By Lauren Kurtzer
Lauren Kurtzer is a junior at Sycamore High School. She and her family belong to Rockdale Temple. She attends Camp Young Judaea Midwest. Lauren received a Cincy Journeys Overnight Jewish Camping Grant. For more information, visit www.cincyjourneys.org.
Yes, I am that crazy Jewish camp girl. I talk about my camp memories and friends constantly, and I could care less if you have heard it before.
I love my campmates with all my heart and the feeling is mutual. I do not exaggerate when I say Camp Young Judaea Midwest changed my life. Attending CYJ for four years gave me self-confidence I had not seen in myself and I have made lifelong friends. Those friendships stemmed from the fact that we are all Jewish.
Although it seems so long ago, I remember “pre-CYJ me” and how quiet and unsure of herself she was. When I went to camp, I saw a huge change in myself. I made friends quite easily and they all accepted and loved me for the true me. I was extremely comfortable and confident with these truly outstanding people. They did not care how awkward or sports-loving I was; they embraced it and let me show my true colors. I remember my parents noticed that I was physically taller when I came home from camp, but it may have been that I looked taller due to my new confidence.
That confidence pushed me to try out for my school’s dance team—and make it. It gave me the courage to be on my school’s journalism staff, and to be in NFTY (the Reform Jewish Youth Movement) and make friends with ease. Most importantly, it encouraged me to be me, and to speak up for what I believe in.
Simply because everyone in camp is Jewish, we are all connected. Instead of being in the minority at my public school, I was in the majority at camp. We were all the kids without Christmas trees or Easter Bunnies, but with menorahs and matzah. Somehow, those Stars of David bonded us like nothing else could. It made us close, and even though we see each other for only three and a half weeks each year, we are closer with each other than with our school friends. Every year, we pick up where we left off the year before.
I still talk to a majority of my camp friends. They still are my best friends. There is absolutely nothing I am afraid to tell them, and they tell me everything. They impact my life in such a positive way. Words cannot even describe how much they mean to me. While camp has taught me to always be in the moment, I have been counting the days until I go to Israel with Young Judaea this summer, and also, until I get to give back to my camp as a counselor.
Without CYJ, I do not know where my life would be now or where it would be going, but I can’t and don’t want to imagine a world where I did not go to camp. I encourage every potential camper to attend an overnight Jewish camp, just as I did, to find their own home and game changer.