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From Camp Counselor to Community Builder: A Personal Reflection

Every summer of my high school years I was a counselor at Camp Shalom, a small, yet mighty Jewish day camp in Windsor, CT. I learned many things back then, but what stuck most with me was the advice from our director. During one of the counselor training days, she shared the impactful statement that “kids may not remember what you said, but will always remember how you made them feel.” It is how you go about life and living by the golden rule (ahem, treat others the way you want to be treated) that matters most. Hartford resident, Mark Twain, is credited to have said “the more I learn about people, the more I like my dog.” Dogs do not say words, yet leave a profound imprint on our lives.



Urban Dor's Wine & Cheese Social at The Crown. From left: Lisa Appelbaum, Esther Schlossberg, Eva Yagudaev, Kayla Shemesh, Jeremy Sweer, Matan Doron, and Gabi Silver


When I returned to Connecticut during Covid times, I found our young Jewish community nearly empty of social life. It was with the advice of Rabbi Tuvia Brander, fellow young professional and esteemed community-builder of Young Israel of West Hartford, that stoked the fire in me to take action. I do not remember the words he shared with me, but do remember how it made me feel - inspired. 


Three years later, what is now Urban Dor, is a thriving young Jewish professional social nonprofit with over 300 people engaged through its in-person events. 


It was last Saturday, March 16, that hit a new high for Urban Dor. In a vibrant display of community organizations working together, 50 young Jewish professionals illuminated an otherwise quiet late night in West Hartford as they gathered for wine and cheese against the backdrop of a local historic icon, The Crown Market, founded in 1940 to serve the Greater Hartford Jewish community. The event not only showcased a thriving social scene but also highlighted the support from nearly a dozen community partners.


Amidst the aisles adorned with products reminiscent of Jewish tradition and culture, laughter and conversation filled the air, fostering connections that spanned both personal and professional worlds. Eli Gutman, West Hartford native and Urban Dor attendee proudly boasted that the “highlight of the evening for me was hearing about how this community is not just pulling people from New York City, but exceeding the expectations of those who have relocated from the New York and Boston areas.” 


Urban Dor is a play on words - dor means generation in Hebrew and is also related to the word door, as in an open door of opportunities.  Across the 23 in-person events hosted by Urban Dor, from Shabbat dinners to wine socials to Jewish holiday celebrations, like our annual Latke Vodka Party, Urban Dor has continued to be innovative and impactful in our small, yet mighty Jewish community.


Shane Becker is a young budding electrician and recounted at the last event that “from the moment I arrived, I felt a genuine sense of warmth and hospitality that set the tone for the entire event.” No words to remember, just feelings.


By providing a platform for networking, Jewish cultural enrichment, and socializing, these gatherings are carving out a place on the map along the east coast for the broader young Jewish community out there. At every event attendees receive a name tag, friendly hello, introductions, and are escorted out of the event as a guest would be at your home. Frequent volunteer, Amanda Zinkerman, noted “despite being Urban Dor’s highest turnout to date, the ability to connect and make you feel like you are a member of the community was not lost.”


You may not remember these words or anything I have shared with you, but I hope years later you will remember how I made you feel - that is to say, at home.


Simon Lichter is founder of Urban Dor

Learn more at UrbanDor.org.

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