Home » Blog » Kutz Camp @50 Alumni Reflect on “It’s Good to Be Home”

Kutz Camp @50 Alumni Reflect on “It’s Good to Be Home”

Photo by Laurence E. Sacks“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Even as they change.

Throughout two glorious summer days at the URJ Kutz Camp: NFTY’s Campus for Reform Jewish Teens(Warwick, NY), my alumni friends kept repeating, “It’s good to be home. It’s good to be home.”

Our cohort of former program participants and staff from the late 1970s and early 1980s were particularly touched by Kutz Camp’s 50th anniversary gathering. Asked to reflect upon what returning to Kutz meant to them, they tapped their responses into an iPhone passed from person-to-person. Their answers were deeply personal, poignant, and insightful. (Other personal reflections are here and here).

I had to come back and touch this place, to feel that sense of place, belonging, a peace that resides deep within. One more time. I couldn’t not come as much as I tried. Something deeply special lives here. Susan Barnett, New York, NY

Yes, we were home. For so many of us, Kutz Camp was home to our foundational experiences as teenagers: Jewish spiritual growth, intellectual challenge, leadership development, commitment to social justice, and finding emotional balance.

Coming here allowed me to be more comfortable with myself as a person and as a Jew while connecting with people I love. Carol Hamburger, Chicago, IL

Attending Kutz’s 50th anniversary celebration brought many of us back for the first time in almost 30 years. The experience was powerful.

Being here is reinvigorating as we are renewing some friendships that were begun initially over 35 years ago. Seeing participants just like we were oh so many years ago. The names change but nothing else seems to change… Glen Plotsky, Montague, NJ

In truth, Kutz has witnessed incredible changes over its fifty years. In just the last twenty, Kutz has seen new paint on the buildings, rebuilt main building dorms, new Beit Am and arts complex, new Bayit housing complex, a new pool and tennis courts, a climbing tower, and an amazingly visionary director, Melissa Frey.

Yet we have heard that the essence of Kutz – revitalized and repackaged for 21st century Reform Jewish youth – remains whole. So we came back to see for ourselves.

I am nostalgic… It is as if no time has passed. I find myself recalling fond memories of my time here. Sally Stammelman Mandelbaum, Andover, MA

We returned to enjoy the stirring music, the gorgeous sunset, centering Shabbat and abiding holiness. We came for the warmth and the community.

Again I find inspiration. Here I found myself here as a teenager and I hope to pass that spirit on to my son. Bonnie Greenberg Newman, Fairfield, CT

We journeyed back to be with friends and to honor Kutz’s visionary leaders, Smitty (Rabbi Allan Smith) and PJR (Paul J. Reichenbach).

I feel myself reconnecting with people who played such an important role as I started on the journey of becoming who I am. Joshua Goldman-Brown, Piermont, New York

We traversed the country to re-explore how the past remains whole, even as a new, expansive future is being envisioned.

It is amazing to discover that it all comes right back, friends and love and all the good stuff inside. Judy Wertheimer, Pittsburgh, PA

And we came back to reclaim the best part of ourselves, a part that ___ (choose one: 10, 20, 30, 40 or 50) years later still needs attention and retention.

I am remembering a part of me, not just a Jewish part, that I had forgotten about. Tracey Lessen Gersten, San Francisco, CA

The camp’s influence on our lives, and on the course of the American Jewish community, has been profound.

While I’ve always known my involvement in the Reform Movement influenced my life in a profound way, by day two of the Kutz Camp reunion, I was struck with the clarity about how specifically Kutz Camp has affected me. I realized my days at Kutz had helped form me in regard to my ethics, my aspirations, my familial and world views, and even socially, regarding the necessity to surround myself with only genuine friends whenever possible. Dan Levin, Cleveland, OH

Over the past 50 years, Kutz Camp has molded generations of Reform Jews, committed to the highest ideals of prophetic Judaism and spiritual journeying.
That’s heady stuff.

Yes, Kutz is still transforming lives and transforming Judaism. As they say, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Even as they change. And we change.

So what did it really feel like to be at the Kutz Camp once again after so many years?

I am filled with love, joy and warmth. 35 years have passed? So what. I am home. Elisa Mendel, Oakland, CA). 

Kutz alumni: Connect with other alumni on Facebook.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *