Meet David Shapiro

David Shapiro describes his first foray away from home as difficult, a homesick boy at overnight camp who wrote numerous letters to his parents, asking them to come and pick him up.

Yet he stuck with it—only to become a passionate and lifelong advocate for Jewish overnight camp.

"I went on to spend several summers at Camp Airy,” he recalls. “It became a coming-of-age experience for me. I have so many memories, from my counselor Fred Tobias who tutored me at camp for my bar mitzvah to Craig Keebler, of Keebler cookie fame, who later converted to Judaism. I particularly recall, being a teenage boy and going to Camp Louise for Shabbat. All the campers were on the lawn and the lights of the candles glimmering up high on the porch of the big house. It was a special Shabbat experience."

Yet, it was while serving on the board of the Macks Center for Jewish Education, and visiting the Gann Academy, a pluralist, coeducational Jewish high school in Waltham, Massachusetts, that David fully realized the impact of Jewish camp on young lives.

"We were talking to high school students. Three had come from a public high school to attend a Jewish day school. When I asked them what made them decide to switch, they told me, to a person, it was their experience at Jewish summer camp where they met a number of Gann Academy students the year before."

"It was then that a light bulb went off," he says. "I realized there is a nexus between Jewish education and Jewish camp, whether overnight or day camp."

As a result, David is looking forward to his newest volunteer position, as the chair of The Associated’s Center for Jewish Camping Advisory Committee. David, whose three daughters, for the past 17 years, have attended and continue to work as counselors at Fernwood Cove, a girls’ camp in Maine, hopes to promote Jewish camping to Jewish families. He also wants to raise the visibility of The Associated’s Center for Jewish Camping and create outreach opportunities with Jewish and non-Jewish organizations.

David first became involved in the Jewish community more than 40 years when he was a student at Northwestern High in Baltimore City. He served as president of the JFK chapter of B’nai B'rith Youth Organization and also became the first voting student member of the JCC, where he recalls voting on the much debated issue of opening the Owings Mills JCC on Shabbat afternoon. During these early years, he also helped work in the field to erect community eruv in northwest Baltimore.

"I wasn’t shomar Shabbos at that time but I realized how important this would be for the strength of our community," he says.

In addition to his role at CJE and the JCC, David’s longstanding Associated commitments include the Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Pearlstone Center. He also co-chaired the Associated’s Learning Commission and continues to serve on the Associated's Finance Committee. He believes that being involved at The Associated is important to the Jewish community’s success. And he hopes that his work with the Jewish Camping Advisory Committee, will increase community awareness about the importance of Jewish camping to Jewish identity.

"Jewish camping is a wonderful way for our kids to create positive Jewish identity in a non-traditional setting," he says.

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