Alli Barash Continues Family Legacy at Camp Saginaw

Alli Barash with campers (Courtesy of Camp Saginaw)

On, Alli Barash, the camp’s director, wrote, “I have never felt more at home than I do at camp.”

“Every day, I feel so lucky that working at camp is my full-time job,” she added.

For Barash, 41, those feelings run deep. Her great-grandparents, Morry and Rose Edelson, started Camp Saginaw in Oxford, Chester County, in 1927, according to the site. Barash did not start working there full time until 2012, when she was 30.

The Philadelphia resident attended Saginaw growing up and spent one summer as a counselor. But then she moved to Los Angeles to try to make it in the entertainment industry. She lived there for six years before returning to the East Coast.

Barash only started working at her childhood camp because a supervisor quit five days before the summer. But then she never left. She spent six years as an assistant director before being promoted to director in January 2019.

“After my second summer (as a supervisor), I said, ‘This is what I want to do,’” Barash recalled. “I had been working in TV between those summers. I decided I no longer cared about actresses’ hair extensions and organizing limo rides.”

Camp just felt different.

“I could actually see the faces of the people I was watching…as opposed to some show about murder if anybody watches it,” Barash said.

The camp director grew up in Huntington Valley and had her bat mitzvah at Ohev Shalom of Bucks County. Barash started going to Saginaw when she was six and kept going through age 16.

Alli Barash as a camper at Camp Saginaw (Photo by Karen Barash)

Her family had sold its share to their co-owners in the 1970s because Barash’s grandfather didn’t want to take over. But Barash’s mother, Karen Barash, formerly Karen Edelson, still worked as the director of the camp’s art department. Her father came up on weekends.

And her little brother, Michael Barash, was “the little baby everybody knew,” Barash said.
Morry Edelson, born in 1900, also lived until Barash was 17. The great-grandfather would often show his great-granddaughter camp yearbooks from the 1930s.

“It was a real connection,” she said. “Not just a story.”

When Barash walked around the campgrounds, she saw buildings that went up during Morry Edelson’s time. Barash also thought about the old family story that he “planted 1,000 trees” throughout the campsite. Many were still alive.

“Saginaw had been farmland,” she said.

Despite knowing all this, Barash had a different dream. Barash participated in theater in high school and played both starring and supporting roles. But her “practical” parents, as she described them, convinced her that acting was not quite a “practical” path.

She decided to pursue a career behind the camera. She went to Hollywood, worked for a producer, read scripts and got jobs on sets. Barash liked TV. It was like theater: You got to see your work come to life shortly thereafter.

She worked on “CSI: NY” for four years and became the coordinator of the show’s art department. But after six years in LA, she realized she hated it.

“I feel like people in Philadelphia are really passionate about things and care about each other,” she said. “In LA, I feel like no one cared about you unless you could get them something. ‘Are you in casting? No? OK, bye.’”

Barash drove cross country and moved back home. Then her sister, Jessica Inver, called. Inver had worked at camp until the summer before, and it was her friend who was leaving. Barash had a choice: “Live at home with mom and dad and be unemployed or work at camp,” she said.

That summer, she saw that her problem-solving skills applied to camp, too. They were also being put to better use.

“This child’s having a mental health issue. These two girls aren’t getting along. This kid’s homesick,” she said. “The problems I was solving were going to mean something in the long run.”

After those two summers, Barash had another choice: continue figuring out hair extensions and limo rides or figure out mental health issues, fights between kids and homesickness.

“I was thinking of what really matters,” Barash said. “I want to do something that feels like it has long-term implications.”

She thinks her grandfather would be proud.

“He was a gym teacher in Philly. He was 27 when he started the place. I think he would like to know we’re still a part of what he created,” she said.

On, Barash also wrote that she’s spent “over 20 summers here — with hopefully many more to come.”

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