As we continue our Alumni Blog post series, I am excited to share with you a post done by Jillian Klein. Please click below to read about how growing up a B’nai B’rith Perlman Camp shaped her life.

Many elements help to shape a person into who they will one day become; a first best friend, a childhood home, a broken heart. As individuals, we learn from experience and change as we grow. A large part of who I am today was carved out during my summers in the Catskills, my summers at sleep away camp.

In 1993 I was nine years old and spent my first summer at B’nai B’rith Perlman Camp. I can remember the sound of my parents’ car pulling into the gravel entranceway of what would be my home for the next seven weeks. That sound would later become what I looked forward to every year for the next 14 summers. I felt a mix of excitement and fear at the thought of being away from my home for the summer at a place where I knew no one. I had absolutely no idea at the time of the long-lasting impression that camp would make in my life.

That first summer, I learned to be independent. I made my own friendships and solved my own problems. Bunkmates became family and the camp seemed to be its own living, breathing entity – the pulse of our summer, our home away from home. After my first summer at B’nai B’rith, even though I was only a little girl, I knew that I had found something magical within those mountain trees. I felt as though I had discovered the world’s biggest secret and only other campers of BBPC would understand the silent pact that we made each summer – to love and respect this place, to cherish the time we had here, and to come back for as long as we possibly could.

For me, those enchanted summers lasted 14 years. I grew up at camp. I arrived on that first day as a camper. I came back year after year and got to experience every facet that camp had to offer. I became a pioneer and lived across the lake in tents in the woods. I learned to build my own fire, cook my own dinners, and build my own stove. I learned about community service and giving back to the camp that had given us so much. I became a member of the camp athletic department, coaching girls’ volleyball and acting as a bunk live-in. I became a camp counselor and looked forward to returning each summer and seeing how my campers had changed. I even earned counselor of the year and became lucky enough to go on to become a pioneer counselor, reliving the whole experience from a different perspective. I became a unit head and learned what it meant to plan and then plan for the unexpected. At camp, I became an artist, a teammate, an organizer, a planner, a role model, a sister, a friend.

The experiences I had, the memories I made, and the things I learned at camp not only contributed in who I became, but it continues to affect who I am today on a daily basis. The independence I gained at camp prepared me for life at college and being away from home. My role as a camp counselor made me realize that I wanted to become a teacher, a profession that I have maintained for the past 8 years. My time at camp helped me to understand who I am and what I wanted out of life. To this day, there is not a summer that goes by where I don’t reminisce about camp. I look down at my watch and say to myself “I would be heading to the dining hall right about now.” Every summer since my last summer at camp, I feel that slight tinge of envy at the thought of all the campers off at Perlman, living the summers that meant so much to me. But then I smile, because I know that it means there are more of us out there, sharing the secret magic that is camp and keeping it alive. I carry the shape of those summers with me wherever I go. It is those very summers beneath the mountain trees that help shape me into who I am today.

Interesting Camp Fact: 1. There are many interesting camp facts that I could share such as my brother met his wife at BBPC or when I first started at camp, boys and girls shared the same side of camp. However, I think my favorite camp fact is the trophy incident of 1997. I was infamous at camp for a while for being the girl who got a trophy stuck in the bone of her foot. It was the night before we all went home for the summer and camp had its award night. My bunk mate, Allison Sherman, had won camper of the year. I jumped off my top bunk to brush my teeth and landed on her trophy! The plastic wing of the eagle had snapped off into the heel of my foot. I was rushed to the hospital and my camp counselor, Lauren Edelstein, even came along for the ride because I wanted her there. Mitch Malaga, a BBPC Alumni staple, carried me into the hospital where they were successfully able to remove the trophy. The hospital even gave me the piece back but it’s no surprise that Allison didn’t want that back! The next morning, my friends and I followed the camp buses home in our very own van. From that summer on, every award night, the camp directors would make a special announcement not to leave any trophies on the floor!