Dear CYJ Families and Friends, 

The month of Elul, leading up to the High Holidays, is a time of introspection and reflection. It is a time to look back on the past year - reflect on our past and think about the future. As I wrap up my time as director of CYJ Midwest, it is a great time to look back over the past two decades and share my dreams for CYJ in the future. 

CYJ has been at the heart of my personal and professional journey for the past 20 years. I have had the ability to meet thousands of remarkable families and hear their personal stories of how they connect with CYJ Midwest. My story started in the spring of 1999 when I had the opportunity to join Sharsheret (a former Young Judaea program) while studying at Hebrew University during my junior year of college. After that, I knew I wanted to work for an organization that builds relationships with people, Israel, and Judaism. This is what I have been doing for two decades. 

The stories and memories flood me as I think back to when I experienced CYJ for the first time. It was the summer of 2000, when a now CYJ parent (former staff member) said they needed an extra counselor for the season. I jumped in and learned the ropes from some of the best mentors I could have asked for. I watched as people put their blood, sweat and tears into this place in Waupaca. Each summer was exhausting, exhilarating and meaningful; but I was hooked. 

Camp staff work year round for 10 magical weeks, and then we have to wait for the next summer to see those smiles, fist bumps, tears, and hugs all over again. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to see campers travel all over the country to each other’s Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, former bunkmates stand up in their friend’s weddings, and many more build life-long relationships that go far beyond the summer months.

I had the privilege of meeting campers, staff and alumni from all over the world and bringing them to Waupaca each summer. I had the privilege of making sure no matter what, financial resources were not a deterrent for campers to experience this special place. I had the privilege of helping campers - regardless of background or needs - find a place that will welcome them with open arms. 

Thank you to the parents who entrusted me with their most prized possessions and became part of our CYJ family.

Thank you to the campers who laughed and cried with me over the years, who sang at the top of their lungs during Pizza Man at Shabbat lunch shira and who gave it their all each summer.

Thank you to the staff members who spent hours sitting under a tree comforting their camper, giving a hug to their co-counselor who needed a little boost, or creating an incredibly special moment for the CYJ family.

Thank you to the CYJ board and donors who saw the vision and beauty of the CYJ community and supported it through a pandemic. 

AND thank you to my family - my children, whom have never known a summer without CYJ and had some of the best caregivers in the world; and my husband - who never said no when I asked him to give even more of his time to drive a speedboat, pick up supplies in Chicago or even spend time working in Manderson’s kitchen.

As we finish the month of Elul, and transition to the month of Tishrei and new year of 5783, we look forward to new beginnings. I was able to build on the shoulders of the fantastic former directors and board members who came before me. I have no doubt that CYJ Midwest will continue to build on the successes of the past and present. The future of CYJ Midwest and this extraordinary community is bright, and I look forward to seeing the light burn brighter for years to come.

Shana Tovah,

Robin Anderson

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