By Jeffrey Kagan
I came through the Kutz Camp gates for the first time in 1983, a tentative teen in search of so many things. That was the first of four straight summers spent in various roles. During that time, I learned a lot about leadership, Judaism and myself. For no good reason, I spent almost two decades away, finally returning in 2004 to serve on faculty.
I was struck by the timelessness—lots had changed in the intervening years, but the critical dynamics remained the same. And, of course, the impact hadn’t varied one bit. Teens still come to camp—all these years later—trying to find themselves, to identify a Judaism relevant to them or even to discover the leader lurking beneath the surface.
I have spent six or seven summers on faculty here, falling in love all over again with this place and the magic it creates. I’m going home after an amazing week on faculty, having impacted dozens and dozens of teens from communities across the country. It’s an incredibly diverse collection of young leaders, and yet, I suspect many will have undergone a startlingly positive, and similar, metamorphosis during their time here. The same as I experienced, and the same that Reform Jewish teens will continue to experience for the next 50 years, and hopefully more.
If you were part of the Kutz magic over the first 49 years, you understand all too well how one summer (or more) could have a truly transformational effect on a teenager. And how all of those teenagers could have such a profound impact on our movement. I expect the attendees to Kutz @ 50—July 4, 2015—will bring many stories back with them. Those stories will have very different beginnings and even more divergent ends. The middle of the stories, however, will all sound remarkably similar, because of the magic that happened at 46 Bowen Road.
Jeffrey Kagan serves as Vice Chair-Marketing of the Kutz Camp Committee. He has served congregations in Oak Park, IL, and Bloomfield, NJ, for 19 years as a Senior and Junior Youth Group Advisor, the last five with his wife, Amy. Jeffrey and Amy, and their children—Sophie, 4, and Noah, 15 months—live in Westfield, NJ.