Teens choose Jewish summers

by | Sep 11, 2015 | Other News

Josh Bensink
Program: Kutz Camp
Affiliation: Union for Reform Judaism

Have you ever woken up from an amazing sleepover with your closest friends and said to yourself “that was the most fun I’ve ever had!”? Has it ever happened 26 times in a row?

I had the pleasure of spending four and a half weeks with this happening to me at the URJ Kutz Camp, NFTY’s summer home for Reform Jewish teens. Kutz is a NFTY leadership experience designed for teens looking for a challenging and exciting summer program that will enhance their skills in a specific area of interest such as the arts, leadership, Jewish studies, or the Mitzvah Corps program.

As a participant, I had the amazing ability to choose my classes and create a schedule that best fits my needs. Being able to have so much freedom in my camp life made my experience more worthwhile. Kutz is where I have made my closest friends from across North America and around the world. The experiences I’ve had and the people I have met will stay with me throughout my entire life, and I can’t wait to see where they’ll take me.

If home is where the heart is, then I left my heart in the rolling hills of Warwick, N.Y.—Kutz, my summer home.

Leah Cooper
Program:BBYO Passport ILSI
Affiliation: BBYO

Never in my life have I been excited to wake up at five in the morning. I mean, who would be? It’s early, cold, and requires copious amounts of coffee to handle well. But the three times I woke up at that hour in Israel led to some of my most meaningful days.

The first was when my best friend, Jordan, and I snuck out of our hotel to watch the sunrise in Jerusalem, the second was to climb Masada before it got hot (luckily our next stop was the Dead Sea), and the final morning was spent praying and advocating with the Women of The Wall for equal rights.

The International Leadership Seminar in Israel (ILSI) is the pinnacle summer program for teens in BBYO. Since freshman year I have done all the stops: CLTC, ILTC, and Kallah. I learned about leadership and discovered my own Jewish identity during these programs. But ILSI was something different. Waking up at five to see nothing but fog in the sky with Jordan, climbing Masada on a record hot morning, and being hit with sheckles from protesters (that we later donated to tzedakah) were all experiences I would have never had on my own.

Though small, these tiny moments added up to create the most amazing Jewish summer I could have ever imagined!

Ari Goldman
Program: ILTC
Affiliation: BBYO

This summer I attended BBYO’s Summer Experiences: ILTC. This is a three-week camp in the mountains of Pennsylvania designed to develop leadership skills and help Jewish teens like myself find our Jewish identities.

It was difficult terrain, mediocre food, cold, wet and absolutely incredible. There, among 250 other Jewish teens that I am proud to call my family, I discovered what it meant to be culturally Jewish. I learned that my identity is mine to choose. I was not taught how to be Jewish, but rather taught how to explore the idea of Judaism in my own way. My Judaism, much like my experience at ILTC, is what I make of it. I am proud of my Jewish faith because it is simultaneously individual to me, and shared among millions of others like me.

So how was camp this summer? I guess you could say it was pretty good.

Deni Budman
Program: Kutz Camp
Affiliation: Union for Reform Judaism

Kutz does whatever it takes to get a message across and teach a lesson in an innovative way.

For my third summer, I participated in a month-long minor for regional leaders where we learned new skills and how to bring them back to our NFTY regions. One day in the middle of camp, we sluggishly walked into the Beit Am to wait for the program to begin. Instructed to sit in a circle, one of the directors of Youth Engagement, Mike Fuld, sat down with us and told us he was about to give us a very important task which he would only state once so we must listen carefully. The room fell silent and he quietly announced, “You have exactly 1 minute. 60 seconds. Get in the pool. GO! 60, 59, 58…” We all looked around and there was a brief moment of sheer panic until one person stood up and started running. Shoes were thrown and phones were dropped in the last leg of the trip, and suddenly there were 30 fully clothed teenagers diving into the pool on the other side of camp. After splashing around and laughing at what we had just done, the instructors finally reached the pool and we discussed the importance of having fun as a leader and taking a leap of faith (literally). Finally, they said that you can never ask someone else to do something that you aren’t willing to do yourself and they jumped into the pool.

This lesson really resonated with me and will stick with me forever. It was just one of the moments that makes Kutz so special. I really can call 46 Bowen Road, Warwick, N.Y. my home.