You can have your summer destinations of Nantucket, the Hamptons, or Lake Michigan. I’ll take Kunkletown, Zionsville, and Oconomowoc! Some head to the beaches or the mountains; I head to camp.
More than 14,000 young people are leaving home this summer, immersing themselves in new environments and connecting to Jewish community in a URJ summer program. The midrash tells us that if we can open ourselves up to new experiences, we can discover inner clarity. These young people are discovering themselves – what motivates them, what matters to them, what challenges them. They return home – and to our congregations – with a new sense of identity and purpose.
There is so much to celebrate this summer:
- We opened our 16th camp – 6 Points Sports California in Los Angeles – which came out of the blocks at a full sprint. Read all about camp’s exceptional inaugural year in this article from the Jewish Journal of Southern California.
- This summer, Jacobs Camp in Utica, MS, and Greene Family Camp in Bruceville, TX, are celebrating their biggest summers ever. These camps ensure that an enduring commitment to Reform Judaism thrives in the South.
- We are welcoming 13 counselors at seven URJ camps who come from the Ugandan Jewish community. Getting to know these counselors is a wonderful opportunity to bring Judaism’s rich and diverse globalism to life for every camper every day.
- Our camps continue to upgrade and expand their facilities and their programs so they can be assets to our community year-round. One notable example is the Welcome and Wellness Center at Camp Newman.
Of course, our summer programs are not limited to camp:
- In Israel last month, I visited with a group of NFTY in Israel participants – just a handful of the more than 1,500 teens and young adults who are traveling in Israel with the URJ this summer. Registration for Kesher Birthright opens in just a few weeks. Help your alumni discover Israel by nominating them for a spot with the only Reform Birthright trip provider.
- Among my most memorable visits this summer was with a group of teens at Mitzvah Corps in New Brunswick, NJ. These teens, along with hundreds of others, are spending their summer days serving others and learning to be advocates for those around them – regardless of how they worship or the color of their skin. Our teens’ hope for the future is palpable. With equal fervor, they pray, study, and live out the best of our Jewish ethical teachings of social responsibility. One teen said she was “humbled by the experience,” but really, I am the one who is humbled.
These social justice warriors, these youth leaders, these adventurers – these are the young people who will return to our congregations to fill our hallways with big ideas and passion for a vibrant Reform Judaism. If you want to feel hopeful about the Jewish future, spend time with this amazing cohort of committed, idealistic and determined young people.
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