By, Becky Burlak, a Havurah Madricha (counselor) at TY
When my parents first signed me up for a Russian Jewish summer camp, I was skeptical to say the least. I already had a study abroad program planned and, frankly, I hadn't really done anything extremely Jewish before. There was my Bat Mitzvah at age 12, but that was more of a candle lighting ceremony than a cultural or religious experience. The fact that our family friend was vouching for the camp helped slightly, and the Russian aspect left me marginally more at ease. Nonetheless, I was nervous and had no idea what to expect.
Fast forward 5 years and I can't get enough of Tel Yehudah. That first summer brought me into the Jewish community and I haven't wanted to leave since. Meeting other Russian kids like me who had a minimal Jewish background was eye opening. We learned and explored our identities together, many of us for the first time in our lives. I now strive to keep this momentum going, participating in a Jewish organization at college and constantly recruiting family friends to come to TY. Camp has stuck with m e and I could not be happier.
I'm going to be honest, that first year at TY I was not the best camper. I was tentative about Judaism and even more so about showing enthusiasm for anything. The thing is, that summer still had an effect on me. Camp challenged the way I thought and gave me the opportunity to see things a different way. That indifferent scene kid of the past is now a happy hippie counselor...something must've gone right!