Summer Youth Experiences

Putting "Inspired Engagement" into Motion

February 11, 2014
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...

The Chadash Program – A New Path for Young Adults with Disabilities

February 10, 2014
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.

Three Stories: URJ & Ramah Camps Come Together To Learn

January 30, 2014
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: