Words are often more significant than we realize. Sometimes words can be hurtful or helpful; and more often than not, words can be so much more. Perhaps everyone might remember the following, "You're rubber and I'm glue, whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you." My mother told me at a very early age that words can be destructive...but they can also be great builders!
In 1993, as a Junior in High School and in my 3rd year of SEFTY (Southeast Federation of Temple Youth...now NFTY-SAR), I was fortunate to work as a counselor at the Jenny Rosenthal Memorial Mitzvah Corps program. We brought a large group of children from what was then Techwood in downtown Atlanta, from Fowler Street Elementary School to URJ Camp Coleman to experience a weekend of fun...away from their somewhat tumultuous daily lives. I had no idea at the time...but that year and the following year when I returned again had such an amazing impact on who I am. I learned so much from those young kids. I often credit Camp Coleman for making me who I am today. It is no secret that SEFTY and Camp Jenny were a huge part of that. These kids had never experienced Camp Coleman before and all of its wonders. And, I learned more from them than they could have possibly learned from me!
Fast forward 21 years - I am now a rabbi at Temple Kol Emeth in Marietta, Georgia. I am given the opportunity to work once again at Camp Jenny - but this time as an adult staff member. When I arrived at Camp Jenny, I was so amazed that although so many things had changed and become better, many of the people were the same. The ideals behind Camp Jenny are the same...and the goal of Camp Jenny - FTK (For the Kids) - has never changed. This time, however, I was able to observe NFTYites and their interactions with the kids from F.L. Stanton Elementary school. AND, I was able to bring Batya and Carlie up to camp. Carlie slept in one of the bunks and really had an amazing and eye opening experience. It was truly inspirational for me to watch my daughter interact with kids who came from a different situation in life...and see how much alike they really were.
I have remarked over the past 2 years how very lucky and blessed I am to be able to come to work everyday and really enjoy what I do. I have reveled in the amazing opportunities given to me by Temple Kol Emeth. It is definitely true that one of these opportunities is the chance to return to Camp Jenny every year with my family. Being able to share my love for social justice with Carlie and Batya was and continues to be awesome. Carlie has already remarked that she wants to go back to Camp Jenny every year for the rest of her life. This touches my heart - as every one of those students did.
It is important to get out there and do what you can to make our world a better place. There are thousands of opportunities. Whether you work with AJWS or the One Campaign...or work with organizations closer to home. Whatever it is - just go out there and make the world a better place for everyone that lives in it. Those two words - Camp Jenny - have always been and will continue to be building blocks...bringing worlds together and helping all of us realize how similar we really are!
Rabbi Erin Boxt