Toni’s 18th Summer

Written by: Toni Davison Levenberg

Front: Toni DL & Tova Blasberg (Asst Director)
Back: Staci Wellentin (COO of JCC), Randy “Grizz” Comensky (Asst Director), Holly White (Camping Services Coordinator)

The summer of 2023 was my 18th summer, my chai summer, at Camp Interlaken.  The number 18 has long been viewed as corresponding to the Hebrew word chai, meaning “life.”  Camp Interlaken has been my life for 18 years, and I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the incredible journey that I have shared with the Interlaken kehilah (community).  This past summer was particularly special, not only because of the countless memories created, but also because it was the first time since 2019 that the Camp community was truly able to feel “back to normal” after COVID-19 canceled camp in 2020, kept us separated in our “pods” in 2021, and infiltrated camp in 2022.  We breathed a sigh of happiness, relief, and gratitude at the beginning of the summer of 2023, and we hoped all of our preparation, planning, and training would give us the best summer possible.  

In the Spring, during a Camp Committee meeting, Bryan Sadoff, our chair, surprised me with the launch of the “Toni Chai Campaign,” to raise money for the Director’s Discretionary Fund in honor of my 18th summer.   I was overwhelmed, as I had no idea that this was planned.  The campaign was robust, and many of the people who donated wrote beautiful messages on the donation page that continue to fill me with pride, make me smile, and bring tears to my eyes.  Over the past few years, JCamp180 of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation has supported our annual fundraising campaign by offering to match funds raised.  Their Forward Together program matched our fundraising 1:3 this past year, and I am proud to share that every donation made to the “Toni Chai Campaign” was matched!  With the funds raised in this campaign, Camp is going to install a new teaching kitchen in our Beit Am building to enhance our new Culinary Arts Chug and cooking evening programs.  This has been a dream of mine for a number of years, and I am very excited to share this new space with our campers as they continue to develop a love of the culinary arts.  I can’t say “Thank You” enough for supporting Interlaken, our campers, and me.   

Toni’s Family: Nava (8), Jaron (11), and Jonah

During our 50th anniversary in 2015, we introduced an annual campaign for Interlaken that we naturally named the “Bnai He-Atid Campaign,” recognizing the anthem written by Ateret Cohn and Bobby Fisher in Camp’s early days, and which we still sing every Friday night at Camp.  We knew that we would need support from our community to continue fostering growth, friendships, and Jewish identity for our campers and staff.  The Bnai He-Atid Campaign’s goal is to raise funds for one of three areas: Infrastructure, Program, and Scholarship.  In 2024, like 2023, our focus is on more funding for Scholarships.  In the summer of 2023, we were able to give $141,853 in scholarships to 82 campers.  We want to make sure that no child is denied the opportunity to experience the transformative power of Camp Interlaken.  

As the Executive Director, I want to express my deepest appreciation for your trust and support. I am honored to lead a community that understands the profound impact of providing a Jewish space where children can learn, grow, and create lifelong memories.  As I celebrate the achievements of our 58th summer (and my 18th), I also look ahead with hope and excitement. Plans are underway for 2024, our upcoming 59th summer, and I am confident that, with your continued support, we will build upon the foundation we’ve laid to create even more magical moments for years to come.  Please click here to support the Bnai He-Atid Campaign to give campers the gift of Camp Interlaken.    

Thank you for being an integral part of the Interlaken family. Together, with your philanthropic investment in Camp Interlaken, we have continued and built upon something truly extraordinary, and I am excited about the future we are shaping for the generations of campers yet to come.

With heartfelt appreciation,