Posted on May 21st, 2016

Camp Inspired Me

The summers I spent at Goldman Union Camp Institute (GUCI) were some of the best in my life – not only because I made some amazing friends who are still my best friends today, but because my camp experiences helped me figure out that I wanted to be a Jewish educator. The summer after I graduated from high school, I returned to GUCI as a first-year counselor. About to head off to college, making decisions about my future weighed heavily on my mind. I loved being a camp counselor even more than I had loved being a camper. Having an impact on kids and their Jewish engagement was so important to me, and I thought to myself, “I wish I could be a camp counselor forever.” Surrounded by role models like my beloved camp director, Rabbi Ron Klotz, and my unit head, then-rabbinic student Phyllis Sommer, I realized that dream wasn’t so farfetched and that a career in Jewish education might be for me.

Six years later, I arrived at HUC’s Rhea Hirsch School of Education and School of Jewish Communal Service ready to pursue a career in Jewish camping or some other type of “informal education” since I had hated Sunday School (who didn’t?). During my three years at HUC, thanks to guidance from mentors like Dr. Michael Zeldin and Marisa Kaiser, RJE, I decided that as a Jewish educator, I had a responsibility to work to improve all models of Jewish education. Today, as I work in congregational education, I am grateful for the inspiration that camp gave me to make our students’ Jewish experiences engaging and fun!

Missy Bell, RJE, is the Program Director of Youth Learning and Engagement at Congregation Emanu-El of the City of New York.