Maddie Siegel grew up in a suburb of Atlanta where there is a “decent” Jewish population. She grew up Jewish, attending Sunday school, having a bat mitzvah and participating in BBYO.
Even though Maddie was raised Jewish, with two Jewish parents, she never really embraced her Judaism. Sunday School was boring. They read Hebrew and learned Jewish history, but it all seemed “far away”. While Maddie had begun participating in BBYO activities during her first year of high school, it was more about socializing than anything else. All of that changed when Maddie was given the opportunity to go to Jewish overnight camp.
The summer after her sophomore year, Maddie took advantage of a camp scholarship from Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta to attend BBYO’s Camp Perlman Kallah and ILTC (International Leadership Training Conference) conferences. She spent a total of six weeks away. She spent the first few days getting to know her way around, meeting people, and overcoming homesickness. Then everything changed.
That’s when Maddie started learning and embracing Jewishness in a way she never had before. The Kallah portion of the camp taught her how Judaism is interwoven into every aspect of life, giving her a new understanding of her religion. Additionally, the ILTC conference instilled leadership skills and confidence about how to lead “at the next level”. She had learned leadership skills through her board involvement in BBYO, but the tools she gained at ILTC with peers from around the country will enable her to lead throughout her Jewish life.
Maddie was so moved by her experiences that she wrote about them. Every day during her six weeks away, she spent time archiving in a journal what she did and learned so as not to forget anything – not the experiences nor the feelings. As she looks back at her passages, Maddie can see how much she changed and grew in just one short summer.
Now that she is back home in Atlanta and in her junior year of high school, Maddie is inspired and is using what she learned at camp every day. In addition to continuing her BBYO involvement, she is plotting her course to become the chorus president at her public school next year. She is also interested in Judaism in a “different” way and is thinking about how she can apply it to her future, either through a college that offers Hillel or even in her professional career. Federation is excited that its mission to build a strong Jewish future was fulfilled by supporting Maddie’s Jewish overnight camp experience. Learn how Federation can help someone you know go to camp here and stay tuned for the next chapter in Maddie’s Judaism.