Gil Preuss’s (Grown Up) Jewish Camper Story

What was your favorite camp memory?

Overall, I spent 24 months of my life at camp – the summers of 1974 – 1986. I started as a camp brat (my mom was the nurse), a junior camper, high school camper, counselor, and unit head at Camp Sprout Lake and Camp Tel Yehuda. Some of my closest friends today are the friends I made at camp. I enjoyed the freedom of camp and the chance to enjoy new friends and new experiences, but I think my favorite memories are from Shabbat including the singing and dancing.

Do you think your time at camp influenced your work in the Jewish community?

Completely. I am a poster child for informal Jewish education.  Camp, together with my youth group and gap year trip to Israel shaped my Jewish identity, developing a passion for the Jewish community, and instilling a love of Judaism and Israel. It helped me grow as teen and adult. In my work today I understand that people access Judaism and Jewish life in many different ways. Regardless of how we enter Judaism, however, it is critical that it is relevant to our lives today.

Was there a memorable life lesson that you took away from your camp experience?

The big lesson for me was about independence and friendship. When you’re away, you have to take care of yourself. But it’s about being there for other people and learning to appreciate people who are very different than yourself.

 Why are you riding in JCYCLE?

Providing kids the opportunity to be able to attend Jewish summer camp is a great cause. When I reflect on my own experience and how it has shaped my life, I feel passionate about making summer camp possible for more of our young people so that they might also feel more connected to the Jewish community. It’s also a great excuse to work towards my first long bike ride.