After graduating from Marlboro High School in New Jersey, Anat Litwok made aliyah and lived on a kibbutz for seven years. And it was on that kibbutz, and while volunteering with a boarding school for kids from broken homes, that she learned a valuable lesson about herself: She liked working with kids in informal educational environments.
It became the American Israeli’s mission “to give them another place to shine where it’s not just, ‘Oh, you got an A on a test.’ But rather, ‘You were a great friend today. You were a great helper right now.’ The things that help them become better humans on this planet.”
From there, Litwok thought about what she wanted to do with her life. And the girl who grew up in an Orthodox and Zionist home also realized that Judaism was important to her future, too. As she reflected, she figured out that she wanted to work in Jewish camping.
Litwok returned to the United States, as Jewish camping is not as big in Israel, in October 2018 to work for a camp that closed down by December. But in March 2019 she landed a job as the assistant director of Camp Achva at the Pozez JCC of Northern Virginia. The 32-year-old Fairfax resident is now the JCC’s director of Camp Achva and school-age services during the rest of the year.
What types of lessons are you teaching kids in more informal educational settings?
You’re working with children in a setting where they can kind of grow and develop. You help them with the soft skills of life.
Rather than knowing how to interpret a literature piece or do a complicated math problem, they might learn how to lose a game or comfort a friend when they were upset. I get to be more creative and bring more of myself to the table.
How do you like working at Camp Achva?
I live all year for summer.
I feel that I’m living out my dream by working at camp. I feel this is always what I wanted to do. I find this position to be very enjoyable. It’s a lot more big-picture stuff but at the same time what I love most is the relationships I’m able to create. I will also be seen at camp and all the kids know me.
Camp is organized chaos, so a lot of my position is putting out fires. But that’s the excitement. No two days are the same. My favorite part of the day is the carpool in the morning, seeing each camper at camp. I’m able to greet them all and say, “Have a great day,” and that makes it all worth it to me.
What do you do during the school year?
I run an after-school program as well at the [Pozez Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia]. An after-school program is also that touch of informal education, so it’s great. It runs until 6 o’clock every day. Games, arts and crafts, team building.
What made you want to move to Israel after growing up in America?
My mother is Israeli. I traveled to Israel as a child. I’ve always felt that Israel is my home as much as America. I was very active in my Jewish youth group in high school. That helped me develop a love for Judaism. Throughout my journey in Israel I was able to develop my own personal Jewish journey and story.
I lived on a very secular kibbutz. I’ve seen all sides of Judaism. I discovered what was important to me as a Jew rather than the community around me. I might have Friday night dinner with my friends, and I might go into my apartment and light candles and say Kiddush and then join them. Many did not commemorate Yom Kippur. I told my friends, “I’m going to be in my apartment for 25 hours.”
It must have been difficult to move back to the United States, then.
I always feel split between the two countries. Even when I was there, my family was here. And now that I’m here, I still feel it. Most of my friends are in Israel. I’m in my office now; I’m listening to the Israeli radio station. ■