Kutz@50: It’s the Actions We Take

Kutz Camp summer 2015 participant Shir Attias reflects on being part of Kutz Camp’s 50th anniversary celebration.

“It is not the prayers we say, but the actions we take that make us Jewish”. These are the words that Rabbi Allan “Smitty” Smith spoke as over 600 teen Kutz participants, staff, and alumni sat in awe in the Teyatron during Shabbat morning services. Over 600 Jewish individuals, all very different, but all connected by the ability to call this place, 46 Bowen Rd, home.

ShirI was immediately reminded of last night, Shabbat evening. We participated in Rikudei Am, one huge Israeli dance session of 600 different individuals all doing the same dances, and all singing the same songs, despite the 50 years that span between us. Mesmerized, I thought of the reality that although I am 17 years old and a first-time participant, and although the alumni next to me attended Kutz in the 70’s, here no boundary lies between us. For at that moment, we together were just a bunch of Jewish individuals, united by the actions we chose to take.

Together we continued to Siyyum, the closing of the night. Forming concentric circles, we stood hand in hand, singing Hashkiveinu. We then turned all together toward the stage to a sight I will never forget or take for granted: 7 past NFTY North American Presidents standing before us. Representing years of NFTY leadership, the people on that stage captured generational leadership in its purest form. As they went down the line, they each said their name and the year of their term, even back to the NFTY President from 1968. At that moment I realized this is the NFTY President who saw the civil rights movement happen. And before him stood the NFTY President who helped fight to defend Soviet Jewry. And then came my generational NFTY Presidents. L’dor V’dor, from generation to generation, as they spoke it was clear that its the actions we take that make us Jewish.

For at that moment I truly understood what NFTY and Kutz stand for. The NFTY President alum standing before me, belonged to the generation that fought for civil rights. And in the 70’s they spoke their mind during the Vietnam war. In the 80’s they marched for Soviet Jewry. And just last week 2015 Kutz participants sat in the lobby awaiting Obama’s speech as we celebrated our generation’s win for same sex marriage equality. Celebrating 50 years of Kutz, over 600 different individuals were united here at Kutz by the actions we take that make us Jewish. All united by our ongoing fight for equality and justice, we displayed and continue to show L’dor V’dor, generational leadership.

Kutz@50 reminded me that what we do here as teens in NFTY and at Kutz doesn’t end after we graduate or after we have children. As long as we have something to fight for, something to celebrate, actions to take, we will always be united as Jewish leaders. My generation or past generations, participant or alumni, we all call Kutz home because it is Kutz that inspires us to act, to take “the actions that make us Jewish”.