Summer Spotlight 2016: Bending the Arc Towards Justice

The summers that youth spend away from home are critical ones in terms of personal development. Kids are not only growing physically, but they spend these years thinking a lot about who they are and their place in the world. According to Miriam Chilton, the Vice President of Youth for the URJ, there are four key questions that young people are trying to answer:

  • Who am I?
  • To whom am I connected?
  • To whom am I responsible?
  • How can I bring about a change in the world?

URJ camps and summer programs are providing resources to help young people answer these questions for themselves. In this year’s Summer Spotlight series, we highlight each of these four main questions and take a look at how they are being addressed during a URJ summer. This is the fourth installment: Bending the Arc Towards Justice.

Bending the Arc Towards Justice


Costa Rica 7-12


URJ camps and summer programs are often guided by Jewish values, from sharing Shabbat dinners to learning Jewish texts to giving tzedakah (charity). URJ summer communities put a certain importance on tzedakah and tikkun olam (repairing the world)  on both a local and global scale. Read on to see how URJ camps and programs are playing their part to make the world a better place. 


Aiding the community

At URJ Crane Lake Camp, a group of campers took a trip to the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York to learn about and aid in the fight to end poverty and hunger. URJ Eisner Camp camper reflected on her experience volunteering at the People’s Pantry in Great Barrington. 

“This firsthand experience was very important because it allowed me to take the lessons that I learn at Eisner and bring them into the real world.” 

-Samantha S., URJ Eisner Olim Camper

Avodah Pride 6-27

URJ Camp Newman Avodah campers at the San Francisco Pride Parade.

Avodah campers at URJ Camp Newman took to the San Francisco streets to celebrate an issue that they are passionate about by marching in the San Francisco Pride Parade.

Participants of URJ Kutz Camp had the unique opportunity to learn from The Miracle Project about how to better provide support to people on the Autism Spectrum. This workshop was directly linked with the Gibush program at Kutz, which is an inclusive camping experience for young people on the Autism spectrum.


Aiding the world

Some participants on NFTY in Israel chose to participate in a 3-day intensive community service experience. During this time, one participant learned that even small acts of kindness can go a long way in making an impact on somebody’s life. Another discovered for the first time that helping others can be enjoyable for everyone involved.

Participants on URJ Mitzvah Corps Civil Rights Journey stood on the steps of Central High School in Little Rock, AR, proclaiming what they stand up for in their communities.

Since 2014, URJ Greene Family Camp has functioned as a refugee shelter for people entering the country. This summer, the camp’s assistant director had the opportunity to bring a group of campers into the community in order to teach them about the importance of welcoming refugees.

The leadership staff at URJ Camp George spent time at the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve volunteering to clean up local fitness trails.

URJ Greene Family Camp is a partner of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. This summer, campers sent letters to the White House, encouraging politicians to pass anti-hunger legislation.

On URJ Mitzvah Corps, teens are traveling across the country and across the world taking on different

social justice issues. In Washington, D.C., participants lobbied on Capital Hill about a number of issues that they are passionate about including, gun violence, climate change, LGBTQA justice, minimum wage, and reproductive rights. A participant on URJ Mitzvah Corps Civil Rights Journey was inspired to take action after he heard the story of a man who spent 30 years on Death Row for a crime that he did not commit.


The community helps out

URJ Eisner Camp lived the camp value of tikkun olam (repairing the world) by hosting a community blood drive. Although campers were not old enough to donate blood, the oldest campers had the opportunity to volunteer at the drive. A blood drive hosted at URJ OSRUI collected enough blood to aid 90 people in need.

Every summer at URJ Crane Lake Camp, the campers take care of four puppies that are then auctioned off to loving homes at the end of the summer. One former camp dog recounts the amazing life he has had since joining his new home.

As part of its 10th anniversary celebration, URJ Camp Kalsman sponsored a back-to-school school supplies drive to which participants of the weekend donated.


Read all 4 Spotlights >