By Carly Hooker
“Mommy, I want to go to camp.” I made this statement for the first time at the tender age of 7 years old after a presentation at my temple by Rabbi Ron Klotz, camp director at the time. My mom’s initial reply was something along the lines of, “But Carly, you won’t know anyone!” To which I promptly replied, “That’s ok, I’ll make friends!” That was the end of that conversation, and in the summer of 2005, I attended Goldman Union Camp Institute for the first time without knowing anyone. At the time, I couldn’t have even imagined what an impact that decision would make on my life.
I am currently a student on NFTY-EIE’s High School in Israel. When I was first asked to write a blog post about how camp has influenced my Israel experience, I laughed. I felt as though the answer to that question was so obvious that it would be difficult to elaborate. The simple answer: I wouldn’t be in Israel if I didn’t go to camp!
From the youngest unit to the oldest unit, camp has shaped my identity both as a growing person and more specifically, as a Jew. The programming at camp has shaped my values and enhanced my learning in ways that no amount of Sunday school could ever come close to. I’ve learned independence and self-reliance from a young age. My counselors set strong examples for me and I’ve come to understand what true friendship means. This has shown me the value of having a loving, supportive community.
Because of the lessons, values and experiences that I’ve gained from attending camp, I chose to become involved in my NFTY region and local youth group. NFTY has become an integral part of my life and I can’t imagine my high school experience without it. It has given me leadership experience and connected me with an even bigger community of young Jews. I am beginning grasp the true value in Jewish education, regardless of how formal or informal the “lessons” are.
Camp has been the best decision that I’ve ever made, and the best gift I could ever receive from my parents. From attending camp, I’ve made the second best decision and received the second best gift from my parents: the opportunity to study and live in Israel on EIE. I’m just entering my third month of the semester and have already felt myself growing immensely as a person. I learned about this program from a guest speaker (at camp) at when I was going into the 7th grade. I can honestly say that not one day has gone by without camp crossing my mind in one way or another, and since that summer, going to Israel has been included in those thoughts. When discussing the prospect of attending the program, the same thought was raised as before: “But Carly, you won’t know anyone!” and once again, my answer: “That’s ok, I’ll make friends!”
I wouldn’t be where I am without attending Goldman Union Camp Institute. I wouldn’t be the Jew, friend, student, or role model that I am without attending Goldman Union Camp Institute. I would definitely not be in Israel, and I venture to even go as far to say that would barely be the person I am today without attending Goldman Union Camp Institute.