Women of Reform Judaism: Shaping the Culture of Kutz and NFTY

By Melissa Frey, Director of URJ Kutz Camp and Associate Director of NFTY

Originally posted on the Kutz Camp blog.

It was just a year ago when I had the opportunity to be part of the listening campaign of the Campaign for Youth Engagement with WRJ District Presidents during their annual retreat to Kutz Camp. Last year these women shared their unique and powerful stories about a time when an interaction with a young person influenced their lives. While there were many remarkable stories that were shared, there is one that still resonates with me on so many levels.

“As a public school teacher most of my career, it was very common for me to spend time with teens. One of the most poignant interactions I remember was a teen asking me if I actually thought that my work mattered. I responded that I knew that it did, because she was willing to ask the question. That young woman grew up and is now a teacher herself.”

WRJ at Kutz 2012

WRJ District Presidents at Kutz

A year later, WRJ District Presidents just concluded their annual pilgrimage to Kutz, having planned, programmed, and dreamed about their goals. As the WRJ readies to celebrate their 100th anniversary, I am reminded of their countless gifts that have helped to influence the youth of our Movement. During a walking tour of camp yesterday, I was able to highlight the direct and indirect ways the work of WRJ has permeated our culture in NFTY and at Kutz, including how our shared values influence camp culture, how Jewish learning and expression is brought to life in new ways through texts like the Women’s Commentary and the Covenant series, and the expansion of our digital media studio, which was seeded by a generous grant from the YES Fund.

While on that tour, we spoke about the listening campaign last year. Some of the women recounted their stories, and stories they heard that impacted them. As we gathered lakeside to take a photo under a perfectly blue sky, it was perhaps articulated most profoundly by WRJ president Lynn Lazar and executive director Rabbi Marla Feldman, “this just feels so right, this is why we do what we do.”

To all of the women who have trail blazed the path of WRJ, whose work has so influenced my passions, of NFTY and Kutz Camp, I wholeheartedly agree. For all of us, this is why we do what we do – because in our souls we know it to be right. As WRJ celebrates 100 years of shaping the lives of Reform Jewish Women, and as we prepare for, in two years, NFTY’s 75th anniversary, and in three years, Kutz Camp’s 50th anniversary, we look forward to many celebrations, supporting one another and lifting each other up in our holy work.

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