On Friday, October 19th, Temple Sinai in New Orleans honored longtime Lay leader and Educator, Ann Kientz, during the annual Jacobs Camp Shabbat. These are her words to the community.
Have you ever doodled a circle and had that satisfying feeling of completion when the end reaches the beginning and you lift your pencil to find that the free hand circle you just drew is nearly perfect? That is exactly what Jacobs Camp Shabbat at Temple Sinai the last few years has felt like to me.
Every Jew has a story of their own Jewish journey and I am no exception.
I am a practicing Jew because of the community of Temple Sinai from my own Consecration, Jewish education, Volunteering, Teaching, Lay Leadership roles and the last 5 years as our Educator.
I am practicing Jew because of the example set for me by my parents and family. We celebrated the holidays and Shabbat in our home and at the synagogue. And I followed in my mother’s practice, leadership, and study footsteps with continuous adult learning and attending conferences to extend my knowledge and of course with every question answered, I then had 2 more… and so it goes.
I am a practicing Jew because Rabbi’s like Murray Blackman, of blessed memory, and Steve Fisch noticed that I was interested in Judaism as a kid and they made sure that I had time with them to learn. And of course over 30 years, Ed Cohn answered 47, 695 of my questions and Matt Reimer has answered quite a few recently himself.
I am a practicing Jew because of the wonderful opportunities I have had in the New Orleans community through Federation’s Partnership 2000 now called Partnership 2Gether. And my work the last 10 years with Limmud NOLA has expanded my Jewish community to every walk of life in this amazing city.
I am a practicing Jew because of the work I have done in the past and now have the privilege of doing again with the Institute of Southern Jewish Life which expands my Jewish contact, commitment and dedication professionally and personally over the entire 13 state southern region.
With the exception of course of my family and early Temple Sinai life, all of this has been made possible because of the fire that was lit in me at the URJ Henry S. Jacobs Camp. And that was made possible by the pied piper of the south known as Macy B. Hart who dreamed this camp and then found the money, built it and then somehow convinced parents (including mine) in the early 70’s to send their kids to Utica, MS for a month in the summer to enrich their Jewish lives. Can you imagine what that sales pitch must have sounded like back then? I have had countless numbers of conversations with parents over the years about sending their kids to Jacobs camp, almost all of them with parents who had never been Jacobs campers themselves, BUT they know other parents who send their kids, they have seen the results, they have heard their own rabbi and cantor extol the virtues and send their own kids, so my work by comparison has been a breeze.
And now we are blessed to have Anna Herman as the camp director who took a very good camp and made it so great that by the end of September each year, 2nd session is virtually full for the next year! And we are blessed to have Charlie Cox here in New Orleans working all year long to continue connecting our kids to camp, and NFTY southern.
Back to that circle… one of the things that has inspired me the most over the last 5 years is to see in person for a Shabbat during 1st session and a week during 2nd session as the end of the circle connects to the beginning. As I watch our Temple Sinai campers new and not so new have the same joyful experience that I had years ago and remember those first conversations with their parents about why they should send their kids to Utica, MS, to Jacobs Camp. I feel like I am honoring Macy, my parents, my little 10-year-old self, as a wide eyed, open hearted camper, my Temple Sinai, my camp friends and the Jewish future every time I have one of those conversations.
Jacobs Camp is where our next generations of Rabbis, Cantors, Educators, Lay Leaders and Jewish parents are most often lit on fire themselves. Jacobs Camp was a huge part of my own foundation and the foundation of thousands of others. Next year Jacobs Camp will be 50 years old and will celebrate this wonderful birthday and legacy in New Orleans.
Mazal Tov to us all for supporting and celebrating Jacobs Camp in our community!