Pamela Alcala makes impact at Camp Ga’avah


Pamela Alcala, a clinical social worker and the program coordinator for the Friedberg Jewish Community Center’s Camp Ga’avah, is one of five recipients of the coveted 2023 Robert M. Sherman Young Pioneers Award. The award recognizes inspiring educators under 40 years of age who have made a significant impact on the communities they serve. The award was presented by The Jewish Education Project at a ceremony in New York City on May 17.

As program coordinator for the Friedberg Jewish Community Center’s Camp Ga’avah, which serves LGBTQ+ youth, Alcala’s creativity, compassion and enthusiasm has enabled her to transform the typical “arts and crafts” camp curriculum into a deeper and more introspective process and experience for her students.

Alcala explained her thought process saying, “Art is never perfect. There is a narrative that things have to be perfect to be beautiful. I disagree. Everything you are and everything you create is beautiful.”

During her time at Camp Ga’avah she introduced projects like acrylic pouring, where students were asked to analyze the significance of the colors used while creating the abstract paintings, instead of simply pouring the paint. Another activity she forged was mask making, an imaginative project that enables students to examine the masks they wear in their own lives while decorating blank ones to share their feelings. 

“At Camp Ga’avah, many of the children are at the receiving end of a lot of unkindness,” Alcala said, “We accept each individual as and where they are and impart the Jewish values of gratitude, strength, kindness and loving your neighbor. I love teaching and am happy to be able to help equip our campers with these important tools.” 

Stephanie Abrams, Friedberg JCC’s director of camping services said, “There’s no question that Pamela epitomizes all facets of a pioneering educator. We are delighted to have her return to Camp Ga’avah for summer 2023 in a full-time capacity, where in addition to arts education, she will offer mental health counseling and support services to campers, their family members and staff.”

The Young Pioneers Award is named for Robert M. Sherman, the CEO of The Jewish Education Project from 2007 until July 2019. Since 2012, the Robert M. Sherman Young Pioneers Award has recognized 40 Jewish educators from greater New York that push the boundaries in Jewish education. Recipients work in day schools, camps, youth groups, supplementary schools, community centers, seminaries and in foundation settings.

The Jewish Education Project’s mission is to inspire and empower educators to create transformative Jewish experiences. For over 100 years, The Jewish Education Project has been supporting educators to build strong Jewish communities.

The Friedberg JCC’s mission is to promote Jewish life and values by providing health, wellness, cultural enrichment and social opportunities in a warm, caring environment, for people at all stages of life. Their primary facility is in Oceanside, but they have other branches in Merrick, Bellmore, Long Beach and Lynbrook. Their programming includes adults, aquatics, camps, dementia services, early childhood, the Ezra Center for People with Disabilities, Parkinson’s programs, social services, and fitness and wellness.