The Alumni Spotlight gives us the opportunity to catch up with a Tamarack alum, hear about where they are now, and learn how Tamarack Camps shaped them. We are thrilled to check in with Rachel Ellis. Read her story below!
When did you attend Tamarack Camps? What villages or programs were you part of?
I am a true Tamarack lifer. My parents met at Tamarack as staff and camp has always been my second home.
Butzel Family Camp 1979-89, 2009-2013
Brighton camper 1983-84
Camp Tamarack/Maas camper 1985-88
Western Trip II 1989
Alaska Trip 1990
Staff 1991-1995 (TSS, Tripper, Pio, Specialty, Western Trip)
Staff Kid 1983-1994
Adventure Center (worked here)
Board of Directors 2004-2014 and was Alumni Chairman, Chaired the Tripping Task Force, Chaired the Board Retreat, served on Strategic Planning Committee, Master Planning Committee, Nominating Committee, Camp Maas Committee, and Development Committee
What lessons did you learn from camp?
There are too many to list, but here are some fun ones:
Leave a campground cleaner than when you arrived.
If you wear a hat and socks, that’s all you need to keep you warm in the sleeping bag.
“Just follow my lead, not much you need, just tie your shoes on tight.”- J.Grey
How to clean and plunge a toilet.
Read a map, poop in the woods, cook, build a campfire, rescue a canoe.
How to start a golf cart with a hair barrette.
Tents are not soundproof.
If you get lost, you will be found.
What are you up to now personally and/or professionally?
Professionally – just completed 6 ½ years as BBYO Michigan Region’s Senior Regional Director and beginning as Temple Beth El’s Executive Director.
Personally – I am a busy, proud, single mom of three amazing children – Shira (18), Ari (14), and Noam (12)
How did camp impact how you live your life today?
Camp helped shape the person I am today:
-My love of the outdoors (exploring, playing, and caring for nature)
-Connection to Judaism (spiritually connecting in nature and through music)
-Participating in the Jewish community (as a volunteer & as a professional – always giving back and supporting our people as well as involving my own family in Jewish community life)
-Losing my brother, Jeff Grey, while he was working at Kennedy, has inspired an even deeper connection to the outdoors and camp as well as a desire to honor him by keeping his memory and legacy alive.
Why is Tamarack Camps “The Greatest Place on Earth?”
Because it is a place where people who are lost can be found, where people are pushed to learn and grow, where it’s safe to try new things, where people can be their authentic selves, and where deep connections are made building community and lifelong friendships.
Was there a staff member that made a lasting impact on you and why?
There are too many really special people who had a lasting impact on me – from counselors to trippers, to fellow staff members – and I don’t want to forget anyone. So, I’ll go with the obvious, Ruth Grey was the most impactful. Having the opportunity to observe and learn from my mom while she worked as the Assistant/Associate Camp Director throughout my childhood taught me how to support staff, handle challenging situations, be a leader and a mentor, be professional, hard-working, committed, and loyal.
Favorite camp memory:
Impossible to choose a favorite – too many!
Favorite camp meal:
Shabbat – the best chicken, butter noodles, challah, and grape juice!
I loved all my trips as a tripper, counselor and camper. My Western and Alaska trips were really special.
Favorite program/theme day:
Maccabia (Ortonville) & Circus Day (Brighton)
Dream Tamarack reunion idea:
A travel trip with my camp friends