I suppose you could call this a journey story. I had a dream, I ventured into the unknown, found adventures, expanded my horizons, was transformed and returned back home.
I was born and raised in Michigan, growing up in the suburbs of Lansing. It was expected that when old enough, you would be shipped out to spend your summer at Tamarack Camps. In my family, it was basically a right of passage; my grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. all went to Tamarack. When I was a teenager, I was fortunate enough to be able to go on the Western Trip. This was the first time I got to really explore wild places in California and I fell in love.
Camp not only provided me with a connection and appreciation for my Jewish identity, but I also became consumed by wanderlust. I came home from that trip, hung my Yosemite National Park poster on my wall and vowed that I would move to California one day.
After college graduation, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. But I did know where I wanted to go. I packed up my 1997 Volvo station wagon with the few possessions that mattered most and drove to Santa Cruz, California. I had my priorities set — I found an AmeriCorps job, purchased my first surfboard (from Costco) and quickly realized that one Super Burrito was actually three meals.
I spent the last decade living out my California Dream. While I was met with many challenges, the experience was everything I could have hoped for. Professionally, I bounced from nonprofit to nonprofit, exploring my love of youth development and my passion for environmental justice. When I received an offer to work as a JCC Camp Director, I jumped at the opportunity to return back to my roots.
It was smooth sailing … until the pandemic hit and the whole world got flipped upside down.
I knew in my heart that I would return to Michigan one day, but losing my grandfather early in the pandemic made me realize that I wanted to be closer to family sooner than later. Without the luxury or even peace of mind that I could jump on a plane, I felt the distance between California and Michigan like never before. Eager to reconnect, my cousin and I drove across the country late in the summer of 2020 to see our family, camping the whole way to minimize the risk of exposure to Covid.
Following that trip, my wife — someone always up for a new adventure — agreed without hesitation that moving across the country would be our next chapter together.
Two weeks ago, we moved into our new apartment in Detroit. I am eager and excited to explore the city — a place that has changed so much since I moved away ten years ago. I’m even more excited to continue my professional career with Hazon Detroit as their Education and Program Manager, working to develop environmental education programs and immersive outdoor experiences for our community.
New adventures and challenges are on the horizon as I settle into my new home, Detroit. My first big project with Hazon is our Michigan Jewish Food Festival, August 21 at the DNR Outdoor Adventure Center, on the Riverwalk just east of Downtown. The festival has evolved — parallels with my journey thousands of miles away and back — to focus on connection to community and to the earth.
I feel so much gratitude for this next chapter in my life and Hazon’s work. Looks for weekly Food Festival previews over the next three weeks and I will look forward to seeing you on the 21st.