My name is Chanel Shirazi and this is my first summer at The Kutz Camp. I’m a Reform Jew from New York and a proud NFTY GER alum. Surprisingly, I never had the desire to spend my summer at 46 Bowen Road. I always had such a strong belief that the “Kutz experience” would be the same thing I could get at my regional events or another URJ summer program.
As any second semester freshman college student, I began to feel the pressure of using my time to its fullest. I would lose sleep trying to figure out what was the right thing to do with my summer. How could I make it the most meaningful it could be?
The idea of working at Kutz for a summer was always in the back of my mind. Eventually, I said “just do it” and applied to be a Gibush Counselor for the inclusion program working with people on the Autism Spectrum. I have always had a passion for working with people with disabilities and NFTY was my first love. Yet, I continued to stay hesitant of the idea of working at Kutz. I knew that I would have an amazing time if I choose to take this path. But, I constantly thought to myself ‘what if it’s not for me?’
As I sit in the Kutz main lobby reflecting on my four weeks on staff, I smile. For two weeks I was paired with a camper who needed one on one assistance. It was a challenge and I often doubted myself. But, I adjusted and we became friends. One day, she stated, “I love Shabbos. It’s when we make our Bracha’s ( blessings)”. I was stunned by that. I remember the moment that I knew that what I was doing was special. We were sitting in services and they started to sing Oseh Shalom, her favorite song. She immediately jumped up and started screaming the words in joy. I watched and smiled in awe of her relationship to the Kutz Community and her Judaism. I was able to connect to a human, one whom I would have never imagined, with words that myself and millions of others before us have said. It was amazing.
This experience was just a few minutes of my four week journey. In a way, I too felt like a Kutz participant. I was able to learn, teach and grow with my Jewish community. Working at Kutz reminded me to be happy with who I am becoming rather than obsessing with who I want to be.
To answer college freshman me- yes, Kutz is for you. Kutz if for anyone who wants it to be.
Chanel Sharazi, Gibush Counselor