From Guatemala to MahaNetzer France


August 15, 2019 


Rebeca Orantes from Guatemala was part of the 2018-2019 Brotherhood of Roswell Klal Yisrael for the URJ and visited France to understand the efforts of the Jewish liberal movement and its challenges. Learn more about her unforgettable experience with MahaNetzer this summer:

I am Rebeca Orantes (23) from the Reform Jewish community in Guatemala – Adat Israel. My parents are the founders of our Jewish community so I grew up with two great role models of leadership, responsibility and commitment for the reform movement. When I was 14 years old I started leading services at my synagogue, music was very important to me and singing was one of my fortes, that’s how I began my journey not only as a leader but also as a musician. My Jewish community is full of people with a lot of ruach, everyone in passionate about it and we take good care of it.

My love story with MahaNetzer France started back in March 2019. I was part of the 2018-2019 Roswell Klal Israel fellowship by the URJ and we visited France to understand the efforts of the Jewish liberal movement and its challenges regarding anti-Semitism and more. During our stay we met some of the Madrichim and leaders who worked at camp and all of them spoke about it with excitement, I couldn’t help to feel the love, care and endearment radiating from their words. Everyone had a special place for this summer camp in their hearts; they were clearly in love with it.

I had the privilege to song lead at MahaNetzer, and trust me: I fell in love with it too. The staff members helped create a safe space for the children where they could be themselves and explore their connection to Judaism with creativity and fun activities. I haven’t met such responsible and committed young adults in my life before. They are an example of leadership, presence and kindness; the kids look up to them and I can understand why; I do too.

As a song leader I found the importance and the value music provides to our Jewish identity and how impactful it can be when we are young, these songs accompany us for the rest of our lives and they can make us remember special moments, experiences and people: It was a great honor to help create those memories through my voice and my guitar, without a doubt Mahanetzer allowed me to find the tools that worked best for me to engage musically with the children.

This summer camp was a blessing. It has a special place in my heart. My gratitude cannot be measurable. Thanks to camp, I saw the importance of youth, music, games and prayer. I know MahaNetzer has the future of the French liberal Jewish movement in their hands.

I want to close this article with some words I shared on Facebook: “This summer I was blessed with the amazing and unique opportunity of songleading at a liberal Jewish summer camp in France and let me tell you, there’s a huge difference between singing songs at a small synagogue and singing Queen at 2am very loudly while stargazing with kids; honestly, I wouldn’t change neither for a thing in this world. I was challenged daily in ways that made me grow not only as a musician but as a leader within the reform movement, which is exactly what I wanted. I feel very honored and joyful to know that I contributed to the history of this Jewish summer camp and that I helped the kids have a great summer. I found myself meeting great people and reuniting with some I had already met; I carry them deeply within my heart among memories, feelings, heart lessons and more, hopefully we will cross paths again.”