Class of 2017
While Todd Geller’s camping roots started at Herzl Camp in the early 1980’s, his true appreciation for summer camp came from his experience as a camper and CIT at Camp Foley and as a staff member at Camp Chi. Both camps had a significant impact on him and helped shape his future. Ultimately, life led Todd back to Herzl Camp when his oldest son “tasted” camp in 2007, re-kindling his connection to Herzl.
When he brought his son to tour camp prior to Taste, he was taken back by the age and condition of the facilities. He knew something had to be done to insure that camp would be around for future generations and when his friend and neighbor told him that summer that they were gearing up to expand and rebuild camp, Todd was quick to volunteer to help with this effort. While Todd didn’t have the long term personal connection to Herzl that most volunteers do, he knew of its importance within the community and the contribution any camp makes to the development of children, which is ultimately what compelled him to say “yes.”
Todd’s many years of training and experience in the commercial real estate industry as well as his experience with other community capital projects was paramount in his leadership of the Here’s to Dear Old Herzl Campaign’s Building Committee. For more than eight years, Todd’s painstaking attention to detail, his passion for quality and creative solutions drove him to leave no stone unturned, which ultimately left Herzl with facilities that will serve many generations to come.
Despite not having the same childhood connection to camp as others, Todd took the Herzl Family’s directive to heart: “Rebuild our beloved machaneh bigger, better, newer and exactly the same.” As a result, while today’s camp bears little resemblance in layout and few of the original buildings remain, visitors frequently remark that it feels just the same. Todd’s impact on camp can be seen in every detail of the 34 buildings and spaces he and his committee created at Herzl.
When the building stopped, Todd then felt it was time to help facilitate new programming to go along with the new facilities. He and his wife, Amy, agreed to chair our benefit concert in 2016. As chairs, they worked hard to increase support and raise funds for new quality, skill-based programs and equipment, along with scholarships and inclusion.
Through all the building committee meetings, nine years of Herzl Association Board meetings and dozens of visits to camp, Todd’s love for Herzl grew exponentially. The best part of all, though, was having the pleasure of watching both his boys, Zach and Ari, create their own connections to Herzl during this time, making the work even more rewarding.
Class of 2017
In 2008, Bob Ezrilov called the Herzl office and asked to get involved. He went to Herzl on a scholarship and wanted to give back in kind. Over the next decade, Bob continued to ask to be involved: serving on Herzl’s capital campaign solicitation team, joining the board of the Herzl Camp Foundation, serving as President and then Treasurer.
Bob’s dogged determination and quiet persistence have put Herzl Camp firmly on the road to a secure financial future. Bob’s patience, persistence and vision are evident in his work to build the Herzl Camp Foundation’s structure and capacity, turning the young organization into a fully functional respected organization. Under Bob’s leadership and with his support, the Foundation is now nearing completion of a $10 million endowment campaign, phase one of a longer-term plan to secure Herzl Camp’s future.
Bob’s love of camp is shared by his children and grandchildren who are also active supporters as campers, staff, board members, and volunteers. Bob’s naturally self-effacing, humble leadership-style drives him to work tirelessly behind the scenes for the betterment of camp, assiduously avoiding the spotlight and generously sharing recognition.
A love of camp that began with a generous act by a community member many decades earlier has now come full circle with countless young people now and forever guaranteed a spot at Herzl Camp because of Bob’s commitment to camp.
Class of 2017
Donna’s love for Herzl Camp began the summer of 1957, when her parents sent her off to camp from Waterloo, Iowa for the first time. Since then, hardly a summer has gone by that she has not worked, volunteered or been at Herzl in some capacity or another.
Donna was a camper and staff member and then return to camp several years later when her husband, Harvey, became camp director. It was the late 60s, and in a sign of the changing times, Harvey’s initial contract stipulated that Donna work for camp in an unpaid position. The following year, she was paid for her work directing multiple camper programs. Some highlights of that time were helping to restore calm when Cabin 26 caught fire and burned to the ground (explaining the mysterious disappearance of Cabin 26…) and schlepping four TVs and long extension cords to camp so that all of camp could watch the moon landing in 1969, outside under the stars.
Later Donna joined the board and served as President from 1985-89. As President, Donna led the board to define Herzl’s core values, guiding principles and policies for decades. Time and time again, in her role as Past President, Donna has provided strategic guidance at critical moments in Herzl history.
For Donna, Herzl is a family affair with children, grandchildren, and cousins sharing the love of Herzl. Her mother even became a Herzl alumna when she attended K’shishim in 1985!
Once a shy and homesick girl from Waterloo, Donna found in Herzl Camp a place to grow, shine and feel at home for 60 years and has returned that blessing to the Herzl Family tenfold.
Class of 2017
Jeff Schachtman’s involvement with Herzl Camp began nearly 60 years when, as a camper, he was selected to be Camp Director for Turnabout Day, when the campers “became the staff, and the staff became the campers.” Riding Rabbi Sam’s bike, he knew then that the ramshackle orange buildings, the muddy grounds and the home of lots of heavy dew represented much more than a physical place. It was where campers were immersed in a uniquely Jewish, ardently Zionistic environment in the woods of rural Wisconsin.
Decades later, he is still connected, having served as President of the Board of Directors from 1993 to 1994. He has worked tirelessly to improve the camp: from sketching the earliest designs for a new Chadar on the back of a napkin, to working with the camp’s neighbors and regulatory authorities and convincing young campers (and their families) why it is so essential that they go to camp.
Throughout his involvement, Jeff has focused on three key beliefs: Herzl treats every camper alike, no matter what their background, affiliation, family situation or limitations; Herzl is true to its roots, it is a Kosher, Shabbat observant, Zionistic organization; and every kid deserves a chance to go to camp, regardless of financial challenges.
Because Jeff attended camp on scholarship, he is particularly sensitive to the heartbreak for both kids and their families when economic challenges prevent them from experiencing the magic that is Herzl Camp. He now focuses his efforts toward raising as much scholarship money as he can.
Jeff grew up at the Temple of Aaron in St. Paul. He and his wife Janice (Weitz) are the parents of former campers and staff members, Over the years, he has served on various community boards. Professionally, Jeff has been Senior Vice President of Investments in the Private Client Group of Oak Ridge Financial for 13 years.
Cecelia and Irving Waldman
Class of 2017
Without the Waldmans, there would be no Herzl Camp. Cec and Irv exemplified what it meant to be community leaders: working steadfastly and consistently to make the dream of a Jewish camp a reality without regard for their own egos or recognition.
With their dear friends Harry and Rose Rosenthal, the Waldmans worked tirelessly to get the organization started. The camp office was their dining room table for camp’s first decade. From helping to find what became our camp in Webster, recruiting campers and staff, finding suppliers for virtually everything, arranging transportation, insurance, nurses and doctors: Cec and Irv always delivered. They did all of this while raising a family and working at their jobs. What was truly extraordinary about them was their consistent commitment without looking to be recognized. They were effective but quiet leaders, with an eye for detail and great organizational skills.
With a warm smile, and a kind word, Irv was Herzl’s chief sales person, convincing donors, campers, parents, Rabbis and community leaders that this wild idea of forming a Zionist camp in Wisconsin was worthy of their support. Irv also reached out to local businesses and neighbors, smoothing the way for a Jewish camp in rural Burnett County, just after WWII ended.
Cec was the steady hand on the tiller. She coveried all the bases: working in the kitchen, arranging the buses, working in the infirmary—whatever was needed, whenever it was needed, however it helped to make the camp a better place.
The Waldman’s simply did whatever was needed to make sure every Jewish kid who wanted to go to camp could find their place at Herzl Camp. Together, Cec and Irv’s tireless work turned a dream into reality.
Rabbi Zvi Dershowitz
Rabbi Dershowitz served as Camp Director from 1954-61, creating the model for all who followed and establishing many of the traditions that are still enthusiastically celebrated seven decades later, including Bikkurim and the Ozo Program. Rabbi Dershowitz established Herzl Camp as the trusted caretaker of our most precious resource – our children. During his tenure, camp doubled in size, serving 600 campers a summer from all over the Midwest. Zvi took great care to infuse a passionate Jewish spirit and a love for Israel in our campers and staff for his 8 years at the helm. Zvi’s values are enshrined in our mission and in our service to each Jewish child today. Zvi’s legacy is lived out each day on the shores of Devils Lake.
Rabbi Dershowitz went on to serve as Rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and he continues his service there as Rabbi Emeritus. Zvi also directed two Jewish camps in Southern California, taught at what is now theAmerican Jewish University for more than four decades,and provided care and guidance to those in need as Chaplain to the Los Angeles County Jail System. Ever an adventurer, Zvi has visited over 70 countries, while serving as Chaplain and lecturer on countless cruises.
Creating transformational change was the recurring theme of Mike Fiterman’s nomination for the Herzl Hall of Fame. Mike’s passion and persistence as Chair of the Here’s to Dear Old Herzl Campaign led to the rebirth of Herzl Camp as a top-notch center of Jewish life and learning. In addition to many years of service on the Board of Directors, Mike devoted countless hours to leading Herzl Camp through its first-ever capital campaign to expand and rebuild camp during the darkest days of the Great Recession. Mike’s can-do spirit and determination gave hope to all and eventually prevailed; Herzl raised $8 million dollars and built a facility that is the envy of the camping community. Mike’s legacy is not in that beautiful facility but in his success in teaching Herzl Camp’s board, volunteers, alumni and friends to fundraise. Mike didn’t give Herzl a fish, he taught Herzl Camp to fish.
Mike is a Herzl alumus, a past camper parent and a current camper grandparent. Mike’s current passion is to enrich and expand Herzl Camp’s leadership training for summer staff. He and his wife, Linda, have created the Fiterman Leadership Development Initiative to support a well-rounded and wide-reaching program to engage and develop our staff as emerging Jewish leaders.
Rose and Harry Rosenthal
The idea of Herzl Camp was born of the experiences and persistence of Harry and Rose Rosenthal zl. After the Rosenthal’s sent their daughter to a Jewish camp on the East Coast, they felt that the Midwest should have a Zionist camp a little closer to home. From that moment, they worked tirelessly to develop that idea and establish Herzl Camp. They recruited friends, raised funds, and hammered out countless details needed to create a summer camp. From that first summer with 60 campers on White Bear Lake, they served for ten years as Board Presidents and nurtured Herzl’s development through its first decades – purchasing property on Devils Lake, hiring staff and directors, and leading the community in this new and exciting venture.
The Rosenthals were the dreamers as well as the doers who brought the dream to life. Seven decades later, over 30,000 Jewish youth have experienced the magic that is Herzl Camp because of the Rosenthal’s leadership.
Mickey and Harold Smith
Harold and Mickey’s Smith’s involvement in Herzl Camp began in the 1960s when Harold joined the Herzl Camp Board of Directors and served as Treasurer. Over the six decades that the Smiths have made Herzl Camp one of their primary causes, they have played pivotal roles in moving the camp forward. Most recently, Harold and Mickey gave the initial gift for the Here’s to Dear Old Herzl Campaign and, in their wisdom, they made that gift contingent on the participation of others, ensuring that Herzl fully developed The Smiths have used their support wisely to create meaningful and visionary change time and time again.
Harold and Mickey have prioritized the education and development of Jewish youth through their support of Jewish camps, preschools, day schools, and Hebrew schools. From the Minneapolis Institute of Arts to Herzl Camp to the St Paul Talmud Torah, the impact of the Smiths’ generosity and leadership can be felt throughout the Twin Cities.
For 25 years, Ron Zamansky and his law firm Zamansky Professional Association have served as Herzl Camp’s legal counsel on a pro-bono basis. Ron’s immediate response, thorough and thoughtful guidance, and his passion and devotion to insuring the best outcome for camp and community were key factors in his selection to Herzl’s first class of Hall of Fame members.
Ron formed Zamansky Professional Association in 1988 on the founding principles of providing legal services with dedication to the law, service, good judgment, availability and community. The legal services provided to Herzl Camp by Ron and Zamansky Professional Association certainly fulfill his founding principles.
In his years of service, Ron has handled all of Herzl’s legal matters, from the simple and routine to the complex and sensitive. Ron has worked quietly and tirelessly behind the scenes to protect Herzl Camp, our campers, staff, volunteers and donors. Ron’s wise counsel has steered Herzl Camp on the right path countless times. Ron is on-call for Herzl 24/7 during the summer and throughout the year. Herzl Camp is a better and safer place because of Ron’s diligence.
Ron’s efforts reflect his family’s love and involvement for Herzl Camp. His wife, Lynn, was a camper and counselor at Tzrif 6. Their sons, Rory and Drew, and Drew’s wife Natalie, were campers, and Rory was an Ozo and staff member as well. Ron is an alumnus, past camper, Ozo, parent and is eagerly awaiting becoming a camp grandparent of Mia and Noah. Ron’s concern for our youth extends beyond his service to Herzl Camp. Ron founded the Create A Memory Foundation that has for the past 29 years provided children of the community with the opportunity to play ball on Major League baseball fields including the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Miller Park and Target Field.
Hall of Fame Nominations – 2019 Class