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Summer means CAMP!

07/06/2022 04:52:46 PM


Rabbi Kelly Levy

Many of you know that I grew up just down the road in San Antonio. That also means I had the privilege of attending Greene Family Camp each summer as a kid and later, as an adult. This Saturday, I will head back up I-35 to my home away from home for my 17th summer at GFC.

Camp has always been a huge part of my life. It helped shape my Jewish identity, it gave me the confidence to be my honest self, and it inspired me to pursue a life dedicated to Judaism and Jewish community. But what makes camp so special?

As a young Jew in Texas, I was keenly aware of how “different” I was from my fellow peers. While they waited anxiously and excitedly for Santa to visit each December, I came to school smelling like latkes for days. When they prepared for tests and quizzes in the early part of the school year, I was working to obtain that much-needed excused absence so I could attend Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services. When my Girl Scout troop would meet after school each Wednesday, I would leave early to participate in Hebrew school.

The list could go on and on. I felt what made me different every day. I experienced those differences around holidays and on the playground during recess. But when I ventured up to camp for the first time in 1994, I found myself surrounded by others who knew the song “Bim Bom,” who also knew the letters of the Alef Bet, who understood me when I said, “Boker Tov!” More than anything, I didn’t feel different. I was finally with people who knew what it meant to be Jewish, especially when they had very few Jews in school or in their city.

Camp provided me and thousands of others an opportunity to be free and just exist as a Jewish kid in Texas. Of course, we also made lifelong friends, enjoyed a tremendous number of activities, swam every day, learned new songs, created new traditions, and got away from our parents for a few precious weeks. But the joy I felt every time I entered the gates on Smith Lane was because of the immediate acceptance and embrace I received from others for being me.

When I return to camp in just a couple of days, I will take years of great memories, anticipation of an awesome summer, and my oldest daughter. Hopefully, the joy and magic of camp will be instilled within her, just as it was within me. Hopefully, camp will become her home away from home, a special place that helps to shape her Jewish identity, a place she can’t wait to return to each and every summer.

Tue, December 6 2022 12 Kislev 5783