First bunk: 2013 B-4A counselor for Taste of Camp and Session II
Favorite meal: Shabbat Tofu
Best songbook song: The Boxer by Simon & Garfunkel
Silliest ice-breaker: Share your stereotypical grandpa name (Evan’s would be “Mordechai”)
Wackiest camp tradition: Announcements song
One of the first things we ask campers at the opening campfire is how many years they’ve come to Tawonga. For counselor Evan Gunsberg, though he has only been a Tawongan for three years, he has excelled in his role and has become a role model in every sense of the word.
Starting off as a B-4A counselor, Evan learned how important it is to be a good role model for his campers.
“I love camp so much mostly because of the influence we have. We have a direct impact on these kids’ lives — socially, religiously, environmentally. These kids that keep returning will grow up with values that they learn at camp,” Evan said. “Because of that, it is important that we help steer them in the right direction so they can positively take part in social issues and grow up to be leaders.”
Since his first summer Evan has come a long way. This year we selected Evan along with five other third-year staff members to represent Camp Tawonga at The Foundation for Jewish Camp’s Cornerstone Fellow Conference. Meant to unify Jewish summer camps, the five-day Cornerstone Conference hosted representatives from approximately 60 camps to discuss Jewish Identity, develop Jewish leadership skills, and participate in other discussions in topics ranging from gender identity to environmental stewardship. The representatives selected were third-year returning counselors recommended by their supervisors as individuals who show a willingness to learn as well as the desire to serve as role models and mentors to campers and staff alike.
Evan felt that he gained the most insight from conversations relating to gender and sexuality. He believes the way Tawonga approaches this topic can be a powerful and transformative experience for kids.
“I grew up going to the same summer camp every year in Michigan and we didn’t really discuss gender identity and sexuality at all. When I came to Tawonga, it felt very unique and powerful that we have open discussions about sexuality and gender roles,” Evan added.
He believes that being a Cornerstone Fellow has made him a better counselor and role model to new counselors.
“I think cornerstone has given me tools to be more open in communication and accepting. Going to cornerstone reinforced the passion I have for working with children and helped me learn how to mentor new counselors to remember to look at the bigger picture,” Evan said.
Evan adds that being a counselor is no easy job especially summer after summer. Staff at Tawonga work for 10 straight weeks day-in and day-out, waking up early every morning and working until late at night once the campers go to sleep. Evan says the hard work of all the staff members is a testament to the level of commitment and love our staff have for Tawonga and its values.
“I keep coming back to camp because there’s really no place I would rather be during the summer. Not only am I learning extremely valuable life skills, but I love the values we instill in kids such as positive self-image, positive gender identity, and being sex positive,” Evan said. “Tawonga is this special outlet for kids to come to just be kids. Here they don’t have to worry about home and the stresses of everyday life. It’s amazing to take a part in something that will play such a big role in a child’s life.”
In addition to that, Evan says he has become more flexible and loves beginning each day with a clean slate.
“I enjoy working with kids who may need a bit more support and getting to see their progress from start to finish. The most satisfying thing for a counselor is being able to see a shy camper develop into someone who is not afraid to be themselves,” Evan said.
It is clear that camp has made a big impact on Evan and in turn Evan has been nothing short of an incredible and caring role model, colleague, and counselor. He believes that the skills he has learned through his experiences here will extend well beyond camp.
“Tawonga has given me the tools to really appreciate what I have. Here we are taken away from our everyday life distractions — phone, tv, drama with friends, and stress with school. It gives you an opportunity to appreciate the little things like the sunset or making someone laugh,” Evan said. “Because of camp, I’m able to communicate with people and relate better in the real world. I love taking those skills home and teaching my friends the same things.”
Evan has been an invaluable asset to the Camp Tawonga community. He never fails to make us laugh and is one of the warmest colleagues, always ready to lend a hand whenever he can. A huge thank you to all of Evan’s hard work this summer and for spreading some Tawonga magic in the real world.
Our Staff Spotlight is a series on The Pipeline blog featuring staff members from a broad range of departments here at Camp Tawonga.
Below, enjoy photos and check back in later for Shabbat photos!