Zac Plotkin: From Camper to Career

Zac Plotkin looks back fondly at his 14 summers spent at Capital Camps. It was there that he made lifelong friends and garnered the experiences that would later guide him towards his current career path.

In fact, camp made such an impression on this young professional that in his junior year at Towson University, this human resource management major decided to make Jewish camping his profession.

Today, Zac works as an Engagement Coordinator at Camp Airy & Louise. He also participated in E3, a teen professionals’ network, through the JCC, where he hopes to blend what he learned with his ability to connect with campers and the greater community.

What was something you learned while participating in E3 that you never thought about before? I learned that I have a large network around me that can help solve problems in multiple situations. The networking opportunities and connections I made were the most valuable things I was able to take away from E3. I was surprised there were so many people in different positions and organizations willing, and happy, to help.

How can you apply the program to your career? One of the things I learned from the peer consultancy protocols were tips for working with parents. A lot of the E3 cohort members were parents of kids who attend or attended Jewish summer camps. They had ideas of how to present issues to parents that I had never thought of before this session. It is not something a summer staff member has to deal with, but as a full-time Jewish camp professional, I have more significant responsibility.

What was your favorite camp memory? I was a CIT counselor in 2016. We had weekly discussions with our CITs. This time I decided to wait for them to be quiet before I began talking. When they realized what was I doing, one of my CITs made a very funny comment. Almost immediately, the entire group started laughing uncontrollably. We laughed the entire time our discussion was meant to last—nearly 45 minutes. These are things that only happen at camp.

It’s hard to connect teens to Judaism. What do you find resonates with them? The biggest connection for teens, that I’ve seen, is for them to simply be at camp and be a part of a Jewish community. For some, being at Jewish camp makes it easy to engage in Jewish life such as weekly Shabbat dinners, Israeli dancing and singing Jewish songs. Those who are not involved in Jewish life throughout the year can easily immerse themselves in Judaism.

Looking back, what advice would you give your teen self? I would tell myself things are going to work out. I think every teen stresses over the little things too much, especially in social situations. We believe our image in middle school or high school is who we are and what we will be, but of course that’s not true. I’d probably go back and tell myself that you’re going to go off to college and this stuff won’t matter, nor will they care about what you looked like or acted like in high school.

What Jewish person would you like to have a conversation with? What would you talk about? I would love to talk to Danny Stein who was my core teacher at Alexander Muss High School in Israel (HSI) and had a huge influence on my life. He taught me a good portion of what I know about Israel today and started my love for Israel. It would be great to catch up and see how he is doing now that he is living in Israel.

What are your future career plans? My goal is to one day be a camp director wherever that may be. I have some steps to take and more to learn before I am ready to take on that job. It would be wise to get that experience at different camps along the way.

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