LAJF: Meet the Staff

The Camp Rising Sun experience is magical, however, it is not magic which makes it possible. Our talented team of year round staff collaborate to bring together our summer community and programming. The efforts seen at Camp are the tip of the iceberg, with ten months of labor in preparation. Of our team, five of us our alumni covering three decades. We live in five different cities on two different continents. What we all share is a deep love for Rising Sun and strong sense of collaboration with our alumni. 


Helene is a home grown leader from Camp Rising Sun! Since the 90's, she has been a camper, counselor, camp director, NYAA President, committee member and regular volunteer. Helene's education and career have been in youth development. She has run several summer and after-school programs, was the Executive Director of SRCO and is a licensed social worker. Her experience leaves her well equipped to lead the programmatic, facility and fundraising operations of LAJF. 

"I feel as though I have been in training for this job since I was 16 years old. CRS fundamentally changed the trajectory of my life. For that reason, I have dedicated myself to paying that forward to future generations of campers." 



Janessa Schilmoeller - Program Director 

Janessa joined the LAJF team again earlier this year as Camp Director. She worked tirelessly during the pre-season period, piecing together the staff team and designing staff training. At Camp, Janessa has a profound influence encouraging staff and campers to have a multicultural approach to education.

She led evening programs on feminism, intersectionality, and allyship. Her sensitive and thoughtful leadership helped make the 2016 season a success. We are thrilled to have her work on Program full time and are certain that the 2017 season will be equally wonderful.  In her new role, Janessa will attend to every Camp related detail. During the summer, she will live at Camp.

"Throughout my 5 summers at CRS ('05, '06, '10, '11, '16), I've met many incredible alumni and witnessed some unforgettable Rising Sun moments of learning, leadership, and lasting friendship. I look forward to meeting many more Rising Sun alumni as we work together to prepare for another great season in 2017."



Savannah has been part of our team since March 2016 as the Business Manager. Prior to working here, she came from an international not-for-profit organization. She has extensive experience working in Operations and Finance. This summer she got to experience her first CRS experience and quickly became familiar with our program and traditions.  


Mads Nissen - Alumni Outreach and Engagement Coordinator

Mads will be working as the Alumni Outreach and Engagement Coordinator. Working closely with the Alumni Council, Mads will be working on improving the communication between LAJF and the Alumni Associations across the world. He will also be working on assisting the associations in exchanging experience and idea’s that better equips them to overcome any challenges they might face.

Besides being a camper in ’06, Mads has worked at camp in ’13, ’14 and latest in the summer of ’16 as the Assistant Camp Director. He is particularly passionate about the philosophy of learning that the CRS-curriculum embodies. He believes that the pedagogical approach of focusing on individual growth, while teaching through a strong sense of community, holds the key to many of the issues of modern education.

Mads will be working with us part-time while simultaneously finishing his masters in Philosophy at the University of Copenhagen, where he is focusing his studies on continental philosophy and cognitive science.

"I am very excited to join the team at LAJF. The more I engage myself in educational policy and philosophy, I realize how important the CRS approach to learning is. Empowering youth through a strong sense of ethical responsibility, curiosity towards the world, and appreciation of community has never been more important than today. Education moves mountains – if it is done right."

Natalie Cook - Alumni, Program and Development Assistant

She recently moved to New York from Atlanta, GA. Natalie is also a graduate student at the NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study where she created her own MA Program, Revitalizing Black Education through the Arts. When Natalie was sixteen-years-old, she founded Atlanta Word Works: a nonprofit organization that provides a safe space for young people to express themselves through creative writing and spoken word poetry (AWW recently merged with VOX Teen Communications).

"I hope to learn more about nonprofit management, as well as build relationships with CRS alumni. I am truly looking forward to connecting with the staff and students of LAJF, and I am grateful to be in a position to help build an organization that offers such dynamic opportunities to youth."



Before joining LAJF, Liza was the  Development Manager at RAVSAK: The Jewish Community Day School Network where she worked closely with RAVSAK's Board of Directors, soliciting major gifts, and heading their Annual Campaign.  Liza worked at The Little Red School House Elisabeth Irwin High school (LREI).  Her work there involved partnering with an Alumni Council and overseeing alumni and fundraising events.

Liza serves on the Board of Directors for The Summer Camp which is nonprofit, residential summer camp for inner city and rural girls, ages 6-18, from low-income and foster homes. 

Cameron Rylance - Facilities Manager 

Cameron is a key figure of Camp Rising Sun year round and has been with us for 10 years!  He is vital during the season, when he helps the project counselor and facilitates projects using his knowledge in virtually anything that needs to be built. He helps campers realize their wildest dreams and ideas! When the season ends, he sets up short, mid and long term maintenance plan and tries to figure out how to better spend the budget.

Elyem Chej - Technology and Web Coordinator

Elyem is working as the Tech and Web Coordinator and is an active part of the Alumni Relations Committee where they work to provide alumni across the world with better platforms to network and stay engaged. She also coordinates Social Media and appreciates any news, pictures or ideas you might have to share on our pages. 

She was a camper in Stendis in 2009 and a LAJFellow in 2015, coming back to LAJF as the Alumni and Development Assistant during the summer of 2016. She finds cities and the use of space fascinating as well as relationships within and between communities. Elyem believes that the impact CRS has in every camper is then multiplied when they go back to their communities.  




The LAJF team in a Staff Meeting

The LAJF team in a Staff Meeting