Written by Lila Klaus, 2018 Counselor
Judaism and dance have always been quintessential to my identity. I have been dancing since age five and was raised in a strong Jewish household, in college I was a dance major with a minor in theology; my senior thesis was a culmination of the ways in which these two worlds have shaped my identity, presented in both research and performance. However, these two aspects of who I am have not always sat comfortably side by side. There have been times when I felt ostracized from my artistic community for making work about my Jewish identity, and for simply being an artist with a strong religious grounding. I often times felt like an outsider from my peers in the arts, my own choreography often times bucked the trend of the pieces that were being produced around me.
When I found out about the opening of 6 Points Creative Arts Academy, I thought it was a good opportunity to do something in between the closing of one chapter and the opening of another. College graduation was behind me and the success of gaining a new job in a dream city lay ahead. I did not, however, realize how much camp would become a chapter of its own in my story.
Sometimes, you don’t know how much you need a community and a space until you’re right in the midst of it.
I remember saying those words on a Shabbat evening when I stood to give out bracelets to staff during the weekly recognition ceremony. Every Friday night at CAA, after services, staff and faculty would acknowledge the campers who had exhibited one of the core values, Creativity (Yetzirah), Curiosity (Sakranut), Grit (Ometz Lev), or Craftsmanship (M’lacha), that week by giving a corresponding bracelet. After the campers would head off to bed, staff and faculty would then do an identical honoring of one another. During this particular Shabbat, in the midst of the third session of camp, I finally gathered my thoughts and was ready to take a turn.
During staff week, I was so inspired and overcome with emotion by being around other artists for whom Judaism was also an essential part of their life stories. The whole environment was an absolute dream come true because it allowed so many amazing people to connect and practice prayer and ritual through dance and theater and music and visual arts and many other artistic mediums. To have campers enter the community and embrace their Judaism in new ways, to watch their artistic talents flourish, I completely fell in love with this new home we were creating together. One of the other statements I had made that night of the bracelet ceremony was:
I wish I had a space like this when I was young.
As a staff member, to be able to help shape this space for kids was one of the most valuable experiences I could have ever asked for. All of the skills I learned this summer at camp, from being a counselor to assisting the dance classes, have been crucial in this new post college life of mine, where I am working as a Jewish educator and plan to still be making choreographic work. CAA gave me the confidence in who I am as a person, and taught me that one of the most important families is our chosen family.