Goldman Union Camp Institute (GUCI) is one of many URJ camps and communities in the United States and was one of the most important parts of my childhood. I started at GUCI when I was 9 years old, eager and ready to experience the joys of camp that I had heard so much about from my older brother and many friends from my Jewish community in Dayton, Ohio. My time at GUCI was filled with cabin bonding activities, musical services in the outdoor Beit T’filah, Jewish study under the Eitz Chaim, and a feeling of community that cannot be replicated. My connection with GUCI continued after my years as a camper with the NFTY Israel trip, Avodah Work/Study year, and as a counselor. All of my time and experiences at GUCI greatly shaped me into the independent, fulfilled, and Jewish person that I have become.
During my senior year at the University of Miami, I was torn between continuing to graduate school or searching for a job outside my field of psychology. After researching many programs, I chose Tikkun Olam. The values of the program seemed to match my own and I liked the model of participants volunteering in the same area that they live. Realizing that this program was connected with the URJ made it seem like an even better match for me.
After being on the program for two and half months, I have been exposed to many new ideas and opinions about the state of Israel and about Judaism. I feel greatly blessed to have the opportunity to study at a secular Yeshiva, work with young welfare children at a daycare, teach English at a high school, and support and guide pregnant African asylum seekers through the medical system. All of these experiences are unique and challenging in different ways and have vastly opened my eyes to a variety of issues facing Israel today. Just as Tikkun Olam and GUCI are connected by the URJ, my paths of Jewish identity and experiences have been greatly touched by both.