By: Leah Nadich Meir
Now that May is upon us, the countdown to summer – and camp – has begun! Camp leaders know that memorable and meaningful camp experiences don’t just happen; they’re like the vegetables that grow in so many camp gardens. Tending the seedlings with loving care results in those sweet-tasting tomatoes and peppers campers enjoy at summer’s end.
So how are you planning your camp’s celebration of Israel’s 70th birthday? Camp life, with its multi-sensory experiences, is the perfect venue for celebrating Israel and appreciating its uniqueness. And it goes way beyond the one day of “Yom Yisrael” (“Israel day”) that’s become a tradition in many camps.
Do you want some help? New ideas? Out-of-the-box suggestions? You might get some from the 12 camps in the intensive two-summer component of the “Israel @ Camp” initiative, which are developing a holistic vision and implementation plan for Israel education. The iCenter, in collaboration with the Foundation for Jewish Camp and the Jewish Agency for Israel, works closely with each camp over 18 months. As part of the thought and planning for the coming summer, North American camp leaders and staff members take part in the Jewish Agency’s seminar in Israel for the Israeli shelichim who will spend this summer in camps all over North America. And Israeli shelichim will participate in the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s Cornerstone seminar in the US for experienced counselors. The key word is: relationships. These relationships between North Americans and Israelis get a head start at the seminars and are strengthened during the summer. The impact of these personal relationships on campers is powerful, and they develop strong ties to the Israeli shelichim as well.
If your camp has Israeli staff members, take special care to encourage and nurture those person-to-person relationships and take advantage of every chance to have the shelichim share their stories with staff and campers. I still have powerful memories of the stories I heard from the Israeli shelichim at Camp Ramah in New England in the summer of 1967, when they arrived at camp two weeks after the Six-Day War, exhausted, exhilarated, grieving for lost friends and realizing that they were part of a turning point in Israel’s history.
Would you welcome some creative and ready-made program resources for Israel-focused activities? How about a box of resource materials and guidelines from the iCenter? Last summer, 54 camps received the boxes and beginning next week, you can apply to receive a box for the cost of shipping! What will you find in the box? Activities like these: “Golda’s Kitchen Cabinet” (based on reports of cabinet meetings that took place in Golda Meir’s kitchen!), containing recipes, Israeli spices and special aprons – all designed to surround the campers with the stories, tastes and smells of Israel. Or inspire campers to create their own portraits of well-known Israeli leaders based on the whimsical portraits of Hanoch Piven.
Do you have ideas for celebrating Israel’s 70th that you want to share? Email them to us and we’ll send them around! Don’t worry if you end up inspired by too many program ideas – you can always save some for next summer’s celebration of Israel’s 71st!