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February 14, 2019

Saving the Jewish People

Written By: Camp Judaea

Saving the Jewish People

I once asked my dear best friend Keith Berman (z”l) why both he and I chose to work at Camp Judaea every single summer of our post high-school, young adult years. In pure Keith fashion, he gave me an immediate answer:

“We are saving the Jewish people!”

Seemed quite a bit exaggerated to me at the time, but it was classic Keith. But I kept thinking about it. Both he and I had been madrichim and merakzim for several years. Keith had gone on to be head counselor (like a rosh merakzim or assistant director). We were there pretty much every summer until each one of us got married. And for me, all this was after having spent every summer from 1979 to 1987 as a camper. I really wanted to know, why did we keep coming back?

I’ll get back to Keith’s answer, but for most of us one the main reasons we kept going back was simply that it was fun. We worked hard, slept little, but it was simply a lot of fun. It was Jewish fun, it was Zionist fun. We spent hours and hours planning peulot eda for our kids that would teach them a little something about Israel and being Jewish. We went crazy planning creative special days to immerse the kids in a specific topic for an entire day (Who remembers Yom Ethiopia?). We wrote plays, turning popular songs, movies and plays into our versions of their Jewish equivalents. We planned Bikkurim and competitions around Jewish and Israel-related themes. We sang Israeli songs from the heart and we yelled Hebrew cheers as loud as we could. And we did lots of other wacky stuff, like figuring out what popular Israeli/Hebrew songs that we sang every week would sound like in English (HERE, I was born, HERE, my children were born, to me!)

And, we also knew we were doing something deeply meaningful. We knew we were giving the campers a Jewish experience they would not get anywhere else. We knew we were strengthening the campers’ Jewish identities and love of Israel. And that they would take all of this back home to share with their families, friends and Jewish communities. And that they would come back the following year for more.

To be clear, working at CJ is more than fun. It is fun focused on a people and a country we all loved deeply. It is fun focused on creating for all of us a world in which it is easy, desirable, safe – and fun – to be a Zionist Jew.
And this brings me back to Keith’s answer to my question. Yes, that’s exactly what we do when we come back to CJ as staff members. Have no doubt, we each are playing our part in saving the Jewish people. We may not think about it in such dramatic terms as were typical of Keith, but CJ staff is indeed saving the Jewish people.

Being a staff member at CJ – in any role, counselor, specialist, madrich/a, merakez/et – is still fun and is still meaningful. Camp Judaea is as strong today as it has ever been. There are beautiful new cabins, a new chadar ochel, and soon a new Art building. The pool has been completely fixed up, and you can actually swim in the lake now. And the old stuff is still there too. The Beit Ha’Am, the Beit Knesset, the stuccos, Friday night staff basketball, trips to Sliding rock, Chimney Rock, Carowinds, and of course, Tarheel Lanes. But we must make sure that we still have the people with the passion and strength to advance CJ’s mission.

If you are a Jewish college student or young adult looking to do something meaningful – AND FUN – this summer (or the parent of one) I hope you will consider working at Camp Judaea. I hope you will consider having an unforgettable experience, working aside old friends and making new ones. I hope you will join us as we save the Jewish people!

For more information contact me at danny@campjudaea.org.

Danny Tuchman

Education Director

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