Author Archives: Stefan Teodosic

Stefan Teodosic

About Stefan Teodosic

Stefan Teodosic is the Executive Director of B’nai B’rith Beber Camp and the Perlman Conference Center in Mukwonago, Wisconsin. He has worked in the Jewish camping world for almost 20 years, including 10 at the Executive level. He has a B.A. in Economics and a B.A. in Spanish from the University of Michigan, as well as an M.B.A. from Thunderbird, The American Graduate School of International Management. Before his move to the Jewish professional world, Stefan spent several years working in the strategic financial services sector at American Express. Stefan has sat on several boards, including the American Camp Association Illinois Section, Camp Kesem and SCOPE. He and his wife Cortney are expecting their first child in April; he loves guitar, sports and travel and is frequently mistaken for George Clooney.

Giving

This holiday season, we have giving on our minds and in our hearts. How camp influences what it means to us, how giving is a part of our lives, how we teach our kids about giving, and more. We encourage you to use these blog posts dedicated to the theme of giving to start conversations with friends and loved ones. Happy holidays!

November Director’s Corner

©Next Exit Photography www.nextexitphotographyFall is one of my favorite times of year – the leaves are changing, the weather is crisp and I find myself concentrating my time on some of my favorite things. My mind wanders through wrapping up camp registration, ramping up summer staffing, kicking our annual scholarship campaign into high gear, planning my family vacation and looking forward to my daughter’s first Hanukkah. These things all have the same season in common and they also share one other very important characteristic. They all center around giving.

I think that most people tend to focus on giving this time of year, usually with a focus on giving (and getting) gifts. Admittedly, that is a nice part of this season and I look forward to watching my daughter’s face as we open Hanukkah gifts. However, the giving that I love so much is a bit different…

With registration wrapping up in September, we get to give 700 campers the opportunity to have the best summer of their lives at Beber Camp! We are part of a community that gives Jewish Identity, life skills, friendships, new experiences and memories that will impact our children for years to come.

With staffing ramping up, we get to give dozens of amazing young role models the chance to positively impact the lives of children. These staff members are committed to developing their campers and are also looking to be developed themselves. We often forget that we are in the staff development business as well and this season starts our intense gift giving through selection, training, preparation, development and staff support processes.

With our annual campaign kicking into high gear, we get to directly give all families the ability to send their children to camp through the generosity of our Beber community.   We also get to give our annual scholarship campaign investors the opportunity to support something that they believe in passionately.

With my family vacation, I get to give time and love to my family that is separated by distance most of the year. People will be coming from all over the country to spend time together, reminisce, share and create new memories. I also get to give my family amazing quality time with my daughter Micah and in turn, I get to give Micah one of the greatest gifts I have – her loving, supportive family.   It is important to note that one of the reasons that my extended family is so strong is that the kids all spend their summers together at Beber Camp.

Finally, I get to give my immediate family our first Hanukkah. I am beyond excited to share in the magic with my wife and daughter, as we continue to create our own Jewish traditions. The magic that I am anticipating isn’t all about gifts, rather it’s about community, family, love, appreciation and giving. These are things that my family learned directly from our Jewish summer camp experiences.

Hopefully, you are looking forward to this season as well and you are personally excited about giving. Please make sure to take a minute to think about all of the different ways that you can give this season. Maybe it will be the gift of family time or the gift of a summer at camp for your child.  Maybe it will be a directed gift to the Jewish summer camp or the gift of encouraging your college-age child to return to camp as a staff.  Maybe it is the gift of support, compassion and community…..or maybe it is the gift of another pair of dress socks for the first night of Hanukkah.  Thanks in advance, mom!

Posted on November 7, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

April Director’s Corner

Stefan Teodosic is the Executive Director of B’nai B’rith Beber Camp and the Perlman Conference Center in Mukwonago, Wisconsin.

There are two things that I am most proud of in my career as a Jewish camp director. The first is that I have never had a camper go home early due to homesickness.  We have several strategies to work with kids, we create deep partnerships with parents and we use a non-cookie cutter approach to every situation. We match this with extremely well trained staff that are supported by higher level professionals. Every summer we help kids in their most difficult times and we take pride in helping them gain the independence that comes with making it through a homesick summer.

Camp_Ramah_0376_IMG_9695Camp is all about kids and a blog about homesickness is right in the wheelhouse of the Director’s Corner. However, it is the second thing that I am most proud of that will take center stage today. I take an immense amount of pride in the fact that I have never turned a family away from a Jewish summer camp experience for financial reasons. I philosophically believe that it is my responsibility to help families make the best choice about their children’s Jewish summer camp experience. I serve as an advocate for Jewish summer camps first and then help parents make an informed choice about enrolling their child in Beber Camp. This is one of the most impactful Jewish decisions that they will make for their children and a real fit is critical to unlocking the magic of a summer at camp. Once a parent has identified a true fit, it is my responsibility to make sure that their child has access to that experience.

As camp directors, we have several resources at our disposal to help parents make sure that camp is a reality regardless of their financial situations. We have excellent confidential processes for determining financial need, we have access to outside scholarship support, we raise funds internally through annual campaigns and we work out payment plans to spread out costs. Each family is different, and much like working with our campers during the summer, there is no cookie cutter method to a successful financial aid process. Finances can be a difficult topic and many of our families have negative feelings about the process based on previous experiences with other organizations. We approach the financial support relationship with the same level of customer service that we do when we are recruiting campers and working with kids during the summer. The strong partnership that we create during this process serves as the bedrock of a relationship that will play out over the next several years.

Camp is one of the best values available in the Jewish community and while there is massive return on investment, the absolute cost of a summer is still high.  We don’t view the Jewish camp experience as a luxury, and since we want parents to share this philosophy, it is incumbent on us to make camp a financial reality for all families. That said, every camp that is committed to this philosophy needs to raise significant dollars to deliver year in and year out. If you have a passion for strengthening Jewish identity and positive youth outcomes, donate to the scholarship program at your camp alma mater. If you didn’t go to camp as a kid, but realize the inherent value in the experience, support your local Jewish summer camp. If you believe in camp, but didn’t go as a child and don’t live anywhere near a Jewish summer camp office, call the Foundation for Jewish Camp. I am sure that they will be happy to help you get started in supporting the field of Jewish camp.

Every dollar counts and you can be sure that your donation will positively impact a camper’s life this summer. I was a camper who received scholarship money and my passionate belief that camp should be affordable for all families stems from this fact. Due to the generosity of the Jewish community, I was given an experience that profoundly impacted me and led me to become a Jewish camp director. So, please consider a gift to a Jewish summer camp, as you never know how far your donation just may go.

Posted on April 8, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

March Director’s Corner

Stefan Teodosic is the Executive Director of B’nai B’rith Beber Camp and the Perlman Conference Center in Mukwonago, Wisconsin.

My mentor once told me that you could run camp in a parking lot if you had the best staff.  I agree completely and it is the individual staff member, as well as the Jewish community, that make camp transformational rather than merely transactional.   Jewish camp staff are the role models celebrating camper successes, providing a supportive shoulder to cry on, helping in activity areas and sitting with our kids during Shabbat services.   As a field, we realize the connection between 0686_110811-FJC_x46staff and mission delivery and recognize the need for a hyper-intentional staffing processes to ensure successful outcomes.  Each year, Jewish camp directors prepare their staff to make the most of these opportunities through intentional year round training strategies.

Most people think of staff training as the week before the kids get to camp, full of bonding, programming and planning.  While this week is critical to a good summer, Jewish camps begin preparing their staff much earlier to maximize the potential for a transformational summer experience.  The field is at a place where slipping into transactional territory is not an option and we are all working with year round staff training best practices.  A cornerstone of these best practices is a strategic, mission based staffing continuum that starts as soon as we wrap up the previous summer!  This staffing continuum includes the following phases:

- Staff selection: intentional selection of the best staff includes a cultural fit with the camp and the decision whether a staff will truly be able to embody the mission day to day, as well as experience with kids, specialty skills and Jewish background.

- Expectation setting: expectation setting includes the forms that they sign with their contract and the conversations that you have once they have accepted the position.  They need to be explicit and supported by multiple touch points leading up to their arrival at staff week.

- Face to face staff training: staff training week is a wonderful opportunity to take the expectations that we have pre-set to the next level.  It is also a time to immerse the staff in the camp culture and bond them as a skilled team around shared goals.

- Evaluation: over the course of the summer, the staff need to be supported and evaluated based on their performance with the goal of continuous development all summer.  Hopefully, the evaluations are both informal and formal, with the latter directly connected to the job description, interview process and expectation setting.

The best for-profit companies in the world use similar staffing processes to drive the best product results.  We are holding ourselves to the same rigorous staffing standards as we realize that Jewish camping is a critical vehicle for delivering the overall goals of the Jewish community.  Our non-profit statuses are just legal frameworks that permit us to not pay taxes based our missions and do not determine the way in which do business, including staff training.  Jewish camps operate with a high level of intentionality, we achieve our missions AND we offer our staff a transformational experience as well.  They participate in the most impactful, highest skill building, spiritual, life changing job they can do in their formative college years.  They positively impact children’s lives and gain skills on par with those acquired in non-camping internship/job positions.  They are the key to delivering our mission of world class child care, spectacular programming and unapologetic Judaics.

Jewish summer camps are constantly looking for ways to maximize mission delivery AND differentiate themselves in a marketplace filled with competitors, substitutes and alternatives for disposable dollars.  The field has appropriately rallied around the concept that concentrating on the core principals of selection, training and evaluation is the right course of action.   Investments in facilities and “wow” programming are important to the success of Jewish camps and I am not advocating for running things out of a parking lot by any means.  However, the investments that we make in training our staff each year have the highest rate of return for our campers experiences, our staff development and the long term outcomes that are core to the mission of every Jewish camp.

Posted on March 14, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

The Director’s Corner

Stefan Teodosic is the Executive Director of B’nai B’rith Beber Camp and the Perlman Conference Center in Mukwonago, Wisconsin.

Teodosic doesn’t sound like a Jewish last name and that is because of the simple fact that it isn’t.  My mother is Jewish (Rubin is her family name), my father is not and I grew up in a secular, intermarried home.  My parents got divorced when I was almost 9 and that is the summer that I went to Jewish summer camp for the first time.  I went to Camp Tamarack in Michigan and for a young child of a recent divorced intermarried couple, it was a perfect fit.  I began to connect to my Jewish identity, I had positive male role models, I gained self-esteem and I even picked up some new camp skills along the way.  Camp Tamarack made an indelible impression on me and it gave me an incredibly strong Jewish identity. My friends at home were Jewish, I joined BBYO and NFTY, I went on an Israel trip and I felt completely connected.  I stayed at camp for 15 summers as a camper, CIT, counselor and leadership staff member.  It was my life, it was my support system, it was where I felt safe and it was my second home.

stefan camper pic

I knew that I wanted to be a camp director when I was a 17 years old TSS (counselor in training) at Camp Tamarack.  When I was at camp, working with kids or in a specialty area, everything made sense.  I felt like Neo in The Matrix, where everything moved in slow motion and I could clearly see every event, while being able to contextualize it into the big picture goals of camp.  I went to the University of Michigan, where in my majority Jewish fraternity, I became friends with several kids from the East Coast who were quick to let me know that camp director was not a real job.  This notion crept into my head and even though I worked at camp throughout college, I started looking towards a future where camp was about wistful memories and sending my children to camp someday.  After college, I worked as a consultant and earned an MBA.  I moved to New York to begin my journey to become a Master of the Business Universe.  I took a job doing international strategy with American Express and camp became a wonderful part of the past that helped get me to where I was in life.

However, even as I was enjoying success in New York, I couldn’t shake camp from my mind.  I would frequently find myself thinking about Tamarack and wondering what it would mean to exchange corporate strategy for camp on my resume.  I even went as far as to help lead Tamarack TSS camping trips to Algonquin National Park on my vacation.  You can only imagine the looks of disbelief i got, when I told my co-workers how I was spending my time off.  They couldn’t believe that I would rather go camping with a bunch of kids than go on the high end vacations that they had planned.  I just shrugged it off, slung my backpack over my shoulder and headed back to Ortonville.

All of the philosophical camp-as-a-job conversations became very real for me on September 11th, 2001.  I was next to The World Trade Center when the first plane flew directly over my head and slammed into the North Tower.  By the end of that day, I began to think about my life and what was important to me.  By the end of the week, I was beginning to think about how to make major meaningful changes in my life.  By the end of the month, I was making my exit plan and by the end of the year, I had reached back into the Jewish camping world to really see about following my dream.  I was very lucky to connect with Camp Young Judaea Midwest and by March, I had moved to Chicago to become the new camp director.  That was 12 summers ago, with the past 8 summers spent as the Executive Director of Beber Camp and the Perlman Retreat Center.   I haven’t had a bad day during that time and I have been able to follow my dreams. I have had the opportunity to begin to repay everything I got out of my camp experience.  I am now married with my first daughter on the way and I am looking forward to raising my family in a Jewish camp environment.

Jewish summer camp is one of the most powerful experiences that we can provide to our children.  I am a prime example of how camp can impact a person if it’s done correctly.  It can take a kid from an intermarried family and make him a positively connected Jewish adult.  It can take a child of divorced parents and give him the foundation for being happily married with a child on the way.  It can make a highly successful career oriented businessman and drive him to return to a super meaningful life in the non-profit Jewish camping world.  Even as I am writing this blog entry, I am getting excited about the upcoming summer at Beber Camp.  That is how powerful Jewish camping can be when it’s done right.

That is me in a nutshell and now you have a bit of background on me, as I dive into a year of blogging for The Canteen.  I look forward to connecting with you over the next several months and sharing a year in the life of a camp director.  I hope to show you the amazing things that we are doing at Beber Camp and give you context to think about it in terms of your own experience.  From discussing excellent child care and unpacking world class programming to creating a supportive welcoming Jewish community and sharing camp stories, it’s going to be a fun ride.   Which is what camp is also all about at the end of the day.

Posted on February 20, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy