Staff Committed to Working with Kids
The spirit and energy you feel at Camp Chi comes from our staff. We personally screen and select our team from hundreds of applicants from across the country and the world. Our staff have diverse backgrounds and interests, but have one thing in common – a never-ending dedication to working with kids.
Our low 1 to 3 staff-to-camper ratio exceeds the recommendation by the American Camp Association (1 to 6) and assures that each camper and cabin group receives individualized attention.
To achieve our goal of providing the highest quality camp experience, we hire two different groups of exceptional staff: specialists with expertise to provide instruction in activities and nurturing counselors who are solely focused on leading cabin groups and providing camper care. Social workers, qualified health staff, professional food service and countless staff behind-the-scenes provide additional support.
Experienced Camp Leadership
Jon Levin, Director
Jon joined the Chi team in 2018. He has been involved in Jewish summer camping for over 40 summers as a camper, counselor, specialist, unit head, Assistant Director, and Director. Jon has worked at 7 Jewish resident camps around the Country. Two summers were at Camp Chi, as Habo Village Leader in the late 80’s and a Seasonal Assistant Director in 2002. Jon, his wife Martha and their 3 dogs reside in Mundelein. They have 3 children and 3 grandchildren. A graduate of Arizona State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Recreation, Jon has spent most of his adult life involved in camping and JCC management and had his own business for several years before returning to camp management and the Camp Chi family.
Joelle Kelenson, Associate Director
Joelle has a love and passion for JCC camping having attended and worked at JCC Camp Kingswood, Y Country Camps and JCC of Northern Virginia’s day camp. From an early age, Joelle knew she was destined to be at camp forever and has so far achieved that goal. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Jewish Studies from McGill University and her master’s degree in Social Work and Jewish Studies from Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary. She loves working with the campers and showing them the Camp Chi Magic!
Kyle Kolling, Assistant Director
This summer will by Kyle’s 19th at Camp Chi. Kyle has spent many years at Camp Chi as a camper, counselor, and supervisor. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Theater Education and English from Illinois State University, and is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Jewish Non-Profit Business. Kyle is very excited to continue his camp career, and hopes to spend many more summers at Chi. Throughout the year, Kyle also runs camps Chi Town Connection youth group for teens.
Ari Wartell, Assistant Director of Operations
Ari started working in the summer at Camp Chi in 2012 as a Village Leader and then as Program Manager before joining the full-time team in 2014. Originally from Pennsylvania, Ari graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a BFA in Stage Management and Technical Theatre. A lifelong Cubs fan, Ari was thrilled to make Chicago his home and fulfill his dream of working full-time at camp. As the Assistant Director of Operations, Ari ensures all the behind the scenes necessities are running smoothly, from maintaining the facilities to transportation, communication, registration and everything in between.
Rachael Finkel, Business Manager
This is Rachael’s 23rd summer as part of the Camp Chi family. Over the years Rachael has held many roles in camp, including becoming a camp parent herself! She is putting her business degree from Indiana University to good use as our Business Manager. Rachael is often the name behind the emails and phone calls that most families receive and always happy to help answer any question that comes up.
Natalie Kozelka, Operations Coordinator
Natalie is excited to be a part of the Camp Chi Team. She attended Illinois State University where she received a degree in Theater Education, Acting, and English. Natalie spent two summers as the Camp Chi office manager in the summer and was JCC Chicago’s Sports and Recreation Administrator as well. In fact, Natalie is actually a certified lifeguard instructor and trains the Camp Chi aquatics staff each year. As the Operations Coordinator, Natalie is often one of the first points of contact for families, as she processes registrations, camper forms, and manages many other tasks that help to make camp a safe and fun experience!
Jennifer Phillips, Inclusion Coordinator
Some people were born to do what they do. Jen became inspired to teach students with special needs from her experiences as a one-on-one counselor for campers with disabilities at JCC Chicago day camps. After receiving degrees in elementary education and special education, she has spent 20 years teaching children and teens with special needs. Jen is currently the Chief Program Officer for Keshet. Jen (SIT ’89) is also the Director of Recreation at Keshet.
Brad Finkel, Chief Operating Officer, JCC Chicago
Brad has spent 33 summers at Chi as a camper, counselor, Assistant Director, and ultimately as Chi’s Director. He’s leveraging his deep experience in camping as he transitions to the broader role of Chief Operating Officer for JCC Chicago. Brad has undergraduate degrees from Indiana University in Jewish Studies, Telecommunications, Psychology, Business and Hebrew plus his Master’s degree from Spertus University.