My Influencers
Closing ThoughtsOpinion

My Influencers

Shaindle remembers the influencers in her life — and how she ended up running a camp-in her "Closing Thoughts" column.

Shaindle Schmuckler
Shaindle Schmuckler

How would a child, born before internet influencers, become influenced?

Certainly, one would expect our greatest influencers to be our parents, their friends, our own friends and teachers. But is that all? In my humble opinion, not by a long shot.

I attended Dovid Pinsky Yiddisheh Shule Monday through Thursday afternoons after public school and on Sunday mornings, all through elementary school. This Jewish school was several miles from our apartment building, so I walked the whole way. I almost always took the shortcut through Crotona Park, where I was, more than once, accosted for my money. No worries: I did not have any. Killing me would have been unheard of in those days. Leaving the park, I then walked on to Southern Boulevard and under the El (the elevated train, for all you non-New Yorkers), then made a right onto Boston Post Road. Yes, of course I sloshed through the proverbial snow and sleet.

Upon entering junior high and all through high school, I attended Farband Central Mittle Shule every Monday evening after public school, and on Sunday mornings. For this I had to take the Lexington Avenue 241st Street train downtown (to Manhattan).

In the summers, from the time I was in first grade and including all the summers until I was a 15-year-old counselor in training, I attended the Kindervelt summer camp in Highland Mills, New York, near Monroe, always stopping at the Red Apple Rest for our traditional halfway stop for some sustenance.

This was the year my entire bunk of 13 CIT girls was expelled from camp. Once again, a story for another day. (P.S.: 13-year-old boys cannot be trusted with a secret.)

Not to fret! Two years later, I moved on to Camp Kinder Ring in Hopewell Junction, N.Y., where I was hired as a senior counselor for a group of tween girls. It was at Kinder Ring that I met my bashert and married him three years later. Camp Kinder Ring was located across the lake from Camp Kinderland, making it very convenient for us counselors to sneak out in a rowboat and head for some fun times with their staff.

Yiddish Shule and summer camps. I could say that they equally influenced who I am today.

However, I consider my summer camping experiences as having the most profound and deepest impact on my life. The camping staff showed us all how to behave as members of a team. I learned to play tennis, ride horses, tweeze my eyebrows, play volleyball, row a boat, shave my legs, twirl a baton, care for the sick and for those with greater needs than my own. Staff modeled what it is to be a mensch. I only pray that they are proud of the journey I traveled in pursuit of menschlichkeit. These life lessons would lead me to become a woman, sister, wife, mother, grandmother and trusted friend.

Most of the girls in my immediate circle chose elementary education as their major field of study. I, too, accepted this most honorable position as an educator, also known as your most humble teacher. However, you must admit that educator sounds so much more, well, educated.

I loved being with the children. I felt that the impact I had on their personal lives, as well as their lives in my classroom, were life-changing for all of us. I went on to become a family counselor and life coach. My life and the life of my family was once again enhanced immeasurably. We all grew and continue to grow in unexpected and wonderful ways as human beings.

If I am honest with myself, my dream was always to enter the field of Jewish camping for children.

Then, on an average sunny day, not unlike every other sunny day in Tampa, Fla., a little angel flew to earth and whispered my dream into someone’s ear. On this beautiful day, I was asked to serve on the board for a Jewish camp.

Next thing I knew, I was asked to resign from the board and accept the director position. I don’t know how you, my dear readers, would have interpreted this. For yours truly, this was a very clear and definitive sign from the universe that I was about to take on the responsibility of influencer.

With the acceptance of this position, my career in Jewish camping became a reality for me. And the rest, as they say, is history; or, in other words, my life.

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