A Treasured Member of our Family
When we picture our family, we see the four of us: Brad, Rachael, Blake and Shayna. But we have to acknowledge that there’s been a strong presence in our lives for a long time that has shaped our entire family in so many ways. It’s Camp Chi. Everyone in our family was a “J” kid growing up. We’ve all participated in JCC Chicago classes, events and day and overnight camp. When Brad started attending Camp Chi in 7th grade, he had no idea the connection he formed with his overnight camp would help shape all the members of his future family.
We met the first day of Freshman year at Indiana University, discovered how similar our backgrounds were and that JCC Chicago impacted both of our childhoods. We soon learned that our Jewish connections made it so easy for us to relate, and by the time Rosh Hashana came a month later, we were in love.
We talked so much about how amazing it was for Brad to grow up at Camp Chi and decided both of us would work at camp the next summer. That was the summer of 1995. Not only have we worked at Chi every summer since then, but we’ve also spent almost every Memorial Day, Labor Day, New Year’s and many weekends over the years at Camp Chi working and being part of the Chi Family. Both of our children crawled, and then ran, around camp and became Chi campers themselves as well as staff.
Chi became our first home together and also became intertwined with who the Finkels are. We personally live Camp Chi’s values of Kavod (Respect), Chesed (Kindness) and Kehilla (Community) all year, not just when we are at camp. These values have been central to how we are raising our children. Every year our family volunteers at Bernie’s Book Bank, Good Deed Days and many other events because we feel it’s important to give back to the community. Both Blake and Shayna chose to participate in community service clubs at Stevenson High School as well. As a result of developing strong relationships with their cabinmates who attended camp with Keshet support, our entire family actively supports Keshet year-round by participating in their events, Keshet Buddy Baseball, Keshet Buddy Bowling, and cheering on Blake’s buddy and the rest of the Keshet Buddy Basketball team at their Northwestern Halftime games.
Our community has been strengthened by our shared experiences with Camp Chi. We became friends with several families whose children attended JCC Chicago Early Childhood daycare and preschool with our kids. The friendships between all the parents and children continued to grow as the children spent each summer together at Camp Chi. These families are now our extended family, and we really mean family. We have celebrated every birthday, taken family trips, watched our kids grow up as siblings, and sent them off to college together.
Camp Chi is a treasured member of our family. We are so grateful Chi has been a central part of our lives in so many ways. We wouldn’t be the same Finkel Family without its presence and influence throughout the years.
About Rachael and Brad Finkel
Brad Finkel began as camper at Camp Chi and in a blink of an eye 33 years went by. He studied at Indiana University and received a BA in Telecommunications and Jewish Studies. Brad earned his Master in Jewish Professional Studies from Spertus Institute. Brad grew into his role as the Assistant, and then Associate Director, and became Camp director in 2017. He currently serves as the COO of JCC Chicago.
Rachael Finkel began her career at Camp Chi 1995 as a counselor. She earned her BS in Business at Indiana University. Rachael worked at CDW prior to joining the Full Time Camp Chi team in 2000 as the Registrar. Currently, she is the Business Manager at Camp Chi and recently took on an additional role as Manager of Data and Administration for JCC Chicago.
Brad and Rachael currently live in Buffalo Grove with their two children, Blake and Shayna, who are both Camp Chi lifers.