When adults find out about my job as director of URJ 6 Points Creative Arts Academy, many of them say the same thing: "I wish that had existed when I was a kid!" I know how they feel.
Growing up in a household where I went to religious school because my parents said so, I still recall the first time my hand shot enthusiastically into the air at temple. I was in 10th grade and our song leader had just asked if anyone in the class would like to play music for our confirmation service. I learned to play two Debbie Friedman songs, and after the service ended, I remember thinking, "I want to do more here." I got my chance a few weeks later when I was hired to be the song leader for our temple day camp. Our temple educator, Dina Backer, sat down with me, her guitar, and a tape recorder, and taught me 30 of NFTY's greatest hits.
In Vayak'heil, the first of this week's double Torah portions, we learn, "And [God] has put in [Bezalel's] heart that he may teach, both he, and Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan." (Exodus 35:34).
Bezalel and Aholiab were being called as artists (and teachers) to help craft the Mishkan (tabernacle), the portable holy structure the ancient Israelites carried with them in the desert: "Moses then called Bezalel and Aholiab, and every skilled person whom the Eternal had endowed with skill, everyone who excelled in ability, to undertake the task and carry it out." (Exodus 36:2)
I've loved this Torah portion since my Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion days, for the connection it makes between artists and teachers. As someone who found their path into Judaism through teaching and creative arts, I am excited to support those opportunities for others.
Like our other URJ 6 Points specialty camps, Creative Arts Academy (CAA) is the living intersection of camping, Judaism, and personal passions. One of the most beautiful aspects of these camps is the mentorship between our specialty teaching staff and our campers. Our CAA Arts Mentors are out in the world showcasing their creativity and artistic talents, but like Bezalel and Aholiab, they are also teachers in their hearts, sharing their gifts with our community during three intensive twelve-day sessions. Our short-term programs provide young artists a space to develop their own skills in a supportive environment, even amidst busy summer schedules.
CAA is a place where participants can find their people, artistic voices, and souls. Our camp is small - with room to grow - so if you wish this had existed when you were a kid, connect me to that child (or staff member) in your community who would thrive in a Jewish creative arts camp setting. In any room where you are with a dozen or more young people, there's bound to be budding artists like Bezalel and Aholiab - so send them to us!