Blog  If Not Now, When?

If Not Now, When?

Hey Camp George!

This week, I took some time to chat with the one and only Rabbi Noam Katz, our Dean of Jewish Living about our summer 2013 theme.  This summer, we’re thrilled to be exploring the theme …. “If now now, when?” Read on to hear more about this theme and plans for summer 2013, as told by Rabbi Noam Katz!

 – Jane HK


Noam Katz

Noam Katz

What does “If not now, when” mean?

This is the last part of a famous three-line quotation said by the 1st century rabbi Hillel, who said:  “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?  If I am only for myself, what am I?  And, if not now, when?”  Taken together, these questions compel us to think how we can take care of ourselves and show self-confidence, while at the same time showing responsibility and compassion for others.  And the exclamation point is the last question – “If not now, when?” – meaning, don’t wait a single moment to do this important work because there is NO time like the present!  If you wait too long, you may never get around to it.  So make a positive impact on the world today!


Where did the inspiration for this theme come from?

I learned this quotation when I was growing up at camp myself, as the text was set to a fun, “campy” melody by my mentor Debbie Friedman z”l.  Later, I would come across it in Jewish discussions about tzedakah and social responsibility.  Then, a few summers ago, I saw this text come to life once again when Michael Weiss (a current member of the Camp George “Jewish Living” team) devised a program for Lehavot in which each part of Hillel’s quotation was represented by a different version of Tag.  Campers ran around the baseball field, tagging each other in and out, working together and strategizing, and then discussed the real-life impact of these words.  I found the experience not only fun but inspiring and realized that this would be a perfect theme for the entire camp to learn and embody over the course of a full summer.


What are some examples of “If not now, when?” in camp life?

When we volunteer to help set up the Chadar Ochel for others to enjoy their meal; when we help to clean up after a messy program or Outdoor BBQ dinner without being asked by a staff member; when we sit next to a camper who is homesick or lonely and make them feel like they truly belong; when we perform acts of Tikkun Olam – like raising money for the local Seguin volunteer firefighters or packing Kinder Kits for children who can’t afford school supplies; when we proactively perform random acts of kindness for our bunkmates, fellow staff and any member of the camp community.  Luckily, at camp, there are hundreds of opportunities EVERY DAY to follow this teaching.


How will the theme of “If not now, when?” be incorporated into each unit?

We are still putting the finishing touches on the “Jewish Living” program for this summer, and I don’t want to give TOO much away.  But I will say that we have a whole array of exciting programs for every age group in which we will explore this theme — learning about Jewish values, heroes and social justice – through arts, athletics, texts and games.  Each unit will have a specific lens through which they will view this theme:

Nitzotzot – how we can make a direct impact on our camp community, in CG101

Lehavot – how our Jewish roots and family stories inspire us to take action today, in TAG

Kochavim – how Jewish individuals and communities took heroic actions over the last 100 years to create a vibrant and thriving modern State of Israel

Barak – how we can make a direct impact on surrounding communities beyond the walls of camp, in Project Barak

C.I.T.’s and Staff – how we are all Jewish role models who have the power and privilege of inspiring the next generation of Reform Jewish leaders


What changes are there to education programming this summer?

There will be a beautiful blend of continuity and change from previous summers.  While faculty and staff will continue to offer high-level Jewish programming (i.e. CG 101, TAG, Kivun, Project Barak), this year we have a few significant changes. Some of these include:

  • Shinshinim (young Israeli emissaries) program!  For the first time, we have FOUR outstanding Shinshinim who have spent the year living in Toronto and working at Jewish day schools and synagogues in order to raise the level of Israel engagement in these institutions. They will be assigned to every unit and work with specialists to create Israel-enriched programs around camp, from A&C to waterski!
  • Barak Gives Back Day on both sessions – all of Barak will have the opportunity to leave camp and do a wide variety of mitzvah projects that directly affect others in the Parry Sound community.  A memorable day of social action!
  • Hagigah Arts festival, which will showcase campers’ efforts in the performing and visual arts, as related to our summer theme, at the conclusion of each session
  • More “Choose-Your-Own-Tefillah” than ever before!

–         Can’t wait to share this theme with our community very soon!

Noam Katz


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