By Anna Blumenfeld & Abram Orlansky
Anna Blumenfeld served as Assistant Camp Director from 2000-2003. Abram Orlansky served as Assistant Camp Director from 2005-2009. Both grew up at Jacobs, served in a range of staff roles, and continue to be actively involved.
The two of us are in a lifelong struggle: having already completed the “Greatest Job Ever” (a.k.a. Jacobs Camp Assistant Director), we now move forward seeking ways to bring a little of the joy that comes with that position into our lives outside Utica. Anna continues her work with the URJ in New York, while Abram & his wife Hannah will soon move home to Jackson after three years in the North—with nothing to show for it but a law degree and (God willing) a new baby to be born this spring!
The impending arrival of this soon-to-be-camper (Olim 2019; for the record, his daddy was Olim 1991!) got us both thinking about the future of Jacobs Camp and who baby O’s camp friends will be.
Both of us look back on our HSJ days with the utmost fondness, and most of that magic comes from the fact that even today many – if not most – of our very best friends are those with whom we shared our Camp experiences. With whom will our kids be buds? Where will they be invited for bar & bat mitzvahs?
Demographics being what they are, it’s clear the old notion of all Jacobs kids coming from the Jacobs region is not going to last. Yes, many of the Camp’s kids of the future will continue to come from our official catchment area – Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Western Tennessee & the Florida Panhandle. But, in order for our children and our children’s children to have a healthy and stable institution to continue to enjoy, there will also have to be campers from elsewhere.
Many Jacobs alumni have moved away from the Deep South. Some are in places as close as Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, Houston & Nashville; others are in places as far away as New York & Boston to the east, Chicago & Minneapolis to the north, and Los Angeles, San Francisco & Seattle to the west. To our Jacobs contemporaries in those far-flung locales, we have one request: send your kids home to Utica in the summers.
We know it’s far away. We know there are may be many Jewish camps between where you live and Mississippi. Who cares! Fly over them!
Think back to your time at Jacobs and try to honestly say you believe there’s any place like it on earth. We have both had the opportunity to experience several other Jewish camp experiences, and each has been special in its own way. But there’s no place like home. A Jacobs experience is uniquely Southern and uniquely intimate. It is uniquely built around family—not just any family, but your child’s family. This is your place, and your children deserve for it to be their place as well.
Since neither of us has a child of our own yet (though for Abram those days are numbered), we can’t tell you how hard it will or won’t be to drop off or send a child to Utica and then spend your summer far, far away. But we can make a suggestion: start preparing yourself during the toddler years! Dig deep and rediscover the courage you found in yourself the first time you climbed the Tower, or the first time you tried a new food at Camp, or the first time you took on the awesome responsibility of being a counselor for a cabin full of other people’s kids. Because distance is no object—a school year in New York need not deprive your kids of a summer in Utica, the most perfect season in the most perfect place on earth.
There are many reasons to send your kids to Jacobs: To keep them connected to their Southern roots; to have shared camp memories with your children; to make sure your kids are exposed to others who can’t take their Judaism for granted because of where they live (which may be your situation living somewhere other than the South now); and more.
We will always cherish what Jacobs has given to us. Perhaps, then, the best, and most important reason, is that Jacobs needs all of our support in return, and a great way to show it is by having your children be Jacobs campers.