By: Alyza Weinberg
Camp George was instrumental in defining who I am and how I want to act in the world. Not only did camp provide me with a community that enabled me to be myself, but it also showed me how I wanted to be Jewish. After 10 summers at George (as a camper and as staff), I can truthfully say I grew up there.
Growing up is hard, and often there are bumps along the way. There was one summer that I was really struggling with how to connect to Judaism. After much coaxing, I finally confided in my counselor that I didn’t know how to be Jewish anymore. I told her I wanted to find my own way to connect to Judaism, but wasn’t sure how to find this connection. She had great wisdom and told me that there were a million ways to connect to Judaism. She said that in the relationships I built- there could be an expression of my Judaism; she said my morning runs could be an expression of my Judaism and that doing community service could also be an expression of Judaism. She told me that all of these things I loved and sought out could be my way to connect to Judaism. Her truth not only guided me through that tumultuous summer, but has made a lasting impression in my life.
Immediately, after graduating University, I joined AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps. AVODAH’s central mission is to “engage participants in service and community building that inspires them to become lifelong leaders for social change whose work for justice is rooted in and nourished by Jewish values.” Inspired by the words of my counselor eight years earlier- I saw my Jewish values play out in the work I did in inner-city Washington, DC. The High School (Thurgood Marshall Academy) is the highest performing high school in the area. Yet, this is no small accomplishment given that it is in one of the lowest income, highest crime, and lowest education rate areas of the city. The school is founded on the belief that every child deserves the best education possible. What could be more Jewish than that? The V’ahavta (that I sang every day at camp) tells us to “teach our children diligently”.
It was not only in that one year that the words of my counselor rang true. Currently, my full time job is to take those valuable words that I heard when I was fourteen, and use them to help college students connect to Judaism in whatever way speaks to them.
Who would have thought that the camper, who cried because she could not connect to Judaism, is now working to help others find their Jewish connections. In my job at Tufts Hillel, I’m constantly echoing the words of my wise counselor. I do this by telling my students that whether it is going to Morocco to meet with Jews around the world, or advocating for immigration reform, these acts connect to Jewish values. I know this and am able to help them navigate through these questions because at one time, I had someone guiding and navigating me.
I know that regardless of what I’m doing and where I live- the lessons I learned at Camp George, and the relationships I built, will sustain me and guide me throughout any challenges that I may face. George got me here, and I know it will be with me wherever I go.