Meet The Head Staff
Rabbi Michael Merrill
Founder & Director
Some people just love camp and others need time to warm up to it...or just need to be in the right camp. As a kid summer was Rabbi Merrill's least favorite time of the year. Now, Rabbi Merrill lives and breathes camp. Rabbi Merrill founded Camp Al Haderech in the summer of 2003. He wanted a camp that would have lots of trips and get him to see places he never saw before. At the time, #1 on the list was Niagara Falls. He has since been there 5 times (at least). But over time, added to the list were rafting, alpine slides, and the world's tallest filing cabinet (only 3x so far). Before making aliyah in 2021, Rabbi Merrill spent 20 years in Jewish Education including 18 years at HANC where he taught, was the Director of Student Activities, and the Assistant Principal.
His greatest joy in the summer is seeing campers grow by taking chances at new activities. He has watched this thousands of times and gets the greatest satisfaction when some of those campers eventually become staff and help other campers overcome their fears!
Malkie was born into a camp family. Her father was a camp person through and through... So much so that he owned and directed his own camp for 7 summers. When they got out of the camping business Malkie missed it... Since her parents no longer owned a camp she was free to try out other camps. In the process she learned a lot about the way camps run and eventually would meet her future husband in camp. After getting married she took the summer off, but her dad whispered in her ear to start her own camp. After a bit of cajoling she got Rabbi Merrill on board.
At the start Malkie was the behind the scenes director (and first summer cook). As the camp grew her role grew as well. She is a constant support for all the head staff that are out on the road. She has great programing ideas and adds so much to our day to day activities.
Until Malkie made aliyah in 2021 she taught at Bais Yaakov of Queens for 20 years. As a beloved Morah her students gained so much from her patience and caring demeanor.
Assistant Director NY & Boys Head Counselor
Eli Cohen entered Al Haderech the summer after fourth grade. He started as a camper in the travel camp. He continued with the camp until he graduated 8th grade. In 9th grade Eli joined the staff as a CIT. Although he was sometimes confused with his campers, that was only in size. In stature he clearly was a leader at a young age. Eli continued to grow as a staff member and would finish as one of the best counselors of all time. Eli went off to Shaalvim for 2 years of learning and then rejoined our head staff. As a head counselor he distinguished himself with his ability to stay calm no matter what. Eli's patience is most apparent when dealing with some of the more difficult campers. He listens to them carefully and is able to help get them back on track. He entertains campers on the buses with his tree trivia and random food facts. This summer Eli has added Assistant Director to his title where he focuses on the behind the scenes logistics and staff training.
When Eli is not busy working at Al Haderech he is learning at Yeshiva Gedolah of the Five Towns.
Assistant Director NJ
Several years back Al Haderech was searching for the perfect candidate to lead the NJ Travel division. We asked a close friend and they said Deena Lewin is perfect. She's hard working, super creative, detail oriented, and extremely dedicated and loyal. Deena interviewed and was the perfect candidate. Deena started with 30 campers, but over her tenure the program has grown by leaps and bounds. Deena continues to invest her heart and soul into camp. After many summers as the girls head counselor she has moved on to be the Assistant Director of the NJ camp. In her first year she has focused on programming and the calendars for all the camps. With her usual tenacity those areas look like they will make this summer our best yet.
Deena is an outstanding teacher who has spent the last 15+ years teaching at Yeshivat Noam. She is beloved by her students and their parents. Many of them call the camp office and introduce themselves as Deena's really good friend. Deena is the mother of 4 adorable future Al Haderech campers.
Head Counselor Girls Max & Girls Travel NY
Ariella was born into Camp Al Haderech. In the camp's first summer Ariella served as the assistant chef. Ariella attended Al Haderech Tots, Juniors, Travel and then worked at Max slowly working her way up from camper to counselor to head staff. Ariella loves Al Haderech and is so creative and high energy. Armed with her belt bag, speaker, funky socks, and coffee Ariella tackles 9am problems early in the morning to ensure that every camper has a great day and great session. Ariella is the Head Counselor of Al Haderech Max and Travel NY. She works hard throughout the year to make sure the program is jam packed.
Ariella learned at Michlalah for a year and half and is now in college. She recently cofounded Ready.Set.Sem to get girls and their families ready for their year in Israel.
Assistant Head Counselor Boys Max
Yair has been working in summer camps for the past few years. After high school he went to KBY for 2 years and is currently in his last year at YU. He also just started the semicha program at RIETS. Yair loves playing sports and traveling and can’t wait to have a fantastic summer.
Chaya Rochel Gordon
Head Counselor Girls Travel NJ
Chaya Rochel has spent the last bunch of years at Yeshivat Noam. She is the Director of Student Activities and is always on the lookout for another great activity to liven up the school. We are happy to have Chaya Rochel bring that experience and joy to Al Haderedch Travel NJ Girls where she will be the Girls Head Counselor working closely with Deena Lewin, our Assistant Director.
Head Counselor Boys Travel NJ
Eli Katz joins our NJ Boys staff from Ramat Bet Shemesh. He was born in NY and moved when he was young. Eli is a soccer coach, swim instructor, and member of Yedidim (Israeli Chaveirim - Hatzalah for cars). He has tremendous patience and works really well with children. He is an avid hiker and looks forward to joining Al Haderech.
Assistant Head Counselor Girls Travel NJ
Shayna just finished college and will be starting Nursing School in the fall. She was our Girls Assistant Head Counselor last summer. She showed her care and warmth to her campers and was a great addition to our staff. We are happy she will be working once again with Travel NJ Girls.