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Camp In Moscow, Russia
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Camp In Moscow, Russia

Yup. You read that right. Camp in Moscow, Russia. That's the place where I spent the last 3 summers and that's the place where I look forward to spending this one, G-d willing. Oh, by the way - Moscow's the city, Russia's the country. Nope. It's not in Ukraine - that's a different country, it's not door to Pinsk - that's a town in Belorus. In fact, it's probably not whatever you're gonna say next, so don't bother.

I'm sorry, do I sound a little annoyed? Irritated? Exasperated, perhaps?

See, here's the thing. I'm really not being so fair. I mean, I've been to Russia several times; heck, I've even volunteered there for an entire year, so um, duh, I know the geography. I should probably cut y'all some slack, but I mean, seriously! a little history anyone?

Yes, Russia is a normal country. Yes, we have running water - with indoor toilets, we've got electricity and you know what? We've even got a washing machine! Ok, granted, the instructions are in Italian and I didn't quite know how to use it; the electrical wiring was off, so our bulbs died every couple of days, but you know, things happen...

No, Russia is no longer a Communist country. Yes, Stalin died a number of years ago. And no! the USSR no longer exists. It used to, but doesn't any more. Hasn't since 1991.

They say that there are so many money making scams out there, but honestly, I think high school and college are the biggest scams of all. We shell out thousands of dollars to sit in lectures where most students doodle, nay, doodling's a thing of the past. Rewind; where students text, work out the new iPad apps, doze a bit - basically, occupy themselves with anything but listening to the professor and taking notes. I guess that answers my question of why no one knows that Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan are not interchangeable with Russia and that the 'Motherland' isn't quite the mother she used to be.

I'll be honest, it can get to me when people ask the same questions over and over and over. And over. Did I mention that sometimes some people ask me the same questions over and over and over? And over?

It could happen anywhere. On the airplane, at the grocery store or even on the street - strangers will ask me about my experiences. Don't ask how they know I went to camp there. They just do. Anyhow, trust me, I'd like to know too. The point is - they know. And they're asking questions.

See here, I want to be clear. I have no problem with the questions - regardless of the ignorance they convey and the unoriginality with which they are asked. No, I have a problem when they don't bother to listen to the answer. Because truthfully, yes, it does matter that Union of Soviet Socialist Republics has disbanded and yes, it does matter that totalitarianism is no longer enforced.

Why does it matter to me you ask? It's simple. I am passionate about what I do, about Camp Etz Chaim, and the effect it has on others. I have a responsibility to be aware of and invest in more than just the society I surround myself with, but to learn about and collaborate with people from all over. I understand what it is I am involved in - and sometimes that includes understanding geography and history. Yup, believe it or not, paying attention in class comes in handy after all. Well, sometimes.

In a world where we believe in the power of acceptance, of tolerance and of love, being allowed to choose how to live is important. If religion is the foundation upon which you want to live your life, you should be allowed to do so. And you are; and now, our sisters and brothers over in Russia can too.

I started with 'Camp in Moscow, Russia'. Camp Etz Chaim is an amazing summer program where we offer Jewish girls ages 6 through 17 with the opportunity to learn about their heritage and what it actually means to live a religious life. All through awesome activities, amazing counselors from across the globe and the warmth, care and love that they deserve. Religion was denied to their parents and grandparents for 71 long years. Let's stop that disconnect today.


Street Talk

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