Camp Ramah veterans will tell you that the exhilarating experience of quality Jewish camping stays with you your whole life long. For Jennifer Stern, a second-year student with a concentration in Jewish Experiential Education (formerly Informal and Communal Education) at the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education of The Jewish Theological Seminary and recipient of The Davidson School's Harold Grinspoon Merit Fellowship, it was precisely her recurring Camp Ramah encounters that defined her path.
While attending Solomon Schechter Day School of Nassau County and High School of Long Island, Jennifer spent her summers making the gradual transition from camper to junior counselor to senior counselor and finally Rosh Edah (division head) at Camp Ramah New England in Palmer, Massachusetts, where she continues to serve. "I keep doing this every summer—it isn't an accident that I spent six summers on staff," she jokes.
At Johns Hopkins University, where she went for her undergraduate degree, Jennifer began to express her creativity through photography. After graduating in 2007 with a BA in Sociology, Jennifer went to Israel to work with aerial photographer Ofir Bentov for six months.
Returning to the United States, Jennifer continued to work at Camp Ramah New England where she met Cheryl Magen, The Davidson School's educational consultant to Camp Ramah, at a training seminar. After hearing about The Davidson School and its community, she knew "there was nowhere else I wanted to apply. I was interested in experiential learning and I wanted to turn that into my career," says Jennifer.
In 2009, Jennifer began her graduate journey at The Davidson School: "When I started my studies, I thought 'This is what it means to learn from professors who are trained educators.' All of my classes have been wonderful," she reports. And in case she forgets how she arrived at JTS, she needs only to return to her Upper West Side apartment to spend time with her roommate, who is a friend from camp.
As part of The Davidson School's Visions and Voices program in Israel, Jennifer also got to blend her love of learning with her interest in photography. She was an important contributor to the Visions and Voices Photo Book and relished learning from the instructors in the program, whom Jennifer describes as "educators who understand how to teach about Israel to American educators."
Whether through the lens of a camera or that of an expert educator, Jennifer is seeking the clarity and focus that only come with intense study. And though The Davidson School may be a distance from her second home at Camp Ramah New England, Jennifer already knows that she might just be heading back there permanently after she graduates in 2011, stating, "I'm going to become a camp director."
Jennifer Stern highlights the community of JTS: