We are pleased to introduce you to our 2021 Camp Shai and Ranch Camp teams! While some of these faces may be familiar to you, their roles have each changed. We also welcome a new face to the Camp Shai team, in Matthew Chance.
We caught up with the team – Courtney Jacobson (GM of Camps and Early Learning School), Ryan Bocchino (Ranch Camp Director) , Daniel Siegel (Interim Director of Camp Shai, and Matthew Chance (Assistant Director of Youth Services) – to talk about their new roles at the J, what they like most about community, and some fun facts nobody knows!
What is one part of your new role that you are most excited about?
CJ: Working with all of the programs to support them and help them grow. My big love in life is camp, so I am only too excited to work with Camp Shai and Ranch Camp – and I have absolutely loved working in the Early Learning School with the children and teachers. So, all in all, I really like supporting all of these programs and feel so lucky to get to work with each of them!
RB: I’m really looking forward to continuing to build out positive experiences for youth that have a lifelong impact!
DS: Camp Shai has been a place where I have grown with for the last 4 years. I am excited to continue to grow and develop the program by maintaining excellent programming, a great staff culture, and super fun morning circles!
MC: I am very excited to get to know more people in the Jewish and Camp community, and to learn as much as possible from Daniel and Courtney in the year ahead.
Why did you choose to work in the non-profit world, and more specifically in the Jewish Community sector?
RB: I have been working at camps since I was 13 years old – and in outdoor education since I was 19. I find non-traditional education to be a major source of inspiration for myself – it is amazing to watch kids succeed outside of the school setting. Moving from secular non-profits to Jewish non-profits was really a matter of chance – I was lucky enough to meet the old Associate Director at Ranch Camp in some very opportune timing. When I moved to Denver, and started at Ranch, in 2016 – the nature in which Judaism was presented and accessed really caught my attention. I had been disconnected from my own Jewish identity since my Bar Mitzvah – but found at Ranch Camp this unique way to be part of a Jewish community. It’s outdoors, and filled with opportunities to connect Jewish values to things we do everyday, from gardening to hiking to climbing to art, and more. It’s a very different way of connecting to religion, and is something I found immediate value in and something I want to continue to build at camp and pass along to the youth that come through the gates.
MC: My previous job was at a Synagogue in Massachusetts, which was a fantastic experience. When I started looking for jobs in Colorado I wanted to prioritize working in a position where I could make an impact to my local community and be involved with a Jewish program that promoted the kinds of middot I learned and loved so much while working in Massachusetts.
How do you choose to build your own community?
CJ: I generally like to hang out with friends doing something outdoors and active.
DS: I really value shared experiences. Whether that is a fun Shabbat dinner, a summer at camp, or a day out on a bike, those moments of doing something together, and planning for the next adventure, are what I build my community around.
What is one fun fact about you that most people don’t know?
CJ: I am deathly afraid of horror movies…I cannot watch them, cover my eyes and plug my ears, and nervously pace around the room before most likely leaving the room entirely. I also make a really good chicken matzo ball soup.
RB: I have a weird and eclectic interest in food and will try just about anything.
DS: I played trumpet for a long time. Every now and then I pick one up and I can still hit that high C! It’s too bad I am awful at reading music…
MC: I have a collection of historical artifacts with one piece dating back 1500 years.
Which literary character are you most like?
CJ: While I’d like to say Elizabeth Bennett from Pride & Prejudice…love her…however, I am probably most like Professor McGonagall from Harry Potter (loves teaching and working with children and young adults, loyal, a little nerdy, and can be blunt at times. Plus, we are basically the same Myers-Briggs personality type).
RB: I’m not sure who I’m most like, but I do find inspiration in Samwise Gamgee (Lord of the Rings), a character who wants nothing to do other than be unendingly helpful, even in the face of betrayal by Frodo, and the challenge of getting the ring to Mordor.
Which 3 words would those closest to you use to describe you?
DS: Loyal, Excited, Goofball
MC: Corgi-Dad, Introverted, Organized
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
CJ: Back to the beaches of Australia! I have a bunch of friends there and was lucky enough to study abroad in Oz in college. I’d love to visit again as soon as COVID is over! So, I’d say Down Under, or visiting my in-laws in South Africa again soon too!
RB: Back to Thailand in a heartbeat. I went for my honeymoon and fell in love. The food is amazing, the smiles plentiful and the people inspirational, with a rich culture and history.
DS: I’ve been very fortunate to do a good amount of traveling in my life. Lately, I have really enjoyed traveling by bike off pavement. I’ve done a handful of 1 – 4 night trips in Colorado and Utah. It has been too long since I’ve been back to Israel and there is now a 400ish mile almost completely off-road bike route through the country. I would like to go ride the route and see how the country has changed.
MC: Sweden – I studied abroad in Stockholm Sweden in college and loved the experience. I would love to be able to go back now and learn and explore even more of the country.