At Szarvas Summer Camp, Finding My Own Jewish Identity

Szarvas gave me an understanding of how precious Judaism is, what an asset it is to my identity.

January 8, 2016

Szarvas gave me an understanding of how precious Judaism is, what an asset it is to my identity.

Until I went to Szarvas, Judaism had always been a part of my life that I took for granted, something I loved about my upbringing, but nothing I actively cultivated. I went to a Jewish school, to synagogue each week, kept kosher, etc., but I never thought about these choices; they were just facts of my life.

After Szarvas I understood that many Jews around the world long for the luxury of experiencing Jewish rituals and expressing their Judaism freely. Through Szarvas I gained perspective on my responsibility as an American Jew — responsibility which I have made part of my career. At Szarvas, I also met Jews from around the United States who influenced my passions. In fact, I met the first love of my life at Szarvas. We dated for four and a half years — 11 years later, he remains one of my best friends. It was because of him that I participated in many of the art-oriented projects at Szarvas: designing the set of a mock Indian wedding, creating a whole instillation on famous American artist Jackson Pollock, even just learning to make bubble letters because it was camp! I now devote my entire career to a combination of making Judaism and art accessible.

I run an alternative Jewish education program called Havurah at The JCC of Manhattan, which provides hands-on experiences with Jewish stories, customs, and values for families that aren’t comfortable in synagogue communities and for children whose parents themselves are seekers. I also develop and lead tours and workshops at The Jewish Museum for Jewish and non-Jewish students and families to expose people to the multiplicity of ways Jews live their lives and express themselves.

And through my other museum work at the Noguchi Museum and The Cooper Hewitt, I help people use their creativity and imagination to bridge boundaries and cultivate community and inspire dreams of new possibilities for the world, as Szarvas did for me.

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