Posted on September 18th, 2016

Reflections on Time at Kutz

I am considered to be a good friend.

When a colleague or friend calls me and requests that I do her/him a favor, if it is in my power, I usually say, “yes.” After all, to paraphrase part of a famous Pirkei Avot text, “If I am only for myself, what kind of human am I?” We exist within our relationships; to me, being a good friend is paramount. So, when ARJE President and my friend and classmate, Rabbi Laura Novak Winer called me last February, and asked me to serve on faculty of URJ Kutz Camp for a week, I said “yes.”

She explained that the ARJE has been working with the URJ Youth Division to create a programmatic tract in madrichim-training at Kutz. The program was introduced at NFTY convention 2015, and reinforced over last summer. After taking part in a phone conference call to hear what had been done, and what could be accomplished, I started my planning.

I have been serving on the faculty at URJ Crane Lake since 2001, and have spent some time at camp for most of my life. However, outside of songleading NFTY regional or congregational events in my youth, I had never spent any summer months at Kutz Camp. But what intrigued me most about this opportunity was the partnership between Kutz and the ARJE. I’m proud of our professional organization that has the foresight to create programs like this, and the ARJE/HUC-JIR Externs, to introduce constituents to us and the work that we do.

Setting aside some administrative glitches, I had a wonderful time at Kutz, teaching 7 self-selected teens in my Learning Lab. Where all of them have been madrichim in their schools, they soaked up the texts, case studies, role plays, articles and videos that I shared. Conversation flowed like a fountain. Among the topics we covered, were: being a role model, leadership, Kavod, student motivation and feedback.

So, thanks, Laura, for the invitation. Thanks to my work place, Community Synagogue of Rye, to permitting me to serve, and thanks again to the ARJE, for setting the mark for innovative partnerships!

Richard Abrams is the Director of Jewish Family Life at Community Synagogue of Rye, New York.