URJ Kutz Camp

URJ Kutz Camp

Campers sit on a bench with their arms around one another and their backs to the camera as they sit in a circle with camp in the background

It is not often I get to visit one place that holds all the best parts of what the Reform Movement has to offer – but Kutz is certainly such a place.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs
Three smiling male teens holding an Israeli flags

In light of the bills passed by the Knesset this week, I am asking myself: Is this a crisis point in Israel engagement?

Rabbi Reuven Greenvald
Peri Smilow sitting in a chair surrounded by Kutz campers and laughing

Campers at URJ Kutz Camp had the chance to sit down and talk with Peri Smilow, director of program and engagement for the Associat

URJ Kutz Camp

“When you grow up, you’ll understand.” Have you heard this sentiment recited to young people by parents, and perhaps teachers who didn’t know the answer to a probing question, or were simply hesitant to approach it? It framed generations, in a way. Set boundaries. But in a time when we have just recently witnessed a 17-year-old becoming the youngest Nobel Peace Prize Laureate to date – I’d say the sentiment has expired.

Miriam Chilton

As we prepare to celebrate the Jewish holidays, we get ready to journey through an arc of communal and personal experiences. As an educator who is fascinated by the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), I also find this month-long period an interesting dance between introversion and extroversion.

Melissa Frey

Sports, games, art and science projects. Swimming, hiking, climbing. Laughing, learning, sharing. It’s these activities, and more, that transform summer camp into one of the strongest links in the Reform Movement’s chain of connections. In fact, summertime for the URJ is like one huge game of connect-the-dots. Connecting current campers with alumni. Connecting clergy with worshippers. Connecting songleaders with singers. Connecting students with teachers. Connecting our Jewish past to our Jewish present and future. In the last few weeks, I’ve spent time at several of our overnight camps – URJ Kutz Camp, URJ Greene Family Camp, and URJ 6 Points Sports Academy – and I’m headed to GUCI this weekend and to URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy in early August. Being at camp is a joy. It’s a reminder of what was most special to me as a camper – feeling for the first time a brand new excitement about Shabbat, the Birkat HaMazon, and standing up for social justice.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs

By Rabbi Michael A. White

I recently returned from a magical week as a faculty member at the URJ Kutz Camp, the Reform Movement's teen leadership institute at the foothills of the Catskills in Warwick, N.Y. My week at Kutz brought back memories of my first visit some 37 years ago.

Nearly four decades ago, one of my high school classmates convinced me to attend a regional youth group event at Kutz, and off I went. Until that weekend, Shabbat, to me, meant sitting in a hard pew while listening to organ music. Shabbat at Kutz camp was refreshingly different, to say the least!

During Shabbat at Kutz that first year, we ate greasy chicken and delicious doughy challah. Services were energizing and informal, led by a cool guy with long hair, a mustache, and a guitar. We draped our arms around each other's shoulders, and we sang our hearts out. We talked through the night. And just before we left, one of the leaders of the Reform Movement, Al Vorspan, challenged us to fight to end apartheid in South Africa, for women's rights, for Israel. He told us that we were the future, that we could make a difference, and that we could heal the world.

That first weekend at camp, I became a committed, enthusiastic Reform Jew.

by Rabbi Lisa Silverstein Tzur

It was truly a “standing at Sinai” moment.

Despite geographical challenges, limited financial resources, and a national holiday, more than 650 Reform Jews came from around the world last weekend to reconnect with URJ Kutz Camp, the sacred place so many of us have called home over the years. We numbered 350 alumni from the last 50 years of Kutz’s existence, plus 200 current high school participants and 100 dynamic, dedicated staff members.

It was a gathering of the generations unlike any other in our history.

In planning this milestone event, we made a deliberate and perhaps bold decision to hold our celebration during the regular camping season. Although this decision meant we might be limited in our ability to program – the expected attendance would double the camp’s population for the weekend – we felt it was crucial to bring Kutz’s past and present generations together.

With just a week until the launch of the URJ’s 2015 camp season, there’s innovative programming on tap, all of which promises to make this summer the best ever! Throughout the season, we’ll engage 13,000+ campers and young adults from more than 660 congregations (along with 600 congregational clergy, educators, and youth professionals who will serve as faculty) in a wide assortment of initiatives – old favorites and creative newcomers – making this our eighth consecutive year of growth.

A few highlights…

When I was growing up, I never met any rabbis other than my congregation’s rabbi. Dr. Renov (we never called him ‘rabbi’) was a scholar. Our congregation, Temple Judea, was small and he served there part-time. Dr. Renov also taught college and perhaps the academic arena was his first love. While he was a nice man, Dr. Renov did not exactly have a way with children or teens. He was formal and reserved. Our confirmation class was made up of three boys. On Sunday mornings, we would meet with Dr. Renov in his small overheated office. I don’t remember what we studied in his class, but I do remember the musty smell of the room, the hiss of the radiator, and struggling to stay awake.