When presented with the opportunity to A) go on a summer trip to Europe, or B) go to a Jewish leadership camp, you could only imagine the look on my parents’ faces when I chose option B! Priceless!
This summer I ventured across the country to upstate New York to attend the Union for Reform Judaism’s Kutz Camp. This camp is NFTY’s (North American Federation of Temple Youth) summer home. I was fortunate enough to meet other teens from Canada, Hungary, Romania, the Netherlands and Israel. The camp is open to participants from all over the world; however, most participants live in the United States.
Each teen who attends chooses a major they focus on for the duration of camp, which is about three weeks. They also choose two minors, which change each week. My major, “Teva Outdoor Adventure,” taught me a lot about spirituality and how to connect to G-d through nature. The first project I participated in was a camp trash audit. We weighed, sorted and recorded information taken from 30 bags of trash. Based on that data, we informed other URJ camps of ways they could help reduce waste and set up more effective recycling on their campuses. It was a very eye-opening experience that I will never forget. I also went on numerous hikes with Teva, learning the names of different plant species as well as how to lead a group of peers.
One of my favorite trips with Teva was to New York City! Our group went to the High Line, which used to be a rail system in the meat-packing district. It has been transformed into a magnificent park. In Teva we always talked about discovering nature in the least likely of places. This definitely was one of those! Although the park is in the middle of the bustling city, it is so serene and peaceful, with nature all around. It didn’t seem as if something so beautiful could exist in such a large city.
On top of learning, camp was a great way to make new friends. Before going to Kutz I only knew five other people from my region. Now I have so many new connections. It was such a cool experience to get to know people from all walks of life. It was especially nice to all be Jewish and have the religion barrier removed. Going to Kutz has been one of the greatest choices of my life. I will never forget the amazing people or the experiences I had there.
Haley Roberts is the president of OCTY (Or Chadash Temple Youth), a new local chapter of NFTY open to students in grades 8-12.