As a child, I did love Judaism and going to Temple. I looked forward to getting dressed up in my shiny patent leather shoes, following my parents and entering the gorgeous sanctuary at Temple Sinai in New Orleans. While I didn’t fully understand what it was all about, I appreciated the community and the feeling of being with my family in that special place for Shabbat and Holidays. I tried very hard to understand the service and sermon, but it really wasn’t accessible for kids. To be fair, the grown up world at that time was generally a place where children were expected to be quiet and observe and learn by example.
Then, in 1970, Jacobs Camp opened and I began attending in 1971. The years that I spent at camp influenced the rest of my life as a Jewish volunteer for Synagogue and Federation as well as my Jewish professional experience. Personally, camp also influenced my continuous growth in my adult education and my love for the spiritual and ritual practice of Reform Judaism. Coming from a classical Reform background, I had no idea that services could be so joyful in spirit, music and most of all participation, until Jacobs camp. Beyond services, living, learning and playing all day every day as a Jew lit my personal pilot light. I was no longer only an extension of my parent’s Judaism. I had my own Judaism to celebrate. The experiential as well as frontal learning just whet my appetite for more as a leader in the youth group movement. I became an active participant, not merely an observer. I grew from a Youth leader into a Temple board member and eventually the 3rd female president of Temple Sinai. My own mother, Betty Greif Zivitz of blessed memory was the 1st female president of Temple Sinai and in the southern region. I obviously had an amazing role model at home.
I was in a cabin of about 8-10 girls each summer. None of us had been to school with many, or in some cases, any other Jews. Despite the small population and having zero female role models, my cabin mates grew into some amazing and inspirational women! Three of my bunkmates became rabbis (including the immediate past president of the CCAR), two became Temple Presidents, one became a Jewish professional, one became a Captain in the US military, and the last served as a URJ national board member! Currently, I am the Director of Cultural Programming for the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life (ISJL). There was something profoundly amazing with our group and we have stayed connected ever since, including meeting for a cabin reunion in 2016!
What I treasure the most is developing my love for Judaism and the special feeling of visiting every summer I can, knowing that Jacobs Camp continues to be my home away from home. 50 years later and Jacobs Camp is still molding young girls and boys into strong Jewish role models! Next summer is going to be so important to get kids back to camp. If you are able, please consider making a donation to the Road to Welcome Home Campaign supporting camp scholarships and expenses related to COVID-19.
Ann Zivitz Kientz is a Jacobs Camp alumna who started going to camp in 1971. Ann currently works as the Director of Cultural Programming for the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life (ISJL). Ann and her husband Chris live in Metairie, LA.