A Day at URJ Kutz Camp



“Bo…Bo…boker tov…Bo…Bo…boker tov to Sarah! Bo…Bo…boker tov…Bo..Bo…boker tov to Dave!” And the cheer circulated around the room from one kid to another for five minutes. What did it accomplish? The fun-filled cheer gathered community into one whole. It gained momentum and volume as it progressed. It built connections and smiles. It caught attention. It worked!

My Thursday morning initiation into Kutz Camp life began with this cheer and moved smoothly into morning services. The kids were ready for worship.

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Voices of WRJ: Parashat R’eih



by Linda Ferguson

Parashat R’eih begins with “see” and not with “sh’ma”—”listen”—as one would expect when they are about to hear a powerful challenge from God to the Israelite people: “See this day I set before you blessing and curse: blessing if you obey the commandments…and curse if you do not obey the commandments… (Deuteronomy 11:26-28).” From that point, the parashah begins the longest section of Deuteronomy and one of the longest in the Torah, with the laws and general principles for the people to live by in the new land.

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Voices of WRJ: Parashat Eikev



“And if you do obey these rules and observe them carefully, your G-d will maintain faithfully for you the covenant made on oath with your fathers (Deuteronomy 7:12, The Torah: A Women’s Commentary).” So begins this week’s Torah portion, Eikev. These seem like pretty straightforward directions, right? However, on closer reflection, perhaps they’re not so simple after all. In our modern society, we often choose to not to follow all of the commandments and, in fact, can’t follow all of the original ones handed down at Sinai.

My husband and I were married in the Reform congregation in which he grew up in Alexandria, VA and made a commitment at that time to have a Jewish household and pass Judaism on to any future generations. Not being Jewish by birth nor feeling particularly religious, I did not convert at that time. It was while helping our oldest son, Nate, study this parashah, Eikev, in preparation to become a bar mitzvah that I decided to become a Jew-by-choice. I already had a lot of friends in the sisterhood of our northern California congregation who had embraced me and made me feel welcome in the temple. They played a huge role in my decision to become a full member of the Jewish family.

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The 6 Points Sci-Tech Girls



This week, the WRJ Blog is featuring a series of articles on the newest URJ Camp: URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy. In particular, we are focusing on WRJ’s involvement in increasing the presence of girls at the camp and, by extension, supporting women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

They love science, they love music, they think URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy is amazing! Of the more than 40 campers at the Governor’s Academy campus north of Boston for this second session at Sci-Tech, seven are girls. They have no issue being in the minority and are really enjoying their majors as well as the chugim (electives) that the camp offers. They are proud to be “girls who love science.”

The girls chatted easily and with great delight about their Sci-Tech experience that combines Judaism, science, and technology. They belong to congregations; their ages range from 12-14; they had celebrated Bat Mitzvahs or would soon; and some had attended other camps, both URJ  and secular, but never a science-oriented, specialty camp. The girls hailed from Florida, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.

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A Camp Like None Other



This week, the WRJ Blog is featuring a series of articles on the newest URJ Camp: URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy. In particular, we are focusing on WRJ’s involvement in increasing the presence of girls at the camp and, by extension, supporting women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Anyone who has been to a URJ camp on Shabbat knows that it is a very special moment. The youth don their Shabbat whites, gather together for inspiring words by their camp leaders, and are ushered into the dining hall with guitar-playing songleaders leading Kabbalat Shabbat melodies. The highlight of my summer was spending such a Shabbat at URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy, the newest of our 14 URJ summer camps.

Sci-Tech is a camp like none other. In addition to the typical activities, song sessions, and Jewish experiences that are enjoyed at all of our camps, this summer program is designed for youth with a particular interest in science and technology. The kids who attend are more likely to watch “The Big Bang Theory” on TV and play Minecraft than play sports. At home, they are more likely to join the math or robotics club than the soccer team or youth group. At this camp, instead of making lanyards or having color wars, they find themselves creating a video game, building a robot, editing a horror film, or blowing things up–and that suits them just fine.

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Jewish Women Innovators: The Next Generation



by Sam Kazer

This week, the WRJ Blog is featuring a series of articles on the newest URJ Camp: URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy. In particular, we are focusing on WRJ’s involvement in increasing the presence of girls at the camp and, by extension, supporting women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Our girls’ dorm, Rosie, is named after Rosalind Franklin, a biologist whose critical work with X-Ray Diffraction led to the understanding of the double helix structure of DNA. By choosing this name for the dorm, we hope to inspire our campers to shoot for the stars as empowered women, scientists and innovators. Yesterday, I sat down with two exuberant campers from Rosie, Hannah and Mia, who received YES grants to attend Sci-Tech from WRJ.

05editFor Hannah and Mia, science and technology is their bread and butter. Besides technology being the “best way to communicate with [her] friends,” Mia has a distinct passion for robotics. In middle school, Mia won the science fair with another girl by making a robot  that blew bubbles. Although she “doesn’t always like the programming,” she is invested in exploring robotics because “Robots can (or will) do things like save people from earthquakes and natural disasters.” Hannah has split passions; she triumphantly explained that “as a future director and biologist, [she has] always liked animals and [she has] always been in love with taking picture because [she has] thought of pictures as memories.” Like Mia, Hannah finds that “making videos is a social experience” and that digital media allows her to “think outside of the box” and spur “conversations about art.”

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Of Pipettes & Spiders: Women in Science



by Samantha Wette

This week, the WRJ Blog is featuring a series of articles on the newest URJ Camp: URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy. In particular, we are focusing on WRJ’s involvement in increasing the presence of girls at the camp and, by extension, supporting women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Did you know that the daddy longlegs is not a spider? It is actually an arachnid and possesses spider-like qualities, but the daddy longlegs truly belongs to a different order entirely, and it doesn’t even produce silk!

I have always been fascinated by the world around me, and I grew up in a loving home where sakranut (curiosity)was encouraged. For as long as I can remember I have been investigating the flora and fauna on my street and mixing “potions” together to see what would happen.

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Voices of WRJ: Parashat Va-et’chanan



This week, Parashat Va-et’chanan (Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11) gives us the foundation for living a Jewish life by presenting text and images that remain the nucleus for our Judaism to this very day. It begins with Moses asking our ancestors to reflect on their past experiences and learn from them. Moses stresses to his people and their leaders the importance of keeping God’s commandments when they enter the Promised Land. The Ten Commandments, the Sh’ma, and the V’ahavta—the center of the Jewish proclamation of faith—are included in this text.

Playing the role of teacher, Moses reminds our ancestors of the great things God has done for them in the past and that they, as well as their children and grandchildren, are responsible for continuing to obey God’s laws. Education and the responsibility of women to raise and educate the next generation in ancient Israel are emphasized in this Torah portion. Read more…

Living Near a War Zone



by Rabbi Ayala R. Samuels

Several friends and family members have sent emails with words of support and empathy, and have asked about my thoughts and experiences during this time of war.

It is hard for me to reflect upon my reality in a coherent and insightful manner. It is even more difficult to be optimistic and confident in sending out a certain message about what we can do in order to bring about a better reality. Lately, I am less positive that bringing peace is in our hands, that it is mostly an Israeli challenge.

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Voices of WRJ: Parashat D’varim



by Laurel Fisher

The bush is aflame, I hear the call

Like Moses, I hesitate

But through the journey, I find my voice

Yes, I am a leader

As this week’s Torah portion opens, I am struck by the power of words to develop and define a leader. Before we dive into D’varim (Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22), let’s first reflect back on Moses’ early conversations with God.

While out tending his flock in Midian, Moses comes across a bush burning unconsumed and he is given the instructions to return to Egypt and confront Pharaoh. Like many of us, Moses questions his ability to lead, partially out of modesty and partially out of fear of how he will be received and whether he will be successful. He has many concerns, most of which center around the ability to communicate: Why me? What should I say? What if they don’t listen to me? Moses’ final objection is voiced in Exodus 4:10: “Please, O Lord, I have never been a man of words, either in times past or now… I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” Read more…