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A Stranger in a Strange Land

Photo of Kristin and her campers at Rib Night

On June 5, 2021, I drove through the gates of Henry S. Jacobs Camp for the first time in my life into what was truly the unknown. I only knew one person at camp, and I did not know her very well– I was very much a stranger in a strange land. As I approached the many smiling faces of the Leadership Team to get checked in, I realized that I had the opportunity here and now to be whoever I wanted to be for the summer. Camp was not simply a place where I would work and meet some new folks; it was a place where I had nothing but time and opportunity to become part of something wonderful.

I quickly learned that I was not the only person who felt this way.

Over the course of the summer, I noticed time and time again that so many members of our camp community see their summers here in Utica as a chance to have a fresh start. At camp, the baggage of the outside world falls away and we are presented with a clean slate year after year. In a way, the act of coming home to camp has become a ritual of self-transformation. Over and over again, I heard people say things like “I get to be my real self at camp,” “camp is where I get to try new things.” Not only that, but that “camp is the place where you can mess up and know everything is going to be okay”– a place which allows each of us to engage in our own acts of tshuva– transforming our mistakes into self-improvement through restoration.

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov said, “We must start over everyday– sometimes many times each day,” and camp is a place which radically embraces this in every way. Whether we– staff and campers alike– were expanding our social circles to include new people, redeeming less-than-stellar summers past, or showing our authentic selves to the world for the first time, it is clear that camp is a place for true beginnings and new beginnings.

About the Author

Kristin Newman

Kristin N. is a second year staff member from Hammond, Louisiana. She joins the Jacobs Magic this year as Chalutzim Unit Head and can’t wait for her first song session with her campers!