Ruben’s Corner – Camp is Life: Reflections from Kutz Camp

Dear URJ Camp Newman Community,

How do we strengthen an already vibrant progressive Jewish life around the world?

How do we engage more children, teens, young and old adults on the journey?

How do we continue to celebrate, support and be with Israel?

This is a glimpse of what we discussed this past week, at a gathering of Jewish professionals from North America and Israel. I was blessed to be with colleagues at our national leadership academy, URJ Kutz Camp, in New York, as we contemplated and wrestled with some of the great opportunities of our time. At the core of our conversations was the role that Jewish camp plays and for our part of the planet, Camp Newman.

Fall has come to URJ Camp Newman, our year-round community and retreat center that is “home” to generations of children, teens, young and old adults.  The leaves are changing and we are planning ahead for Fall, Winter, Spring and future summers.  It’s a perfect time of year to reflect on the beauty and purpose of Camp.

The mission of URJ Camp Newman is to inspire a love of Judaism. We do this by creating a joyful and loving community, fostering deep friendships, teaching life skills, revealing and celebrating our best selves and living Jewish 24/7.

One of our camp’s guiding principles is “Betzelem Elohim”, that we are all created in a divine image and our divine gifts help shape our world. We seek to bring forth and celebrate the unique gifts of every child and staff member. By treating each other with “Gimilut Chasadim”, acts of loving kindness, we create an environment where children are free to express their true selves.  The American Camping Association, as well as other institutions, has found that resident camping is one of the most effective ways to boost children’s self-esteem.  I can recall countless times over my career hearing children, staff and parents say, “I am at my best when I am at camp and these values have shaped my life.”

The Jewish holidays that filled our recent months reflect beautifully Camp Newman’s rhythm and purpose. The high holy-days mirrored our process of reflection about our blessings and what we can do better. And our recent celebrations of Sukkot and Simcha Torah symbolized Camp as a journey through life (wilderness), Torah and the joy of being Jewish.

Our kids say it best – “I love being Jewish!”

Thank you for being such a blessed part of our Camp Newman Family.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ruben

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