Avodah at Camp Harlam

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This post was written by our REDI and Camper Care Manager, Lori Zlotoff, who oversees the Avodah program.

After our first summer running the unit of Avodah at camp, I can confidently say that camp will never be the same without the smiles, help and presence of our Avodah participants.  As one of our CIT’s said so aptly, “Change at camp is hard.  Most people don’t like it.  But I can say for certain that adding Avodah to camp was one change we all agree with.”  Another CIT shared that the time she spent with Avodah was life-changing and had an enormous impact on her growth as a leader at camp.  What made this unit so special?  The magic of camp not only gave the participants to be seen, but they were REVERED.  Sharing wide smiles, taking pictures with friends, joining in water Zumba, helping out at canteen and milk squad and dancing at Rak Dan were some of the ways in which the camp community saw Avodah loving camp, and camp loving Avodah.

Avodah is a vocational educational program designed for participants with developmental disabilities ages 18-29 who have aged out of being campers at camp, but would like to contribute to the camp community through meaningful work, and enjoy the benefits of being a part of a community.  Living as a unit allowed for individualized support and group camaraderie, and the full integration into the camp experience lent itself to camp pride and maximum interaction with campers and staff.   Avodah ran our staff Coffee Cart, whose cold brew with many different flavors of creamer was an incredible boon to the staff experience on a hot and tiring day.  The four Avodah participants also had the option to work in various parts of camp that interested them; security, athletics, office work, mail delivery and canteen were some favorite spots this summer.


Avodah also enjoyed leaving camp to go on trips. Nights out at Wawa, rides at Dorney Park, swimming at Beltzville Lake and bowling in Philadelphia were all fan favorites.  We prioritized teaching the participants life skills that they can utilize outside of camp – managing money, time management, asking for help and feedback with co-workers and supervisors, executive functioning skills, and tasks of independent living and social skills.    

We look ahead to Summer 2024 and are excited to share that the Avodah participants will be living in the Lodge, which allows for a greater number of participants of all gender identities.  We welcome participants who have been affiliated with other camps, the Reform movement or otherwise, or day voc-ed programs at their local JCC’s or Community Centers.  URJ Camp Harlam opens its doors to all who wish to be a part of Avodah!