The Pio program is one of the many wonderful aspects that separates Perlman from any of the other Jewish camps around the country. Anyone who has participated in the program in the past will tell you that it was the best summer of their life, or one that has at least had a profound impact on who they were at sixteen years old.  For most, the village extends beyond the confines of the kind of dirty, kind of gross area of woods that we call ‘home’ for seven weeks. The skills learned, the new found confidence developed, or the new outlook on life discovered, truly shape all those who have been able to call themselves a Pio once before. For me, I was lucky enough to have that experience twice.

I was first a Pio in 2010 as a camper, which was also the first summer that the Pios went to Israel. I was a part of the program for a second time when I had the pleasure of being a Pio
counselor this past summer, a summer that marks the first large scale incorporation of Poland into the trip. As any and all Pios have experienced, I had a life altering experience in 2010. I learned how to live with large groups and how to settle arguments within those, one way or another. I also traveled outside of the North America for the first trip on the pioneering (pun intended)
trip to Israel.  With all this under my belt, I was thrilled when the topic of Pios came up on the phone during my interview for the summer with our Director, Rachel.  I had been waiting to be a Pio counselor ever since I first left the village five years prior.

Now of course I understood that being a counselor was not going to be the same as being a camper, and I honestly came in expecting it to not have such a huge impact on me, only hoping to ensure that the Vill could be as special to another year of Pios as it was to me.  I could not have been more wrong. It was not the same experience, but I gained so much from this time around in the Village, that it’s almost unfathomable. I learned so much from my 24 unique Pios and the way in which they treated each other that I owe them all credit for making me a significantly better person. In terms of the program its self, seeing the changes and improvements that have been put into place in the last five years gives me unbelievable hope for the program’s future.  These improvements come in both how the Pios live their day to day life on camp, as well as the overseas trip.  I had a unique point of view on the trip having participated in the first one and then help to run it years later in its
new and improved format.  At this rate, the Israel/Poland trip is going to become such an ingrained tradition that it will be thought of no differently than Mud Day-a quintessential part of a Pio’s

Looking back on my two summers in the Vill, I can without a doubt say that it is one of the single most influential places of my life. Any Pio will tell you that there is just something special about that clearing in the forest, and as I try to put that feeling into words, I struggle. The struggle is not just something I experience, but can be witnessed on that last day of camp every summer as the campers take their last steps as Pioneers, as no words are muttered because nothing can describe how it has changed them and how connected they feel—only tears at the thought of having to leave it all behind.  There is nothing pretty or nice; just simply tradition, good friends, and new experiences. Something about those three things taking place in the simplicity of the woods, in my eyes, makes the village the most magical place in Perlman, and maybe even the world.

Pio Power 10

Pio Power 15

Abe Fertig-Cohen