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Nothing is more intimidating than leaving your comfort zone, facing a mix of new people, routines, and cultures – especially when you're doing it alone. I’ll never forgot how it felt when I left for college, a New York girl heading to school in the Midwest. I really hoped people were kidding about cow-tipping.

By the third week, it hit me. Classes were overwhelming, my dorm didn't feel like home yet, and I hadn't made friends that I felt connected to. And though my school had a large Jewish population, I seemed to meet a lot of kids who had never met a Jew. One guy asked (politely...

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“[Jacob] dreamt that he saw a ladder reaching from earth to heaven, with angels going up and coming down on it… And Jacob woke up and said, “God is here! God is in this place, and I didn’t know it!” (Genesis 28:12, 16)

When people ask me about my experiences immediately following Hurricane Katrina, I find myself sharing the same few stories again and again. I think it’s because, for me, they powerfully illustrate how God was with us through those long, emotion-packed days and weeks.

At the time, I was the director of URJ Henry S....

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I’ve spent 32 summers at Jewish summer camp since 1975, and I’ve enjoyed a fulfilling career working as a camp professional since 1994. For me, camp is a consistent source of inspiration, growth, and joy.

But the average person looks at camp through a different lens than I do, if they look at all. Even those who spent time at camp in their youth miss all of the amazing dimensions of camp that someone behind the curtain gets to see. How can someone who’s not a camp director learn what it’s really all about?

All we need to do is watch Wet Hot American Summer.

Released...

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Here's something that you probably don’t know about Israel: Israelis are very happy. In fact, they are among the happiest people in the world – far happier than Americans, and a bit happier than Canadians. When compared to the citizens of the richest and most developed nations of the world, Israelis come out near the top of the happiness index. They feel really good about themselves and their lives.

I admit that this came as somewhat of a surprise to me. Having studied Israel for 50 years and visited more than 60 times, I like to think I know Israel pretty well. But the truth is...

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During my four months studying in Italy in the fall of 2007, you could say I had more than my fair share of strange Jewish experiences.

Running late for a train one morning in Florence, I decided the best course of action would be to lay tefillin (phylacteries) in the janitor's closet at the station, only to have a policeman threaten to arrest me for trespassing. Lost in Rome one Friday afternoon, a Smart car pulled up alongside me, a 17-year-old leaned out the window and, in Hebrew, invited me to jump in. He dropped me at my hostel, blocks away from his synagogue.

And at...

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