“Where I’m From”

by Rhys Ivan

As a senior in high school, I have the opportunity to take a number of elective courses in addition to my core classes. One of these classes is a Contemporary Issues class, focused on educating high school students on discrimination and prejudice in order to form a more tolerant world. However, before we can really start understanding how to treat others, we need to understand ourselves. Therefore, the first part of the class focuses on identity. As part of this exploration, my classmates and I were assigned to write a “Where I’m From” poem, in which we express, in depth, an important part of our identity. While most of my classmates wrote about their hometown, I took a different route. I chose to write about Goldman Union Camp Institute (GUCI), a Reform Jewish summer camp that truly impacted my entire life and changed me as a person. I am 100% certain that GUCI is the reason I am proud to call myself Jewish today, and that is why I wrote this poem.

 

“Where I’m From”

I am from rocky paths and surrounding trees
From wooden cabins with no A/C
From white pickup trucks
From brooms and mops
And the pine-sol scent when the job is done

I’m from acoustic guitars and watching the stars
From the blend of voices ’round the crackling fire

I’m from Danny Nichols, Debbie Friedman, Noam Katz
From counselors wearing crazy hats

I’m from fried chicken, kugel,
And apple pie every Friday night
I’m from Saturday softball and Ultimate Frisbee
From acoustic jams and tattered songbooks
From holding hands and crazy looks

I’m from that GUCI ruach that can rock the Chadar
From the arms around our shoulders
I’m from Judaism– A sense of community
From love, acceptance– singing perfect harmony

I’m from climbing the Migdal and cabin bonding
From those hot, sunny afternoons
I’m from friendship bracelets and s’mores on bunk night
And those insanely crazy mud fights

I’m from song sessions at every meal
From the belief that music heals

I’m from your voice intertwined with mine
From the brown wooden benches and the shade of trees above
From the meaning I find in services every night
From closing my eyes and hearing the songs take flight

My time at GUCI has played an incredible role in shaping me as an individual. I am so glad to have had the countless opportunities camp has given me, and I sincerely hope that I will return to help continue the traditions and give back to the community that made me into the person I am today. I am proud to say that I am forever a GUCI-ite, and I hope to see the strength of Reform Jewish camps like it continue to grow and shape young individuals like me into the confident leaders of the future.

Rhys Ivan lives in the Cleveland, OH, area. He is a GUCI alumnus and is active in NFTY. He hopes to study music therapy in college and go on to attend rabbinical school.

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