Area high school and college students share how they spent their ‘Jewish Summers.’

September 4, 2016

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Hannah Cooper
Birthright Israel

Rafting down the Jordan River. Hiking up Masada. Floating in the Dead Sea. Praying at the Western Wall. Riding a camel.

This summer I had the privilege to travel to Israel through Taglit Birthright, an organization that provides thousands of trips to Israel for young Jewish adults. it was an incredible opportunity to travel all over the country, as we worked our way from the Northern Border, to the old city of Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, a desert trip to the Negev, and ending our trip in Israel’s modern city of Tel Aviv.

Between all of our activities and hikes, we also had the chance to learn about Jewish mysticism, discuss the political situation in the Middle East and celebrate Shabbat in Jerusalem.

In the middle of the trip, we were joined by seven young Israelis who became part of our group. They helped us understand everyday life in Israel and what it is like to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces, as they shared their experiences and stories.

It was the trip of a lifetime and one of the most amazing traveling experiences I’ve had so far. I cannot wait to return to the lovely country of Israel.

 

Deni Budman
North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY)
Communications Vice President
Kutz Camp, Warwick, New York

On a perfect June evening at my favorite place at Kutz Camp, the Teyatron (a covered outdoor space that overlooks and overhangs a lake), in a ceremony interwoven with Havdalah, i was installed as communications vice president for the North American board of NFTY. Surrounded by leaders of the Union for Reform Judaism, rabbis, NFTY regional board members from across the nation, as well as family and friends, the event was emotional, spiritual, serious, and at times, humorous.

The next five weeks were spent planning for the upcoming year—including our travel schedule—with the board and our advisors, as well as developing and leading programs and services for first the regional board members and then, one week later, the campers at Kutz.

My time at Kutz was exhausting, and yet exhilarating—probably a prediction of the year to come—and i’m really looking forward to it!

 

Julia Laibstain
Social Action Programmer, Capital Camps

This summer I had the opportunity to spend yet another eight weeks at a place that has been my second home for the past 10 years. At Capital Camps in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, I served as the Jewish and Social Action Programmer, a position which allowed me to grow professionally.

As a rising senior in college, I experienced a lot of social pressure to find an internship after my junior year. In my role at Capital Camps, I worked with many partner organizations such as Educating for Excellence—an integrated Arab and Jewish education center in Israel, IsraelStory—an Israeli podcast organization, Mazon—the Jewish response to hunger—and many others. I was able draw upon my studies of Nonprofit Management and Jewish Studies and apply those skills in a place that means so much to me.

 

Grant Campion
BBYO’s International Leadership
Seminar in Israel

This past July, I visited Israel for three weeks with my youth group, B’nai Brith Youth Organization, more commonly known as “BBYO.” The trip is called BBYO’s international Leadership Seminar in Israel.

During these three weeks we traveled to eight cities, saw Israel’s borders, swam in the Dead Sea, visited the Golan, prayed at the Kotel, and saw and did so much more. I gained a wealth of knowledge and information during these many unique experiences, as if Israel was a classroom in itself.

One day during the trip, i stumbled upon an elderly woman, Herta Goldman, struggling to order her drink in the hotel lobby, and in return for my helping her, she decided to tell me a story. This story, which would take her more than four hours to tell, was the story of her survival of the Holocaust. I wrote the following shortly after talking with her:

“Today I had the amazing experience of speaking with Herta Goldman, an 88-year old Holocaust survivor. We discussed the eight days she went without food and water after escaping from Auschwitz, her learning upon returning to her home in Poland that most of her family died, and most important, her successful acclimation to life in Israel after the Holocaust. Hearing her stories of perseverance in the face of catastrophe reassure us that we can find hope and peace in the midst of any tragedy, something extremely relevant in today’s world.”

I spent another three days at the same hotel as Herta, and I met with her in the hotel lobby at the same time each night to talk about whatever came to our minds. Although it was only she and I on the first night, by the fourth night together, we had gathered a crowd of more than 40 kids who wanted to meet her, tell her their own stories, or simply listen to the wisdom she was imparting.

When it came time to leave, Herta and I exchanged our goodbyes, and she began to cry. She said to me “You are my children, you are all my children, I lost everyone I loved, but now I have you and your friends. it is your duty to carry on my word and to live in our homeland and ensure that it is ours forever. Thank you for taking the time to make an old woman very happy, I wish you and your loved ones the best in life.”

Never again. Never forget.

Letter to the Editor