Our Staff | Surprise Lake Camp

Our Staff

Year-Round Staff

To contact any of our staff, please call our offices at 212-924-3131.


Bradley Solmsen, Executive Director 

Bradley has been working with young people, training staff and overseeing camp, travel and residential youth programs for more than 25 years. Before coming to SLC, Bradley served as the director of youth engagement for the Union for Reform Judaism he also served as the director of Brandeis University's Office of High School Programs. Bradley received rabbinic ordination from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion as well as a masters degree in Jewish education from the Jewish Theological Seminary. Bradley has held graduate fellowships at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and is currently a Schusterman Fellow. When he is not at camp, Bradley lives in Brooklyn with his wife Aliza and their three daughters: Ela, Gila and Nomi. 

Click here to email Bradley


Sheryl Kirschenbaum, Associate Director

Sheryl has been involved with Jewish Camping for most of her life.  Sheryl came to us from a long and distinguished tenure as the Mid-Island Y JCC's Director of Youth and Camping Services.  She brings her passion and excitement for Jewish camping to Surprise Lake Camp.  In 2009, Sheryl was promoted to Camp Director and, in this role, continues SLC's tradition of excellence.


Click here to email Sheryl


Sylvie Erlich, Registrar/Executive Assistant 

Sylvie first came to SLC at age 10 and was a camper for five summers.  The opportunity to return to camp every summer presented itself when her own children were enrolled as campers and the Registrar's position became available.  Sylvie has now been working at SLC for more than 20 years.  She is our staff expert on helping families navigate the registration and fee setting process.


Click here to email Sylvie


Celia Baczkowski, Director of Retreats & Communications

Celia started her SLC career in 1994 as a counselor in Unit J, now called Journey’s Way.  She spent three summers as a counselor, three summers as the Jewish Program Specialist on Teenside, and five summers as the Executive Secretary.  In 2000, Celia joined the full-time staff.  She spent four years as the Executive Secretary and eight years as the Director of Development, overseeing fundraising and alumni relations.  Today, she lives on site at camp and is the liaison for all off-season rental groups, and is also responsible for the majority of camp's online and print communications.  


Click here to email Celia 


Avri Klemer, Director Of Finance

Avri joined the SLC staff as a counselor in 1994 and has worked every summer (except one) since.  While studying for his MSc Ed at Hunter College in 2002 he jumped at the opportunity to join the full time staff, first in a program role, later as the camp’s Bookkeeper and since September 2105 as camp's first Director of Finance.  He recently completed a Masters in Camp Administration and Leadership.  Avri is a published board game designer and an as yet unpublished novelist.


Click here to email Avri


Abbe Wittenberg, Bookkeeper

Abbe attended SLC as a camper in the 1980's and returned as summer staff in the 1990's.  She briefly worked as our full-time Coordinator of the Jewish Retreat Center.  After almost 18 years she has rejoined our full-time team and is contributing to the success of camp as our bookkeeper. Abbe has spent the majority of her career working in the Communications and Professional Information Department for a large not-for-profit organization based in NYC.  Her daughter is a second generation camper and she met her husband Rob through long-time SLC friends.  


Click here to email Abbe


David Rosner, Development Director

David attended SLC as a camper for seven years in the 1980’s and is thrilled to be back to help raise vital funds to enable camp to continue to provide magical summers for today’s youth, and also to ensure its growth for future generations of SLC’ers. 

David has spent his entire career serving New York charitable organizations in a development capacity, predominantly in the Jewish communal field.  While an illness in his teenage years prevented him from serving SLC in a staff capacity in the 80’s, his experiences and the need to rely on others for help greatly influenced his career path and the desire to give and perform Tzedakah and Gemilut Chasadim - Charity and Acts of Loving Kindness.


Click here to email David



Mira Lazaroff, Program Assistant

Mira has called Surprise Lake her second home since her first summer as a camper in Highlands.  She was hired as an office aide in 2008 and continued to come back as a counselor for the next five years.  In 2014 she was the Highlands supervisor, and joined the full time staff as Program Assistant in September. Mira received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from SUNY Albany and is currently going for her Masters at CUNY Queens College.​


Click here to email Mira


Laura Mansbach, Associate Camp Director

Laura first came to came to camp on a cold and rainy day in October of 2009 to tour it with her husband (an SLC alum) and three daughters.  In spite of the rain, the spirit and beauty of SLC shone through, and Laura fell in love.  The following summer Laura began her SLC career in as the supervisor of our two-week program, a position she held for two summers.  In 2012, she became part of our year-round staff as the Program Director.

The Mansbach family lives in Jupiter Florida, and are all happy campers at SLC.  Her husband, Carter, is a dedicated alum and volunteer; daughters Sophia & Sydney have graduated to staff members, and their youngest, GiGi, has been a camper for over five years.

Laura studied education at Brooklyn College and holds a BS in Cultural Studies. She had been a Head Start teacher before she left to raise her family.

In 2016, Laura was promoted to Associate Camp Director and loves working with the amazing SLC team in fulfilling the camp's mission.


Click here to email Laura


Jennifer Ambrose, Hiring Coordinator/Mainside Director

Jenn attended camp in the 80’s and 90’s as both a camper and staff member. Her own grandfather attended SLC as a Winter Camper in the early 1900’s.  Jenn was introduced to her husband through childhood camp friends, and after several dates realized that his father was a camper at Surprise Lake Camp as well!  Their three children are now fourth generation campers, and couldn't be happier spending their summers at their “second home.”   Prior to her return to SLC in 2013, Jenn worked as an senior marketing manager and event planner in NYC.  In addition to being the Mainside Division Head in the summer, she is also the Staff Hiring Coordinator in the off-season, and enjoys meeting new people and sharing her love of camp with them.


Click here to email Jenn


Dena Levine, Program Director

Dena is a 21 year veteran of Surprise Lake Camp. She started as a camper in 1987 and after four years as a camper, began her camp career. She's worn many hats, from counselor to specialist, and even worked as a member of the full-time staff in our NYC office for several years.  Dena met her husband, Elly at camp, and after taking ten years off to raise their four daughters, Dena jumped at the opportunity to return to camp in 2012.  She is thrilled that her daughters love camp as much as her and Elly do!  Dena is currently our Program Director and, along with the rest of the team, looks forward to planning a summer full of fun and enriching programs.


Click here to email Dena

Our Summer Staff  

Surprise Lake Camp knows that the success or failure of any camp rests squarely on the shoulders of its counselors and supervisors.  So we go to great lengths to get the very best. 
We start with our own.  The core and spirit of the staff are the returnees, many of whom were once campers themselves.  These people are familiar with camp's Staff Standard of Excellence, and are committed to being exceptional staff members.  They like and care about children, and it shows!
Our counselors are predominantly college students, although some are gifted high school graduates with special skills or training, and some are college graduates.  All staff go through a thorough interview process.  After the interview, we personally call and speak to at least two references and we run a criminal background check.  Once they are hired, all staff attend an eight-day orientation prior to the arrival of the campers.  

About 25-30% of our staff come from abroad, including Europe and Israel.  They add a cultural component to camp that is enriching and exciting.