At Szarvas Summer Camp, Finding My Own Jewish Identity


(Originally published on the JDC website)

Szarvas gave me an understanding of how precious Judaism is, what an asset it is to my identity. [Read more…]

My Szarvas Experience


(Appeared in The Rampage)

Many campers, counselors and staff members who have had the privilege to spend two weeks at Szarvas say that the experience is simply unexplainable. Providing a laugh for those have been there, and a great deal of frustration for those who haven’t, the inexplicable element of Camp Szarvas comes from the fact that it has a deep emotional effect on all who have stood at its gates, tasted its food, and found an incredibly beautiful existence there. [Read more…]



(Appeared in Times of Israel)

Wecome הבאים ברוכים.

These three words, written in two different languages and faded in the background in many more, wrap around my left wrist on a fraying, fabric bracelet that connects me to a special place over four thousand miles away. These three words, illustrated along an identically designed banner, are also the ones that hang above the entryway to this very same place.

This place is Szarvas. [Read more…]

Hungarian camp experience opens eyes to all forms of Judaism


(Appeared in Cleveland Jewish News)

Last summer I spent two weeks at the Szarvas International Jewish Youth camp in Hungary, a program which brings together Jews from 25 countries.

Upon return, I faced the typical questions.

“How was your trip? Are you glad you went?” [Read more…]

Szarvas @ 25: A Jewish Camp, Fueling Europe’s Jewish Engine


(Appeared in eJewishPhilantropy –

For Europe’s Jewish communities, facing rising anti-Semitism and economic decline, the last three decades of achievement in rebuilding Jewish life could be easily forgotten. But in rural Hungary, more than 1,300 young Jews from twenty plus countries are enthusiastically exploring Jewish culture, customs, and history all while playing sports, gathering around bonfires, and raiding the canteen for candy and ice cream. This seeming oasis – business as usual during the 25th anniversary summer session of the JDC-Lauder International Jewish Summer Camp at Szarvas – stands in the face of those who doubt a Jewish future in Europe.

[Read more…]

Finding the Alte Heim

By PESSY KATZ (staff 2013)

(Appeared in The Times of Israel –

I found the alte heim — the old home — in the Hungarian countryside, right along the Koros River, this past summer. I did not know that I was looking for the alte heim, I no longer even believed it had ever existed as it does in the romanticized collective memory of the Hassidic community in which I was raised. But then I found it, more complex and vibrant than a Hassidic girl could ever have dreamed it to be, at Camp Szarvas, an international Jewish camp in Hungary. [Read more…]

Sometimes in the middle of nowhere you find yourself


I just finished Skyping with Gisela, a girl I haven’t seen in over 8 months. She is my best friend from Barcelona, Spain. Usually people don’t have best friends from other countries but I do. I met Gisela at the Lauder / JOINT International Jewish Youth Camp  in  Szarvas , Hungary The camp is founded by Ronald S. Lauder Foundation.

Going to this camp I had no idea what to expect, all I knew was that I would be in Europe with Jews. I left the states with 25 Jewish North American teens like myself. Stepping on the soil of Hungary was unbelievable. It felt so rich with culture and history. The first few days in Hungary we were in Budapest, we saw the Shoe Monument on the Danube River, the shoes symbolized Hungarian Jews who were shot and thrown into the river in 1944; the historical sight takes your breath away. [Read more…]

A Summer at Szarvas


“They’ll call me freedom just like a waving flag.” One waving flag represents a nation. Many waving flags symbolize diversity. But together, a row of international flags symbolizes unity. The unity among nations is celebrated each summer at Camp Szarvas in Szarvas, Hungary. Together, hundreds of Jewish youth danced to the song “Wavin’ Flag” by K’naan and celebrated both their diversity and their similarities.

Camp Szarvas, put simply, is more than a camp. In my opinion, Szarvas could be considered the very essence of Judaism. It is the place where Jewish children and teenagers come together from countries across the world and are asked a seemingly simple question: What does it mean to be Jewish? [Read more…]

A Szarvas Reflection from Westport, CT


Doug Russ, 17, is a graduate of Bi-Cultural Day School in Stamford and will be a senior at Staples High School in Westport. He and his family are members of The Conservative Synagogue in Westport.

Russ was among 24 North American high-school students selected for the Szarvas Fellowship, a two-week program at Camp Szarvas, the largest international Jewish summer camp, in Hungary. A joint project of the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Camp Szarvas brings together more than 2,000 Jewish campers, aged 8 to 18, from more than 25 countries. [Read more…]

The Importance of Eastern Europe’s Jewish Present


David Jacobson’s recent piece Are We Guilty of Gross Prejudice Towards Poland? aptly challenges the negative ways in which the Jewish world views the Polish people. The piece deals primarily with the legacy of Jewish and non-Jewish relations in Poland itself – but what part do we, Western Jewry, play in Jewish life in Eastern Europe today? Are we just as guilty of misreading contemporary Eastern European Jews as we are of hastily judging their non-Jewish counterparts? [Read more…]