Blog  Reflections of a Summer at Kutz Camp

Reflections of a Summer at Kutz Camp

By Seth Zabin, NFTY-Northeast Regional Member

If you had asked me last summer when I got home from Israel what I was going to do during the summer of 2011, I would have told you that I was going to be a machon at Eisner.

Then, something happened; I went to NFTY-NE’s summer Institute. The kids who had gone to Kutz that summer taught us a song. While I may not remember what song it was, it made me think that I might enjoy Kutz.

I talked to a few other people and I got the same thing: I would love Kutz. So after giving it a lot of thought, I decided to go to Kutz. I got the application, and I immediately signed up for songleading, because while I was the songleader of my youth group, I wasn’t that good at it, and I wanted to get better. That decision led to the best summer of my life.

Kutz CampI arrived at Kutz on the 26th of June not knowing what to expect. All the things I had heard about it made me really excited to go. I got there, checked in, found where my cabin was and went there. After setting everything down, I walked around and met a friend I had only talked to that morning at around midnight, we hung out, walked around and met a lot of kids. As the day progressed we went through the normal first day activities, getting to know your bunkmates, getting to know the counselors, etc.

I loved my bunk and counselors. We always did many amazing bonding things. For example, when we had the fire drill and we were missing a kid, we sang songs, with the entire camp around us to get him to find us. For Canada day, we went outside at midnight with a Canadian Flag and sang the Canadian National Anthem. For the 4th of July, we went outside and screamed the American national anthem. My favorite part was when we woke up one morning at about 6:30 to a really loud alarm. We all said we would hurt the person whose alarm that was; until we noticed a flash and we realized IT WAS THE FIRE ALARM! We all threw on jackets and ran outside thinking it was a camp-wide alarm. When we got out and noticed that no one was out there, we were thinking that we were really late and we were going to be in trouble. We get to the basketball court and THERE WAS NO ONE THERE! We found out that the battery of the alarm was dying and that was its way of telling us.

Anyway, on the second day, things changed. We started majors. Songleading was the 2nd biggest major on camp with 36 kids. We had kids from many different regions. I only knew Jesse and Ben (the kid I had met the day of camp), but over time, I got to know all of the kids and become close with all of them.

On the 2nd or 3rd night of camp, we had the beit café where the kids got to perform. I and 5 others in the Song leading major formed the Jew man group, and we played Time of your life by Green Day. Everybody loved it.

We were told that we were going to have guest musicians come and help us out and then give us a concert. The first one was Alan Goodis. He came to Kutz, and taught us some songs. My favorite thing he did was, he taught us the Tony Chestnut dance, which was very funny. He then did a concert in the Tron and when it was time for him to do the songs he taught the songleaders, he invited us up on stage to sing with him.

The second guy was Dan Nichols, who I had met earlier that year at PROVTY. We learned a new song called Redemption and a new Adonai S’fatai. During his concert, we all came onstage to sing Redemption and there was a video recorded of us doing it. It was such an amazing moment just singing on the outdoor stage of the Beit Am.

The third and final guy was Josh (not Joshua) Nelson, who I had met a few summers ago at Eisner. He came at a great time.

Us songleaders were given a chance to lead either a service or song session, I had chosen to lead a service with my friends Leonard Cohen (no, not THE Leonard Cohen), and Jonah. We were going to have our service on Wednesday at 10:00 in the evening, because of the maccabiah we were going to have. Sadly, something had happened and Josh’s concert got switched to Wednesday, and since we knew that no one wanted a concert, then a service, we switched to Tuesday. But, on the bright side, we got to lead our service with Josh. During the service, he did a Shema that repeated over and over. It started slow and got louder over time. At the end, we had the entire camp doing it and at that moment I realized why I became a songleader in the first place, to be able to lead people in these amazing services.

So, when Josh came to help out the songleaders, he taught us a bit of music theory and how to work with keys. For his concert, we all went up to sing Hava Nashira.

When we had maccabiah, it was fun planning. We worked with Mike Fuld to come up with a prank that we would get in trouble for and have to do “community service” while the rest of the camp did a fun program. For our prank, during Hawaiian night, one of the kids ran up on the mic and shouted “Hey Kutz, what goes great with Pineapple, OCTOPUS!” which was the code for us to throw off our clothes to show the bathing suits on underneath and do a luau. People who weren’t in on it thought we were crazy and we would get in so much trouble. So, the next day, we got into our teams, dressed up in our team clothes and got into position behind the beit-am to freak out the rest of camp, and when Mike Fuld gave the code word, we burst in and ran around scaring everyone. We split the camp into 4 teams and we had a day of fun and excitement. Sadly, since it was the night of my service, I was not there when the winning team was announced, but I did find out it was the red team, which was my team.

The last full day, and last day of camp were the most memorable and amazing days of all of them. I started out by waking at 4:30 in the morning for the senior sunrise; me and a few others sneaked out of the bunk with our mattresses and went to the lake to watch the sunrise, an hour and a half later, at 6 in the morning. Anyway, there were maybe 15-20 of us watching it and it was an amazing moment seeing the sun rise and reflect off the lake. At about 7:00, most of the kids went back to either their bunks or the grove to hang out. The remaining 11 of us stayed back and fell asleep for about half an hour right there at the lake front. Sadly, we also got in trouble for doing that, and we had to wait banquet.

Then, at night, it stormed, so that caused quite a few problems. After dinner, instead of being sent back to our bunks to change, we had to go into the basement of the chadar to wait out the thunderstorm. We passed the time by singing songs and just hanging out. We then went into the Beit-Am for the service and nighttime circle. Finally, we were allowed back into the bunks to change for the Lack of Talent Show. I stayed up all night, which I was happy about because it was the first summer I stayed up the entire last night of camp for. During the talent show, the songleaders did a rendition of the song “We” which was amazing.

We had been told that if we stayed up all night for the talent show, we had to go to the sunrise service at 6:30. In the end, only 20 kids remained for the service. We were trying to figure out who should lead it when I said, “I’m a songleader. I just finished the course.” They all turned to me and said, “THEN LEAD US!” So, I did. It was that moment, 6:30 in the morning as the sun was rising on the lake and we had stayed up all night, that moment did it. That moment made me have the best summer of my life.

Going to Kutz is like going to a 3.5 week NFTY event. I made friends from many regions. I also was able to experience stuff that I had never done before, nor would I have had I not gone to Kutz. You know how you can go someplace you have never gone before and feel automatically like its home? Well, Kutz is that place.