My Summer Experience at Urban Mitzvah Corps

Jenna Wyatt

There are moments in our lives that shape us into who we become. At the end of the day, we are who we are, because of what we have experienced and how that has impacted us. At the end of this summer, I can say that I have been impacted and changed as a person, in what I believe is a very good way.

This past summer, I spent my days living in New Brunswick on Rutgers University’s College Avenue Campus with the program Urban Mitzvah Corps. For those who are unaware, Urban Mitzvah Corps is a 6-week program run by the URJ, that focuses on Kehilah and Tikkun Olam. I could never picture myself spending my summer in a different way. Even though, as a community, we had our ups and downs, at the end of the day there is nothing I would have ever wanted to change.

Our program was made up of 38 rising Juniors and Seniors and 4 staff members, so altogether 42 people from seven states equaling one Kehilah Kedoshah. We were truly a family, and the bond you make with others when you live together, work together, and pray together is a much stronger bond than just attending school together. Those who attend Jewish camps may understand this bond as it is similar. For our time there we got the opportunity to choose two of four job sites and work at each job site for the duration of three weeks. I chose to be a counselor at Daisy Recreation center, a day camp for disabled adults and children in East Brunswick, and Camp Play SAFE (Summer Activities for Everyone), a free day camp run by the township of New Brunswick for all resident children between the ages of six and twelve. By working there I really learned about how other people live, their perspectives, patience, and what it is like to be half my age again. I have never worked with such significant individuals, even if some were disabled and others were half my age, I learned a lot from them and they impacted me quite a bit.

Living at Rutgers was amazing, but not the most glamorous living style. At Rutgers I had an awesome roommate and many other awesome floor mates. There were always people around doing things and having fun, which was a lot different than being at home as an only child. Even though we did not have air conditioning in our rooms, which made my dorm room an average of 93 degrees, or a have a dishwasher in the kitchen… I absolutely loved everything about living there. I seriously miss living there, as it became a home for me. I loved having a roommate, waking up in the morning and talking to someone in the bathroom, and just having many of my closest friends around all the time. Since I have been home that is something I truly miss.

We also had a lot of great programs and guest speakers come this summer. Even Rabbi Stanway joined us one day for Torah Study. This summer we also had services for every Shabbat. Everyone made service groups at the beginning of our program and each group wrote and lead services. My group’s service was especially extraordinary, because it doubled as my Bat Mitzvah. I was the only UMC 2011 participant whom never attended Hebrew school or had a Bat Mitzvah, so while at UMC I did celebrate my Bat Mitzvah, only three years late.  We only planned it in a week, but the fact that I did it there makes it something I’ll never forget.

This summer has truly been an experience I will never forget. It has shown me the true meaning of the line, “Live, Learn, Laugh, Love.” I love all 41 individuals I lived with, had the time of my life, learned about myself and the world in general in addition to a bit of Hebrew, and Laughed more times than I can ever count. If anyone ever has the opportunity to attend this program, I suggest they do not miss on what I consider the experience of a lifetime.