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Graduate Fellowship Application Case Study:

Leadership at a Jewish Camp

To get a better sense of your thinking about leadership for Jewish communal life, we present you with this case study from a Jewish camp. This is a fictional case, but real enough in terms of the dilemma faced by the camp director. Please read the case and write a response explaining how you would act in this situation. Be sure to address the questions below in your response and to include your rationale for the responses you choose.

The Case
You are the Director of Camp Log and Twig, a small, independent Jewish summer camp in the hills of picturesque New England. As the Director, you report to a Board of Directors, many of whom are parents of campers and staff. Campers, staff and parents love this camp which has been operating for many decades and which attracts generations of family members as well as new families. The camp is known for its Jewish mission, but also for the great fun that campers have here. Everyone also knows that you run a tight ship and have a strong commitment to safety and security.

Your camp is divided into divisions, each with a unit head and four counselors: two male, two female. The rest of the camp’s staff is small in number: a few adults who serve as specialists, a rabbi, nurse, cooks, maintenance staff, etc. In other words, camp is small, and everyone works hard. There are few spare people hanging around.

The Oldest Division
The oldest division at camp is famous for its intensity of programming and social opportunities. Eight years in advance, the campers begin counting down to this special experience. Staff get in on the fun as well, as counselor positions in the oldest division are most coveted. Like other camps, relationships amongst the oldest campers and their counselors are extremely close. This year, the counselors are young adults who have mentored these campers for many years. These senior counselors have added responsibility on their shoulders, responsible for trips outside of camp, for creating a great spirit and for preparing the oldest campers to transition to becoming staff after a summer in Israel.

The Issue
A week before the summer is to conclude, the camp celebrates the Zimriah – a camp-wide music performance/concert. During the Zimriah, you notice unruly behavior amongst the oldest campers, and are surprised to see their counselors egging them on. You pull the counselors aside and smell alcohol on their breath. You ask them if they are able to do their job, and they can hardly get a word out. The counselors are all drunk. You send them to the infirmary to rest it off and remain monitored.

Next Steps
The camp policy is to immediately fire staff who are using drugs or alcohol. You do not have other staff to fill their shoes. You anticipate high drama amongst the campers if their beloved counselors are fired. You are not sure who will run the program for the remaining week of camp. Yet their drunkenness was on full display and everyone realizes these counselors openly broke the camp rules.
What would you do? In your answer, please address the following issues:
1. How would you frame the dilemma the camp director is facing? What are the primary factors he or she needs to consider before making a decision and taking action?

2. With whom do you think the director should consult? Why with those people? What kind of advice (if any) might he or she be seeking from others?

3. What are the legal and/or liability issues that the director must consider? How do they play into his or her decision?

4. What are the moral issues that the director needs to consider? How, if at all, does this being a Jewish camp play into his or her decision?

5. What practical issues of running the camp do you think the director needs to figure out before taking action?