Staff member, Ethan Kadet, (pictured above with his 2018 campers) wrote this article for a book celebrating longtime Herzl board member Harold Smith’s 100th birthday. Harold loves Herzl Camp and Heilicher Jewish Day School; Ethan grew up at both.
As I graduate high school and will soon move on to college, I have been reflecting on two parts of my life that impacted me the most. These have been my time at Heilicher Minneapolis Jewish Day School and at Herzl camp. I started going to Heilicher in second grade and made close friends and memories there that I will have for my whole life. The Jewish experiences I had and lessons I learned impact the way I act and treat others today, even if I don’t think about it on a daily basis. Some of my best memories at Heilicher were playing on the basketball team with my friends, traveling to Washington, DC with my 8th grade class, and participating in the yearly math competition. Although I might not have thought about it at the time, the Jewish discussions and debates that we had about the Torah and current events have shaped the way I see the world and have made me a more thoughtful person.
I have gone to Herzl camp for eight summers and will be returning this summer for my first year on staff. I believe that the combination of my experiences at Heilicher and Herzl have shaped who I am both as an active member of the Jewish community and as a person. Today, I apply the lessons I learned at Heilicher on being a dugma, a role model, to my role as a counselor at Herzl Camp, a teacher at my synagogue, and an assistant coach on the Heilicher basketball team.
After I graduated from Heilicher in 8th grade, I chose to play a bigger role in my Jewish community because Judaism was no longer a part of my school day. I chose to participate in out-of-school Hebrew classes, a class on Israel advocacy, USY, and to teach Torah reading at my synagogue. And when I move on to college next year I am excited to find my place in a new Jewish community.
When I was in my final year as a camper at Herzl, I was not excited when I found out my cabin assignment on the first day. I was put with a couple good friends, but I was left out of the cabin that had my larger group of friends with whom I had bunked every year at camp up until then. At first, I was very upset and was hoping that it wouldn’t ruin what I had been told was going to be the best summer yet. By the end of the summer my entire mindset had changed. I not only became closer with a few good friends in my cabin, but I learned the important life skill of working with new people and being flexible. Most of my cabin was not from Minnesota and many of them I had never interacted with before that summer. I came away from camp knowing how to better work with and relate to others. For example, a lot of days some of my cabin mates wanted to play cards or chess, when I wanted to go play sports. I learned to adapt and to have a good attitude and have fun in whatever I am doing, whether that was learning a new card game or playing basketball. I have used this lesson of inclusion and being flexible to change many times when working on projects in school, and I will continue to use it in college and in future jobs.
Last summer, as an Ozo (counselor-in-training) I really enjoyed teaching Jewish lessons and being able to get younger kids excited about learning new ideas and applying them to their lives at camp and at home. Because of my time and Herzl and Heilicher I have the skills to incorporate my Jewish knowledge in any situation, and to pass down the lessons I learned to the next generation of Jewish leaders.