Growing up in Chandler, Arizona, I did not have a lot of other Jewish kids in my school and being Jewish was something that made me different. While I embraced this unique part of my identity, I often felt outside. I missed random days at the beginning of the school year to go to High Holiday services, I could not eat the peperoni pizza school had for lunch, and when we made holiday crafts in art, mine was the only one that did not have Santa Claus on it.
All of that changed when I got on a plane to go to URJ Camp Newman for my first summer as a camper. Suddenly, what once made me different was now the thing I had in common with every person around me. There were hundreds of other people there just like me. We were all Jewish, and suddenly I did not feel so different after all. I felt welcomed, I felt part of the community, I felt at home.
I spent my camper summers falling in love with various camp communities from Camp Newman, to Camp Daisy and Harry Stein (then Camp Charles Pearlstein), to Kutz Camp. Each summer brought a greater understanding of my Jewish identity, a stronger connection to my camp community, and a deeper love for and appreciation of the impact that Reform Jewish camping can have on an individual.
By the time I was 13, I knew I would be spending every summer for the rest of my life at camp.
With aspirations of a camp career in mind, I graduated from Arizona State University with degrees in Nonprofit Leadership & Management and Youth Service Leadership, and then from Hebrew Union College with a degree in Jewish Education for Adolescents and Emerging Adults. During this time, I held nearly every job at camp from Counselor to Program Director. I was also lucky enough to be part of the startup team that opened URJ 6 Points Sports Academy California.
When I moved to Cincinnati with my husband, Austin, in 2016, we quickly fell in love with GUCI through my work as the NFTY Ohio Valley Regional Director. We loved it so much that we got married in the Mercaz Chevrah in 2018 in front of a dedication plaque that quotes “their youth shall see visions”. With my love of Jewish youth work, and Austin’s career as a Rabbi, camp was the perfect place to bring our loved ones to celebrate the start of our next chapter together as a couple, and our commitment to engaging the next generation of Jewish youth. The next summer I was lucky enough to be the Garin Unit Head, where I got to learn alongside our youngest campers about the magic that happens at 9349 Moore Road. That summer taught me what I already knew: I like it here, I love it here, and I finally found my home.
Like many of you, my life revolves around camp. My best friends are from camp. My Jewish identity was built by camp. My closest is filled with shirts from camp. My husband and I met at camp. Everything I talk about somehow comes back to camp. My goal every summer is that anyone who steps foot on camp has the same positive experience my years at camp gave me. That they walk away more confident in themselves, closer to their Judaism, and with memories to last a lifetime.
I am looking forward to singing the Friday Song, climbing the Migdal, eating chicken nuggets, exchanging friendship bracelets, singing along at the Dan Nichols concert, and getting messy on Bunk Night with each of you next summer. We have already begun the planning, visioning, and dreaming of Summer 2021, and it is going to be the best summer yet! I cannot wait to reunite with all of you as Assistant Director #THISYearInZionsville!