Mother and Daughter Reflect on Going to Kutz
by Julie Hollander Eichelbaum and Emma Eichelbaum
As the URJ Kutz Camp enters its 50th year, campers emerge as members of a vast network of Kutz alumni. For a select few of those campers, the alumni network includes their parents, also products of NFTY’s campus for Reform Jewish teens. Emma Eichelbaum (Kutz ’12-‘14) and her mom Julie Hollander Eichelbaum (Kutz ’80 and ’81) are quintessential examples of generational involvement in NFTY, URJ Camps, and Reform Jewish Life. Following are some cross-generational reflections of Emma and Julie, and their thoughts on growing as leaders at Kutz.
Emma: Being a second-generation camper at the URJ Kutz Camp is different from being a second-generation camper at any other URJ camp. It wasn’t our parents or its geographic location that brought me or my mom to Kutz, but our involvement in Reform Jewish leadership. My mother went to Kutz in 1980 as a leader of her Temple Youth Group, and again in 1981 as a member of the NFTY Social Action Network. The Program Room still features a picture of her with her fellow Kutz Campers, displayed prominently for the camp community to see. I was elected to my regional board as a high school junior and had my first experience at Kutz as a participant at Mechina, NFTY’s regional leadership preparation event. It was there, with the rest of the NFTY General Board, that I first saw my then-17-year-old mother smiling in that picture, giving me a connection to this new camp and youth group experience. No matter the board position, for both of us Kutz was a camping match made in heaven.
Julie: NFTY and Kutz were life-altering experiences for me. The lessons I learned honed my leadership skills, enhanced my Judaism, built life-long friendships, and helped me mature and become independent. NFTY reinforced what my parents modeled for me my entire life. Being part of the Jewish community is to be an active participant. Overnight camp as a youngster provides an introduction to Jewish life away from your parents, but Kutz solidifies your role. I have grown to be involved in temple life and leadership ever since.
Emma: Kutz is a place where I can be 100 percent myself. Every summer I’ve spent there I’ve learned more about Judaism and myself. I feel in touch with my faith, and the network of amazing Jews I have found at NFTY’s headquarters is invaluable. In my summer as an Avodah, I worked with the Kutz Kids Club and met so many of the visiting faculty―one of the best parts of the job. I can say I’ve met the current generation now leading our movement, and am a member of the thriving generation of leaders to come. Thank goodness my mother had such an amazing summer in 1980; it’s because of her that I was convinced to stay at Kutz for a full session in the first place. When I miss her over the summer, it’s nice that I can go down to the program room to see her smiling face in that photo, which reminds me of how special this place is to both of us.
Julie: I still remember the Sunday morning at religious school when my mother dressed up in a Katy Kangaroo costume to drive membership. She was the Temple Kol Ami youth group advisor in West Bloomfield, Michigan in 1978, my first year. My parents’ support of my involvement in youth group was unwavering. When the opportunity came to get on an airplane to go to summer camp, it was a big deal back then. Without hesitating they made the investment in my Judaism and me. How satisfied they would be to know that their commitment has continued through their grandchildren.
Emma: We both posed for pictures beside the exact same willow trees by the exact same lake. We trekked the exact same hill up to sleep in the exact same bunk. We both ate in the exact same dining hall with two generations of Jewish teenagers that made the exact same impact on our lives.
Julie:From my parents, to me and to my children, NFTY has been there. And having my children experience that magic and love it as I had is just incredible. I truly believe that NFTY and Kutz are what will carry Reform Judaism into the future.
Julie Hollander Eichelbaum resides in Plano, Texas and is a member of the Temple Shalom community in Dallas. She previously served Temple Shalom as Sisterhood president and a Board of Trustees’ member, and taught religious school for the Next Dor high school program, of which she was a founder. She has also served as youth group advisor, and is a proud mother to three wonderful NFTYites.
Emma Eichelbaum is a rising sophomore at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. She served two terms as the Religious and Cultural Vice President for NFTY-TOR, taught religious school at Temple Shalom in Dallas, was involved in the Ozrim teaching assistant program, and is a graduate of Shalom’s Next Dor program. She is currently working as an RA at Kutz and is thrilled to be spending another summer at her Jewish home.