their “tribes” of about 20 campers and at least two staff members. These tribes are named after some of the tribes of Israel: Zebulon, Judah, Menashe, Reuben, and Levi. Each tribe participates in five different three-day long shvilim: Music, Rabbi, Trailblazing, Trail Restoration, and Adventure.



The three days campers spend with tribes in Music Shveil are unlike any other. Danielle Polson, Rishonim’s very own song leader, leads campers and staff members through deep discussions about music and nature. Spotlights include making music with sticks and a hike to the water-less waterfall.

Rish 1Trailblazing

Trailblazing has become a Rishonim tradition in the past three or so years. Led by counselor Anna Kurzrock and Rosh Michael Flyat, campers and staff members spend three days adding on to this year’s new Rishonim trail. The site this year will connect two trails previously created by Rishonim around Operation Kibbutz Yarok (OKY), our sustainable farm. Highlights of Trailblazing include using hoes and pick axes to clear the way!


Rishonim’s dedicated faculty member, Rabbi Rick Winer, leads this shveil. Tribes discuss connections between Judaism and nature at camp, in the exact location that the two meet … the great outdoors! Highlights include a hike to the star and discussions about God.

DSC_9637Tribe Overnights

Each tribe gets to embark with their small group to Rishonim’s very own overnight site. Planned by Tribe Leaders, overnights are always a session highlight! Overnight highlights include making chili and s’mores by the camp fire.


Adventure Shveil, led by Counselors Quinn Steward and Justin Andell, teaches valuable skills. Over this three-day program, staff members teach through adventurous experiences, fun hikes, and games. Highlights include learning to light a fire and embarking on a tribe overnight!

Rish 1Trail Restoration

Under the lead of counselor Becca Speyer, in this shveil campers spend their time repairing old trails so that they can be once again enjoyed by all of camp. The first trail under restoration was blazed by Rishonim two years ago from behind the Pinat T’filah to the old overnight site and the second one was originally blazed by campers four years ago from OKY to Adventure Mountain. Campers are also installing directional signs – color coded to match the session mural – to better guide people along the path. Highlights of this shveil include using tools to pull weeds and calling “rock!!!” so friends at the bottom of the path can clear the way of any falling rubble.


Session Mural

This year, Rishonim was lucky enough to create a mural to be displayed at camp for years to come. The concept of the mural is a map of camp’s trails, specifically those blazed by Rishonim over the past four years. On the mural, trails are color coded in coordination with the actual trail markers that campers installed on the ground.


Rosie Elysa Gurman is a Bay Area native entering her sophomore year at University of Oregon studying Political Science along with a small pack of minors. This is her eleventh summer at Camp Newman and second on staff. She has a passion for camp and is so excited to work with the marketing team this summer.