Summer Spotlight 2016: Creating Community During the Summer, For Life

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. The first installment is: Creating Community During the Summer, For Life.


Creating Community During the Summer, For Life


Opening Day Can-Can


Participants of URJ camps and summer programs belong to several different communities. They belong to their congregations, to their camp or program communities, to their families, and to all of the other communities that fill their lives during the 10 months leading up to summer. Take a look to see how participants of URJ camps and summer programs are creating a kehillah kedoshah (holy community) everywhere they go.


Building a summer community


“It is our mission to create a kehilla kedoshah by empowering every member of our community to remember the Joy, and also those moments when other emotions takes over, as we develop into more resilient and intentional individuals.” 

– Avra Bossov, URJ Kutz Camp Social Action Major Teacher


Each summer, participants of URJ camps and summer programs have the responsibility to create a community of which they are proud to be a part. This summer, the inaugural campers at URJ 6 Points Sports Academy California have the unique opportunity to set the tone of their camp community for years to come.

URJ 6 Points Sports Academy California campers and staff at the camp's first ever opening day.

URJ 6 Points Sports Academy California campers and staff at the camp’s first ever opening day.

Many things come together to make URJ summer communities so special. The URJ Crane Lake Camp Limud Director reflects on how Jewish values help to create a strong camp community. Language also plays an important role at camp, so URJ Camp Coleman compiled an official camp glossary to keep the friends and families of camp connected and in the know.

Our summer communities are always ready to welcome new people with open arms. A NFTY in Israel staff member reflects on how close her group became over the course of the summer, and how excited they were to welcome Israelis into their community during their last week together.

The warmth felt within URJ summer programs keeps people coming back year after year, and according to one first-year counselor at URJ Jacobs Camp, it was that same warmth that made her feel at home at camp from her very first day.

“We are a community not only because of the time we spend together, but because of the way we make each other feel while doing so.”

Anna Hirsch, URJ Kutz Camp participant


The summer community spans far and wide

Parents met at camp

URJ Camp Newman CIT with his parents had who met at camp.

Participants and staff members alike are able to apply the lessons they learn over the summer to the other communities in their lives. One URJ GUCI alum asserts that everything in life they need to know, they learned during their first year at camp. A former URJ Camp Harlam counselor discusses how working as a counselor helped him succeed in his job.

The relationships made at camp or on a summer program are not confined to a person’s assigned group or grade in school. One of URJ Jacobs Camp’s oldest campers reflects on how an old camp buddy is still a mentor for him as he transitions from camper to counselor.

Even if a member of the URJ community stops attending a camp or summer program every year, they will always be a familiar and comfortable home. One URJ Camp Harlam staff member reflects on the east with which she returned to camp after 20 years away.

Camp traditions from over 30 years ago are still recognizable in today’s camp community. URJ OSRUI brings us back in time to a Shabbat Shira in 1984. These traditions strengthen the bonds of particiapnts, and remind them that wherever they go, they are part of our community.

Parents were campers

URJ GUCI campers whose parents were campers, too.


Read all 4 Spotlights >