First as a camper and now as a counselor, I've learned so much from my time at URJ Goldman Union Camp Institute, lovingly known as GUCI, a Reform Jewish summer camp in Zionsville, IN. Here are just a few of the things camp has taught me that make me love being here:
1. Finding a huge Jewish community
Back home, some campers have smaller Jewish communities. Attending Jewish summer camp gives us all the opportunity to know, immediately and from the beginning, that we all share the bond of being Jewish.
2. Forging deep and meaningful friendships
At home, it’s all too easy to get caught up in technology, but our summer camp environment doesn’t allow us to go into the worlds of social media, which allows us to create stronger in-person bonds with our camp family.
3. Bonding with clergy
It’s always fun to see the rabbis, cantors, and Jewish educators – who are usually all dressed up in nice clothing in “real life”! – sporting T-shirts and shorts at camp. They really take their time to get to know us at camp, not only as congregants but as people.
3. Dancing at Friday night song session
When the whole camp gets together on Shabbat evening, the energy couldn’t be more intense! It makes me smile to know that so many people get so excited about praying – sometimes without even realizing it.
4. Conquering my fears
As a camper, I was absolutely terrified of heights. Now even though I may not love them, I can still get myself to the top of our 65-foot climbing tower, the Migdal.
5. Learning how to coexist with others
Living in small spaces with others teaches us how to work together and how to communicate when there’s a problem. Talk about gaining useful real-world skills at camp!
6. Enjoying that extra something special
Each summer camp is unique, and that individuality makes each camp endearing and beloved. My camp, for example, is known for its singing, and I love learning to harmonize with friends. It sounds like a professional choir every time our camp comes together!
7. Finding independence from my parents
It’s normal for kids to be attached to their parents, but spending time at sleepaway camp teaches them they don’t need their parents every step of the way, every moment of the day.
8. Learning about myself
As a Jewish teen, I’ve learned so many valuable things about myself and others. One of the most important? I don’t believe I would have the same connection to my religion as I do now if it weren’t for my time at Jewish summer camp!