My Jewish and Trans Journey at Sci-Tech

By Finn Kofsky

Last summer at Sci-Tech, on July 30, I had my bar mitzvah. I chanted Matot-Masei, the last portion in the book of Numbers, carried the Torah around our Performing Arts Center, and gave the D’var Torah. I spent the rest of the day feeling like a mini-celebrity at camp, receiving high-fives and congratulations every other minute, and I even got dunked in the dunk tank during our Shabbat carnival.

After all of our campers went to bed, my friends threw me a surprise bar mitzvah party complete with the Hora, shirley temples, card games, and even a giant watermelon as a part of an inside joke. Throughout the day, members of the leadership and Jewish Life teams gave me gifts, including a donation in my honor to the Trevor Project and my very own tallit made of Sci-Tech t-shirts. Looking back to this experience, I confidently believe it was one of the best days of my entire life. From the moment I stepped onto the stage at Saturday services, I don’t think I stopped smiling once.

This experience was not normal by any standards. Most bar mitzvot don’t end with camper program transition time, and usually our lead instructor of Robotics doesn’t lift the Torah. But the thing that made this bar mitzvah the most different for me was my age: 16, and I had already become a bat mitzvah years before.

I knew camp was the place to declare myself not only a Jewish adult, but a Jewish man. That’s why I chose last summer to become a bar mitzvah. While I am out as transgender to some friends at home, I feel that camp is the only place where every single person is truly accepted for who they are. There is so much comfort I find in Jewish traditions that affirm my trans identity, and Sci-Tech carries these very traditions to welcome everyone into a more inclusive Kehillah Kedoshah, a holy community.

Today at Shabbat morning services in our Outdoor Sanctuary, I once again gave the D’var Torah on Matot-Masei. Last summer, I was a machon counselor-in-training, and now I am a counselor giving back to the camper I once was. I had little experience with spiritual Jewish leadership then, and now I speak at Shabbat almost every week to share my knowledge about prayer and Torah.

Around this same time last summer, becoming a bar mitzvah was a distant dream that I never thought would come true. Now, I have lived one full cycle of the Torah as a bar mitzvah, and I cannot wait to see what comes next, both for myself and for all of my campers, who now know how accepting Sci-Tech is for absolutely everyone. 

Shabbat Shalom, Sci-Tech!

Finn Kofsky (he/him) has been at Sci-Tech for nine summers and is from Westfield, New Jersey.