By Sareta Gladson, URJ Camp Newman Avodah camper
The following is the confirmation talk given by Sareta. We were so touched by her comments and how Camp Newman changed her life, that we wanted to share it with you – our community.
When I was nine I became wayward in my nature. The first night of Hanukkah, my grandmother’s house was filled with people, noise and food – for a terrible reason. Three days earlier, my grandma found her final rest and on that first night we gathered to communally to mourn after her funeral. Admirable and commendable, my grandmother, Janet, was the quintessential Jew in my nine-year-old eyes. Yet in one night, she vanished, taking with her the majority of my faith. My passion was amiss.
From that irrevocable night, I loathed not only mental, but also spiritual attendance to my Torah school classes. Because they seemed a meaningless obstruction to my freedom, I departed my studies intellectually. Fermented in hidden anger and angst, by the time my thirteenth birthday passed, I was a hollow remnant of the optimistic child I once was. I began to act the same way as most middleschoolers, backstabbing and lying at every turn. I thought my knowledge and intelligence made me superior to others. What a foolish misconception that was.
Around 8th grade, I had a personal metamorphosis and as a personal Berlin Wall fell, a new Sareta was molded from the rubble. For the first time, I discovered that what drove me to greatness wasn’t lost all those years ago. It was like a boat on a long tether; a tug at the rope will not prove it’s existence but once you begin to reel in the line, the boat emerges from the fog. Because I was without direction, camp could shaped me to the degree it did.
It’s hard to explain what camp is like without being there, there is no social ladder, acceptance is common, and people are more open. At camp, it’s okay to be flawed, it’s okay to not know, and it’s okay to feel broken. School is a masquerade where a stumble is seen as a fall whereas camp allows for cracks to be visible.
I went to URJ Camp Newman for the first time after I completed 8th grade. A newfound pride for Judaism took root and I learned how to assimilate Jewish values into everyday life. It’s hard to explain what camp is like without being there, there is no social ladder, acceptance is common, and people are more open. At camp, it’s okay to be flawed, it’s okay to not know, and it’s okay to feel broken. School is a masquerade where a stumble is seen as a fall whereas camp allows for cracks to be visible. At school signs of imperfection are not seen or highlighted, while at camp those so-called imperfections, define people from one another.
I have found four Jewish homes away from mine own. However a house isn’t a home if your loved ones are gone. Dana, Sara, Lisa, they made me feel welcomed when I arrived at URJ Camp Newman, they vanquished my fear of being at camp for a month. An army of friends showed me the beauty, knowledge, and compassion expressed at a single NFTY event. Perla, Brijana, they accepted all the weird Jewish traditions and food that come with my friendship. They, along with my other friends from San Pedro High, are the reason I am standing on this bimah. Because of their support, I am proud of being Jewish for the first time since fourth grade. Temple Beth El hasn’t always been a place of escape for me, but it’s always been a place of knowledge. Sander, you taught me that the most important thing in life is to make your own opinion, despite of what others think; Josh, from you I learned the power of WMD’s, but more importantly the danger of not recognizing past mistakes; Joseph, you taught me that being who someone wants you to be only destroys who you are. This tree, given to me at my Bat Mitzvah, and these five little beads, earned from attendance to NFTY events, restored my faith and gave me the strength to show the Jewish side of me regardless.