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My daughter, Maya, age 7 ½, is an extremely social and enthusiastic child who loves pretty much everything she tries. So, this year toward the beginning of 1st grade, I decided to show her the promotional video on Jacobs’s website.  I was thinking in the back of my mind that I would just plant the seed of interest, since to me, she was a bit young to go this summer.

However, Maya was immediately drawn to the obstacle courses in the lake and the “messy night” and asked if she could go this summer. I was a little surprised, as she has only slept away from our house a handful of times, but I certainly didn’t want to stifle her desires to go to Jacobs.  So, over the next couple of days, I put on my lawyer hat and did what every parent/attorney does–I cross examined her on the issue. After she fully convinced me that she was indeed ready, I signed her up.

My husband, Dave, keeps asking me, “Are we really going to schlep to the middle of nowhere, Mississippi, all the way from Texas, to take our daughter to sleep away camp? Can’t we send to her one closer to Austin?”  My answer is always, “Yes we are really doing it, and no, no other camp can compare.” Dave is going along with it because he knows how important it is to me, but I know that he can’t truly understand the power of the Jacobs Camp experience.

I grew up in New Orleans, but I didn’t start going to Jacobs until the summer before 8th grade, Talmidim.  Initially, I went to Jacobs because my best friend from New Orleans was a long-time camper there and she convinced me to go, telling me it was her home away from home.  I was skeptical but went along for the ride.

Within the first week, I knew exactly what she had meant. The friendships I formed at Jacobs are some of my longest lasting and strongest friendships to date.  Besides the relationships, Jacobs helped form and then strengthen my Jewish identity, which was not particularly strong at that point in my life. After that first summer, I continued to go back each summer as a camper, then a CIT, then a counselor.

Fast forward 30 years to today.  While both of my children attend a private Jewish School here in Austin, and already have much more of a Jewish identity than I did at their ages, when considering where to send Maya to sleep away camp, there was no other choice than Jacobs.  Although I know I will miss her terribly during the 10 days she is at Jacobs, and I know that it is certainly not particularly convenient to get her there, I also know that she will have the most extraordinary experience and will be hooked.  I truly feel that there is nothing greater I could give to my child than the gift of Jacobs.

Hillery Rappoport Kaplan

Jacobs Camp Mom and Alum