Blog  How Summer Camp Cultivates Jewish Identity

How Summer Camp Cultivates Jewish Identity

By Mitch Toher, URJ GUCI Counselor

Children connect with the world around them in ways that vastly differ from adults. They find extraordinary value in what others have grown accustomed to, see beauty in what others now gloss over, and relate to what others no longer pay attention to. At summer camp, kids have the opportunity to have this unique ability nurtured to cater for the blossoming Jewish Identity that accompanies growing up.

My name is Mitch Toher and this is my first summer on staff at GUCI after 9 summers here. Last year I was in Avodah and this year I am a Garin counselor in Cabin 11. I started coming to camp in 1st year Shoresh at the age of eight while my family was living abroad in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Jewish community in the entire country is smaller than many medium-large sized temples here in the Midwest and this disconnect caused a potentially stunting environment for me and my siblings growing up. This prompted my family to send us to the camp my mother went to when she was younger and this was the first step in my realization of love for Judaism.

GUCI is known for the warm and welcoming community that it is home to, and this has been essential for how I have connected with other Jews here. The lifelong friends I made, the songs and practices of prayer and the innate sense of pride to be Jewish that GUCI instills, is what makes the spiritual aspect of camp so irreplaceably valuable and magical. When my life at home couldn’t provide the exposure to my religion that I wanted, this camp provided the connection that led to the ultimate cultivation of my Jewish Identity.