Turning Challenge into Opportunity

Molly Hott is the director of 92Y Passport NYC, a Jewish overnight camp based in New York City focusing on fashion, film, music, culinary arts, and musical theater.

A Jewish 30-something from Long Island who doesn’t eat red meat or pork… how original?  This very same girl was brought up in the secular world of public school.  Attended a traditional/secular summer camp.  Graduated with a BS degree in Social Relations (yes that is real) from a liberal arts university (only to recognize this word ‘secular’ as an adult).  Is the director of a Jewish sleep away camp at 92Y in New York City… not all that typical.  Well that’s me, not your typical, but somewhat stereotypical Jew.

I have always considered myself and my Jewish upbringing as “traditionally and culturally Jewish.”  Temple nursery school followed by weekly Hebrew school, Shabbat dinner with the family, Bat Mitzvah at 13 – a real “Hott Party” – and then was strongly encouraged (aka forced) to continue on with Confirmation classes.  I thought of this all as Jewish social hour not Torah study, so it wasn’t all torture. What did I learn? I am still asking myself the same question.  Aleph, Bet, Vet- Aleph, Bet, Vet…What comes next?

I tend to do Judaism in a way that is most comfortable to me.  Feeling guilt, I attend synagogue on High Holy days.  Family meals to celebrate the “big” Jewish holidays like Rosh, Yom, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Passover. Yes I know Thanksgiving isn’t really a Jewish holiday but it is a time my family comes together, overeats, knocks back wine and revisits the memories that were at some point excruciatingly embarrassing – doesn’t that constitute a Jewish holiday?  Although with all these non-contributions to the Jewish community, I am 100% a Jew.

This ignorant Jew at 30 years old found herself on an interview for the position as director of a Jewish summer camp.  I knew I could easily sell myself for this, I am Jewish and I live camp.  I never cared to pay attention to the interests, beliefs, or practices of the Jewish community around me before.  But now with this incredible opportunity at a world renowned institution, why not try to care?! I was willingly, forcing myself into exploring Judaism, not Torah but Judaism. This exploration scared the “bleep” out of me but excited me all at the same time.  This was my challenge; learn about Judaism so I could develop the best Jewish sleep away camp program out there.  It wasn’t until becoming the camp director this progressive, pluralistic, Jewish summer camp that I opened myself up to the exploration of what any of this means to me.

I have turned this challenge into opportunity.  I have taken my stereotypical Jewish way of thinking and thrown it out the window.  I have pushed myself to have an open mind and freeing appreciation for Jewish learning in order to empower our Jewish community of teens and staff at Passport NYC to explore Judaism openly, comfortably, relevantly, progressively, pluralistically and in a way where Judaism is “cool.”  Opportunity has become my operative word.  This non-red meat or pork eating Jewish girl from Long Island welcomes you on the evolving Jewish journey from creation to continuation of one of the greatest Jewish summer camp programs out there today!

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