My Camp George Journey To Judaism – Bella Rethazy
I have had the privilege of being involved with Camp George, NFTY-NEL, and Temple Sinai’s youth group (LOTSSY), which have all greatly strengthened my ties to Judaism. I have been able to grow as a leader and learn about myself, my community, and the world around me. I am so grateful for the path these things have taken me on, and I have no idea who I would be without these wonderful communities around me.
My journey with Judaism started when I was young, and I attended Temple Sinai’s religious school every Sunday. From there, I was introduced to Camp George through a presentation one Sunday morning. It was almost as if something clicked, and I decided that I wanted to try overnight camp. Since my very first summer, I have made long-lasting friendships and created memories and experiences that I will cherish forever. During the summer of 2022, when I was a CIT, I had a placement that was assisting the songleaders. It wasn’t until this happened that I realized I was capable of helping others create those special experiences at camp as well.
At that time, I had been a part of the LOTSSY board for 2 years as the Grade 9 Rep and the Programming Vice President, and I was going into my 3rd year as the PVP again. I had been learning and growing as a leader, and I was truly inspired by the way a team of high school students could bring such powerful and rich memories to others. We planned and executed events, including challah-bakes, laser tag, and going to Skyzone. We even travelled to Israel last year, which was deeply impactful and connected me even further to my Jewish roots and my Temple Sinai peers.
Right before the summer of 2022, I attended my first NFTY event, a 3-day Shabbaton hosted at Camp George. I immediately fell in love with their welcoming and supportive environment. I was introduced to the most amazing people and created friendships that will last a lifetime. It wasn’t until the following year when I was invited to be a part of NFTY-NEL’s songleading team, that my Jewish leadership journey really escalated. I absolutely loved songleading. It allowed me to channel my passion for music, Judaism, and community.
This past year, I became LOTSSY’s President, and NFTY-NEL’s Religious and Cultural Vice President. I worked at the camp as a Songleader and Machon Counselor, and I loved every minute. I felt deeply connected to the camp community, and there are no words to describe the feeling of singing together in the Beit Tefillah, overlooking the lake, or the togetherness of Havdalah as the sun sets. My Jewish identity has been impacted greatly by Camp George, and I cannot wait to continue my journey with this incredible community.
Written by: Bella Rethazy