The URJ is proud to announce an innovative Camper Incentive Program for Jewish Military Families on Active Duty, open to Jewish families with at least one parent on Active Duty in the United States Armed Forces.
Related Blog Posts on NFTY, Summer Youth Experiences, Journal of Youth Engagement, and Youth Engagement
Earlier this winter, my synagogue played host to NFTY-NAR’s Winter Kallah. Because we’re of the “go big or go home” belief, our cantor arranged for Jewish musician Dan Nichols to be our artist-in-residence the same weekend. Ever a consummate mensch, Dan participated the entire weekend in activities with NFTY, the religious school, and programs for our adult congregants. Beginning Thursday evening, Dan rehearsed with our adult, teen, and youth choirs for our Friday night service. On Friday evening just before Shabbat, more than 130 teens and their NFTY-NAR advisors started to arrive by car, by minivan, and by bus. As months of tireless and careful planning came into play, the weekend began to take on a life of its own. There are not enough words to express the gratitude to these dedicated people who do so much for our youth beyond planning such kallot. The weekend was, in a word, awesome. It began Friday night, with Dan leading our congregation in a musical Shabbat service. I have been going through some soul-searching recently, and Dan’s music, paired with the NFTYites’ reactions to it, gave me reason to take a step back and feel as though I might have found some of what I’d been looking for.
12-year-old Shayne Simon describes her experience at Camp Chazak
The powerful roll out of the newest implementation steps of the Campaign for Youth Engagement at the recent URJ Biennial in San Diego has generated excellent feedback and momentum. Our Reform movement-wide approach is called Inspired Engagement, a transformative teen and young adult network, which integrates diverse program offerings into one seamless year-round matrix in order to increase access to, and promote lifelong participation in, the joys of Jewish living. Here are some of the exciting specifics...
by Rabbi Michael Torop and Rabbi Betsy Torop The first summer after we arrived in the region, we began to serve as rabbinic faculty at URJ Camp Coleman. After a long day in the car, we arrived at Coleman for the first time at dinnertime. We walked into the chadar ochel (dining hall) with Gideon, who had just turned six, and our two other children (ages 4 and 18 months). We were thrilled to be there and instantly felt at home when we walked in. Gideon buried his head in his father’s lap and covered his ears against the din of 500 campers eating dinner. Gideon is on the autism spectrum and has some intellectual disabilities as well. The noise of the chadar ochel was just the first of many challenges that he faced at Coleman – the place he has come to love more than any place on earth. We are both products of NFTY, and Jewish camping has been central to our lives in every way. It never occurred to us for one minute that our URJ camp wouldn’t be the place that our children “went home” to every year. But it was clear early on that Gideon would need some help. His self-care and language skills were well below age level and his inability to read social cues made us worry that he would be the target of teasing. The thought of just putting him into the mix of a boys bunk was terrifying.
By Susan Klau To my family, one of the most important aspects of Reform Judaism is community. My Jewish journey through adolescence was much different than my parents'. My dad, born in New York and raised in Puerto Rico, experienced a limited and informal Jewish education. Puerto Rico’s Temple Youth Groups are associated with NFTY-NAR (the New York Area Region) and my dad did one year of NFTY his sophomore year of high school. As he tells it, his NFTY experience consisted of sitting in a circle with some of his classmates, eating pizza, talking about Jewish 'hot' topics, and singing To Everything There Is a Season. My mother became a Jew by choice after meeting my dad, and one of the things that she loved so much about Judaism was the friendship network that came with the religion. When I was born, my parents knew that they wanted Judaism to be an important part of my identity.
The URJ Service Corps program is designed to engage young URJ Camps staff and alumni, who will apply their experience, talents, and skills to create experiential, camp-style programming for families and youth in synagogue communities around the country. Working in partnership with the National Ramah Commission, the program seeks, over three years, to have a total of 80 young adult educators engaged in part-time youth leadership roles in Conservative and Reform communities throughout North America, working actively to recruit for camp and to help reenergize the communities they serve through innovative, inspiring, and immersive Jewish programming. In early January, Ramah and URJ Service Corps Fellows met in California, where they learned, shared, and explored this new and exciting role in the Jewish community. URJ Service Corps Fellows from three of our camps shared their stories:
Working at Jewish sleepaway camp, I got to spend time with friends, learn new activities, and learn about myself – and the experiences I had as a staff member are applicable to post-college jobs, helping prepare me for the “real” world.