Camp Szarvas: A Transformative Experience

Shaun Goldstone is our 2012-13 JDC Ralph I. Goldman Fellow in International Jewish Service.

During the last three weeks, I have been fortunate enough to not only witness the magic that is Camp Szarvas, but to also become fully integrated by participating in all the camp has to offer.

Throughout my time at camp, I began to understand the reasoning behind the influential power and values that this camp instills in its participants. As an American Jew that has also lived in Israel, I spent the years of my youth feeling connected to Judaism and Israel due to my surrounding environments, including my friends, family, and societies that supported my beliefs.

As many of the European Jewish youth are growing up in post-communist societies, they are apprehensive in creating strong connections to their Judaism within their own countries. Camp Szarvas provides a place for these participants from a variety of countries to learn more about Jewish values, build personal relationships with others, and to have fun with those that share many similarities as well as interesting differences.

Discussing the impact of Camp Szarvas on the Jewish identity of madrichim, unit heads, and camp leaders led to a unanimous and rather impressive cohesive thought: that Camp Szarvas is a pluralistic community, a safe place that has largely influenced the Jewish identity of its participants.

Many of the campers have either traced their roots to Jewish family members with the help of Camp Szarvas, have become involved with Judaism solely through their exposure at camp, or have gained strength to become more comfortable with their Judaism in their own country due to the pluralistic, accepting nature of the camp and its leaders.

Camp Szarvas has lit a fire under much of the youth to become more involved with not only the camp year after year, but their own communities through youth movements, JCC involvement, and attending synagogue. This camp, as well as my placement in Eastern Europe, opened my eyes to Jews that live in a much different world due to societal norms. 

It’s easy to see that Camp Szarvas is imperative to restoring Jewish life in the next generation.

Learn more about the Ralph I. Goldman Fellowship here.

Read more posts from Shaun's year of service here.

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