Camp Achva’s 55th Summer

Most mornings I have a crucial decision to make – which Camp Achva T-shirt do I wear? This is a pivotal decision. Do I wear one from the early 2000’s with the sun logo? Do I choose one from the late 2010’s with “Camp Achva” written above the logo? Or do I pick one of our current designs? The choice on its face seems simple – pick a T–shirt. However, to me, this is not a simple choice, and this is not a choice that I take lightly.

Camp Achva is in its 54th year of existence and approaching our 55th summer. Over that time, Camp Achva has grown and changed significantly – from the programming thought of and offered, to the size of our camper and staff population, to our registration systems and the sessions offered, to our logos and our name, and to our summer location.

Currently, my team and I are focused on two areas of growth – programming and inclusion.


In the past two summers, a human foosball court, a slingshot range, mystery trails (a walking version of escape rooms), and a virtual sports room featuring Nintendo Switch Sports & Just Dance have been added to the program offerings at Camp Achva. In the DMV area, we are one of the only camps that has these programs available, and we are certainly the only camp that has all of them available. We aren’t stopping there either. We believe that our program design has lots of room to grow and for our 55th summer we are homing in on teaching lifelong games by adding three different types of golf activities: foot golf, frisbee golf, & bucket golf.

In the next 3-5 years, many more activities will be added. We are already planning for what those are, where they will be, and how to make them accessible and enjoyable for all at Camp.

Inclusion to MESSH (Mental Emotional Social Spiritual Health)

The camp industry, generally, has begun to expand the thinking around disability support services, under the label of inclusion, into the idea of MESSH. At Camp Achva we are fully embracing this notion and are enjoying the learning process as we continue to grow in this area. Our first step was to have a dedicated administrative staff position to elevate our understanding of how to support the authentic self of every person who is a part of Camp Achva. This can be seen in our updated Child Profile Form, in the way that we recruit, interview, and train our staff, in the Camp Achva Pride Flag raised at Gesher and the Pozez JCC Pride logo in our email signatures, as well as, in the language we use by offering our pronouns, for using caregiver &/or guardian, and having space for participants and staff to tell us their gender on all forms.

In the next 3-5 years, we hope to be a camp that fully expresses the word inclusion. We are committed to training our professional and seasonal staff towards this end and we are committed to making Camp Achva as joyful and accessible for our campers, their families, and our broader Pozez JCC CommUNITY.

Through all this change and growth, there are Camp Achva traditions that live on and provide continuity within our framework – wearing white on Shabbat, having Ruach (a weekly showcase where each group performs), Maccabbiah (color war), field trips, changing the color of the t-shirt, & the long lines at carpool that we try to move as smoothly as possible. In recognition of our Camp Achva traditions, we look ahead to our 55th summer and the theme we have conceived to match this moment.

55 Summers of Impact

In 2024, Camp Achva is celebrating our 55th summer impacting children from all across Northern Virginia. This year’s summer theme, “Camp is More Than a Bagel,” was inspired by the Camp Achva album Jewish Is More Than a Bagel, Songs for Jewish Children, by Shirley Grossman. Through her unique perspective and awe-inspiring songwriting skills, Shirley wrote songs for Camp Achva with Broadway flair. She, along with our founders Adele Greenspon, Shirley Waxman, and Judy Frank, created a recipe for a Camp that has become more than just one thing – Camp Achva is a community, a family, a home. In honor of our founders, Shirley, our alumni, our current campers, families, staff, and the wider Pozez JCC community, we are proud to say that Camp Achva is more than a bagel!

Each Director has helped Camp Achva grow and change to fit the needs and wants of the community around it in their own way along with input from stakeholders. I have seen the growth and change firsthand as a camper, a staff member, the Assistant Director, and now as the Director. Camp Achva has always been my home, no matter the logo, the theme, the programming offered, the location, or the T-shirt color. Deciding which Camp Achva T-shirt to wear is a hard and pivotal decision for me because each one says something different. It says what programs we offered, what field trips we took, what Ruach presentations happened, who won Maccabbiah, who the Director of the time was, and what theme was explored each summer. Each T-shirt is a memory and a reminder to me that I have the most important and wonderful job I could have ever hoped for – to make Camp Achva a home for those now coming to Camp and to dream of how to make it a life-impacting experience for those coming to Camp Achva in the future, as it has been for me and so many others.

By the way, Tuesday, November 7, 2023 is International Summer Camp T-Shirt Day… I hope all who have fond camp memories, Camp Achva or otherwise, will proudly wear your favorite camp t-shirt!