Noam Summer Camp
By Amiel Cohen
Me: “Please don’t make me go, I don’t know anyone! I’m going to hate it! I promise I will pay you the money back.”
Mum: “Stop worrying, you are going to have the best time.”
A conversation I can remember clearly from our family drive to drop me off for Noam Israel Tour.
Jumping forward one year from this conversation, I found myself gearing up to take 120 young people on Noam summer camp for two weeks as a madrich (leader). Now, a movement worker for Noam, I am rather happy that my mum ignored my neurosis and sent me on Israel Tour. Growing up, I sporadically attended Noam weekly club but had always been hesitant to go on Noam Summer Camp as I did not know anyone in the movement and worried that it was not my scene. It may have taken as long as 8 minutes from the moment we arrived at the drop off to the moment I had begun making friends that I count as some of my closest to this day. But friendship is not the only thing that I gained from Noam. I wanted to take this opportunity to divulge how being part of a youth movement affected me, and why sending a young person on Noam Summer Camp is a life changing decision.
Although never having gone on camp myself, I have been a leader on Noam since 2011 in a range of different roles: a madrich and senior madrich on camp, a rosh of weekly club, a rosh of camp and, also, a madrich on Noam Israel Tour. Throughout my Noam Journey, I have not only experienced personal development (Hagshama – one of our ideological braches), but I have witnessed the blossoming of both chanichim (young people) and madrichim (leaders) into immensely brilliant role models, something that has continued to inspire me. On a personal level, being around such young, dynamic, ideological and passionate people has transformed me into the person I am today, and a lot of my successes I account to what Noam has taught me.
So what exactly has Noam given me?
Noam is an ideological haven. In the society that we currently live in, it is no longer ‘cool’ to be ideological. Young people are spending countless hours trying to grow up too quickly, attempting to build up their CV’s many years away from employment rather than enjoying the free and experimental nature of being youthful. Noam, standing contrary to this trend, encouraging the youth to reclaim ideas that they have been taught, gives young people the opportunity to experiment and grapple with a set of ideals and values, allowing them to shape and live their own. Immersing myself in this environment profoundly affected the way I vision my future and the path I wish to take in order to get there.
Noam creates young role models. Noam summer camp is the perfect example of young Jewish leaders acting as role models for the next generation of Masorti leaders. Although I found myself inspired by older people growing up in my community and at school, I experienced a more powerful and influential feeling when lead and engaged by people closer to my own age.
Noam gives young people the chance to create their own unique and separate Jewish space. Often, one’s Jewish identity reflects their upbringing and the Judaism that is practiced by their family. We all inherit our family’s traditions, but whether we have gone through a process of questioning and critiquing them is another thing. Noam allowed me to question these practices and ultimately, claim ownership of the Jewish practices and beliefs I sign up to. For me, growing up in a United synagogue, Noam allowed me to question the way I understood egalitarianism in Judaism and how one could interpret Jewish text. This has led me to be more interested in and proud of my Judaism, becoming a passionate member of the Masorti community.
Noam is a close knit, welcoming community of likeminded individuals. Becoming part of a youth movement allows young people to build, and be a part of, their own unique community. Due to the fact that it is built up of young people, this environment is a safe space. This empowers young individuals, by giving them the opportunity to influence and shape their own community how they wish. With chances to become community leaders and voices more easily accessible.
Noam provides young people with leadership opportunities. Once 16, Noam encourages all of its members to become madrichim, learning leadership skills on our two yearlong hadracha program (Meltam and Masa). Once completed, Noam members become leaders on Summer Camp, progressing to become senior leaders and then roshim, running a camp and managing a team of young leaders. When youth are given such responsibility, something amazing happens. The passion and care, that perhaps you do not see elsewhere, is born. The growth I have witnessed in our members during their leadership experience is inexplicable. I really cannot emphasise enough how this experience of leadership is truly life changing.
There it is… I am not too sure whether I have managed to encapsulate all the great things that Noam has given me but I hope that it is understood: Becoming part of a youth movement is a life changing experience. Going on Noam Summer Camp WILL be life changing. Young people need spaces like youth movements to grow and thrive.
Amiel Cohen is a Noam Movement worker and the community worker for New North London Synagogue and New London Synagogue.
Noam Summer Camp applications are open. Visit www.masortiyouth.org for more information.