By: Chase Foster, Director of Youth Activities at Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick, NJ.
Shabbat at camp has always been a special time for me. Since my first days at a URJ camp over 15 years ago, Shabbat is defined with song, ruach, prayer, swimming, sports, and relaxation. Simply put, Shabbat is the greatest time to be at camp!
These past 24 hours at Kutz have been refreshing. I was able to see teens from my congregation who are campers or staff, pray in a community that sings beautifully and takes t’fillah to heart, see friends and colleagues, learn Torah, play softball, reconnect with a current staff member who was a camper of mine five years ago, have a triple-berry smoothie (or two), speak a little Hebrew, swim, learn a new Shabbat tune and, most importantly, live Shabbat.
As a congregational youth director, I am blessed to have so many teens who are engaged with their Judaism and seek opportunities to deepen this connection. At Kutz, my teens are able to explore their creativity in many settings, meet teens/staff from around the world, learn skills in their majors and minors that allow them to grow as young Jewish adults, help others as staff members, and strengthen their Jewish identities through self discovery in a safe and caring Jewish community.
The people and atmosphere of Kutz are the epitome of what I strive to do daily in my work. The culture is one that allows every teen the safe opportunity to learn about who they are and who they want to be. At Kutz, being different isn’t just allowed, it is required. At Kutz, failure is not just okay, it is a chance to learn and grow. At Kutz, learning isn’t a necessary evil, it is a beloved part of the summer experience. At Kutz, Reform Jewish living and learning is the way of life.