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Home » The Impact of Jewish Summer Camp on Southern Teens

Tille Reagler and Zoe Rubenstein, two bright and insightful campers in Chalutzim, recently articulated their thoughts on how HSJ has impacted their identities and relationship to Judaism. We are so grateful they have chosen to share these words with our entire community. Thank you again to Tillie and Zoe for your wisdom and candor. 


Hi! I’m Tillie Reagler and I am a chalutzim camper. I’m from Hot Spings, Arkansas, where there are six Jewish kids. Four of them are me and my siblings, and five of them go to camp. I know without a doubt that all five of us would not have a Jewish identity if it wasn’t for camp. Watching so many wonderful people be such great and involved leaders has helped me become a better Jewish leader outside of camp. 

When I’m home, some people don’t even know what Judaism is, and are very confused by it. At times, people have even been offended by it, and resorted to anti-semetic imagery or language in order to let me know their hatred of Jews. With that said, being a Jew in my community can be challenging, but camp has made me a more active Jew, and given me the motivation to make it a priority to be here every summer. When I have been confronted by anti-semitic situations, I used to try to hide, but camp has given me the confidence in my Judaism to polietly but directly confront this prejudice. 

I have been going to camp for 10 years, and each year I have met more and more new and exciting people. This year, as a chalutzimer, I have gotten to meet the campers from second session. Although the session has just started, I know I’m going to make lifelong memories and friends that I wouldn’t be able to make anywhere else. I am so thankful for HSJ, the friends it has given me, and the confidence and identity I have gained from my time here,


Hi! My name is Zoe Rubenstein. I am from Oxford, MS. For those of you who don’t know where that is, think Ole Miss (Hotty Toddy). 

Oxford is a small town without many Jews. There is not even a temple. My siblings and I have to drive an hour and a half every Sunday to Memphis to get a Jewish education. Even at my high school, there are no Jews besides my brother and me. One of the things I love most about camp is being surrounded by other Jewish people. It feels good to be around other people who understand you and your experiences, and camp gives me the opportunity to connect with them. Without camp, I’m not sure I would have any way to do that. 

In Oxford on passover, we go to a restaurant with all of the other Jews in town. This group has no other teenagers or young adults, only parents, small children, and older adults.  Camp has helped me realize that not all Jews are old, or parents, or babies. Jewish people can look and act just like me.

Coming to camp for 8 summers has strengthened my Jewish identity and has helped me integrate more Jewish values into my everyday life. I am so lucky to have met my best friends at camp, and even luckier for them to be Jewish, like me. I’m so thankful for the community I found at camp, and I hope that some other little Jewish southerner can find it too.