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Jew of the Week is Simone Lindenbaum Ziv — Eden Village Camp's new director

Eden Village — a sleepaway camp north of NYC — is unike any other camp. Instead of pranks, canteen, and worrying about what to wear, kids surprise each other with acts of kindness, pick vegetables from the farm, and abide by the no "body talk" rule.

I worked there for two summers starting in 2013. My role was helping Simone Lindenbaum Ziv manage the activity leaders, produce big camp programs, and assign kids to their “chuggim” (activities). (I also got to pick the snacks, but that was a small part of the job description.)

A lot has changed since then — for one, Simone is now my cousin by marriage, and two, she has a new role. In December, the founding director Yoni Stadlin left, and the board chose to promote Simone, who was the assistant director at the time.

"He built my favorite place on earth," she said. "I think Eden Village is ready for its next moment. I’m excited to bring it into that.”

I’m so happy for Simone and was excited to talk to her about this new role right before summer season began.

Camp has always been a part of Simone’s life

Simone grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania as the only Jew in her class of 30 people. Jewish sleepaway ended up being “her whole world.”

She went to Galil, which at the time was part of the socialist and Zionist movement. She was involved until she was the oldest person there — "I was totally kicked out," she said. She traveled to Israel with the group and lived with the community in college.

The summer between college and grad school, she tried a new camp — something she never thought she'd do — and joined Eden Village as a tribe leader.

"I just loved it right away and I stayed," she said.

Eden Village Camp’s impact

Simone has been at camp for 11 summers. Some of the campers and tribe leaders she knew early on at Eden Village have even joined the staff.

“I think that it’s life-changing — it is for me and for the kids and for the staff," Simone said.

For Simone camp is “grounded in spirituality and land connection and people connection."

"All of those things were really important in my life and important in my identity and important in my Jewish spirituality and growth," she said. "Bringing them all together felt so good — especially with kids."

Camp has a working farm, the food is organic and mostly vegetarian (and delicious, I bought the cookbook!), and one of the most popular activities is herbalism. I learned about fermenting kombucha there way before it went mainstream.

It also weaves beautiful Jewish traditions into the experience like Shabbat services, catchy songs, and vivacious prayers after meals.

What’s next for Eden Village

When we talked in early June, Simone said she’s excited about new programs this year like tree climbing. Belays built into the trees allow kids to climb to the top and get a birds-eye view. The orchard, built about seven years ago, is now producing an abundance of peaches, apples, and berries.

"Everything’s just growing," Simone said.

The staff is going deeper into its educational activities like herbalism, foraging, woodworking, and ceramics. Eden Village is also offering a trip to Israel this year for the first time led by Pesach Stadlin.

Simone acknowledged that she's a woman leader in the environmental Judaism world, which is rare.

“It’s bothered me for a long time,” she said. She’s excited to take on this role, and the community is excited for her.

"She has been responsible for creating so much of the Eden Village magic we all love," said Board Chair Lauren Wysmuller in a statement. "We could not be more confident entrusting camp to her inspired leadership."

Learn more about Eden Village Camp here.

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