URJ Kutz Camp is the summer home of NFTY and Reform Jewish teens worldwide. We provide an engaging, creative, and fun holistic residential program where teens and adults work in partnership to enhance the talents and skills of each individual through mentorship and peer-leadership. Our goal is to ensure that every individual leaves with a deeper connection to living an intentionally Jewish life which is made richer because of their personal growth while in this community and that each person appreciates a deepened commitment to ensuring a Reform Jewish community of the future.
When Hattie and Milton Kutz gifted $100,000 of their estate toward the creation of a Reform Movement leadership training summer program for teens, the impact of their vision likely could not have been imagined. Tens of thousands of people, both young and young at heart, including many of the most influential professional and volunteer leaders in the Reform Movement, are products of the URJ Kutz Camp. Philanthropist Laura Lauder, Rabbi Daniel Freelander, Cantor Jeffrey Klepper, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, veteran URJ Greene Family Camp Executive Director Loui Dobin and Daryl Messinger, URJ Board Chair are all alumni of Kutz Camp. Fifty summers after opening the gates at 46 Bowen Road in Warwick, New York, Kutz has secured its place as the flagship center of youth experiences for Reform Judaism.
Since the first group of teens arrived at Kutz in 1965, many of the issues most relevant to our young people and our Movement also have been central to the thinking, debating, and learning that have occurred between young leaders and adults in this sacred space. Iconic photos throughout camp capture the spirit and passion of our young people speaking up and out, as well as making NFTY policy around issues of the day, including the Vietnam War, Soviet Jewry, AIDS, LGBTQ rights, immigration reform, inclusion of people with disabilities, and bullying.
The origins of modern Jewish music can be traced back to Kutz Camp. Singer/Songwriter Debbie Friedman z’l was the Kutz song leader in 1969 and in 1972 she spent time at camp teaching new songs she had written for what would become her first album (Sing Unto God). Friedman created a new genre of Jewish music that democratized prayer by including both Hebrew and English, and that was meant for the community to sing together. Influenced by those like Pete Seeger and Peter Yarrow, Debbie infused meaning into singing together and gave us moments that echo to this day. Debbie and her music were created at Jewish summer camp, and she, in turn, created Jewish summer camp. The magic achieved at camp through Debbie’s music and song leading soon poured out of camps around the country and into virtually every liberal synagogue today. The first NFTY Chordster, a book of guitar chords, and the five NFTY record albums, originated at Kutz.