You Should Know: David Weiss

David Weiss. Photo by Liflander Photography

Growing up, David Weiss loved camp.

And it shaped his professional career: He’s been the executive director at Camp Galil for nearly 10 years, helping other young Jews share his experience.

According to Weiss, the Jewish camp experience is important because it provides a young person, whether it’s a camper or a staff member, an opportunity to be immersed in Judaism 24/7. Weiss compared that total immersion with what young people experience in an outside world filled with distractions.

“It really makes a difference to be a part of something bigger than yourself — to be part of a community. It sticks with you for the rest of your life,” Weiss said.

Camp Galil is a Jewish overnight camp in Ottsville, Bucks County, about 30 miles north of Philadelphia. The camp was founded in 1946 as part of Habonim Dror in North America. From its humble beginnings — with no electricity and an old wood-burning stove — the camp has come a long way.

Throughout its history, the camp has maintained close ties with Israel. Campers and staff at Camp Galil participate in the Habonim Dror’s Israel programs, which include programs such as a summer tour of Israel for 16-year-olds and a year-long program for high school graduates. The camp itself hosts campers from the ages of 8 to 16.

Weiss joined Camp Galil’s team in 2014 after finding that the camp’s mission was close to his heart and passion for Jewish camping. Before his time with Camp Galil, Weiss served as the associate director of Camp Judaea in North Carolina.

As the executive director, Weiss oversees operations, fundraising and finance programs. Outside of camp, he enjoys traveling, politics and spending time with his dog.

What Weiss said makes Camp Galil unique is the way it lets the kids take the reins. For example, the 17-year-olds may take over camp for a day or the 14-year-olds may run the show for half a day. That means that the kids design the program.

That’s the part Weiss looks forward to most every summer.

“It’s a really amazing opportunity for the kids and young adults — that just doesn’t exist in today’s world,” Weiss said.

With the camp’s youth leading the way, it’s a guarantee that no two summers will ever be exactly alike.

Another thing that makes Camp Galil a home away from home is the deliberately inclusive environment. Weiss said the approach to inclusion considers both the individual and
the group.

“One [part] is making sure that everyone, every individual, is supported so they have the opportunity to have an amazing summer – whatever that looks like for them. As a group, it’s important to come together as a community to support one another,” Weiss said.
Weiss’ passion for the Jewish camping experience has guided him from camper to counselor to executive director. He understands the importance of inspiring and supporting the next generation.

Weiss grew up in Young Judaea, a U.S.-based Zionist youth movement for Jewish youth in grades 2 through 12.

“We think about what or who our favorite counselors were (growing up), and we try to do the thing that made them our favorite counselors,” Weiss said.

While Weiss can’t pick out a favorite memory of camp, his favorite part is a feeling — rather than any one story.

“Their creativity and empathy for one another, the community building, it’s something really powerful to experience every year,” Weiss said.

Weiss recalled his time spent on Friday afternoons singing songs after meals and how that built a strong foundation of the Jewish community and Jewish tradition in his life.

Weiss is a graduate of Florida State University with bachelor’s degrees in political science and international relations and a master’s degree in political science.

A graduate of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation’s JCamp180 GIFT program, Weiss also has served as a liaison with the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s Launchpad and Cornerstone Fellowships and volunteers with the American Camp Association as a visitor for the camp accreditation process, according to the camp website.


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