In St. Petersburg, the 14-day Jewish Agency summer camps sponsored by a five-year grant from the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims (ICHEIC) gave 700 children and youth ages 11-17 from the urban center and its peripheral areas the chance to explore their rich Jewish heritage. Now in their fourth summer, the ICHEIC summer camps in St. Petersburg took place in cooperation with local Jewish organizations: Adain Lo, Chabad and Netzer. The camp concept focused on three basic themes: Jewish content and experiences, artistic/cultural expression and democratic self-government by the campers.
This summer, the Jewish Agency ICHEIC summer camps for 500 Moscow area youth was moved to St. Petersburg in order to reduce costs. The close proximity of the St. Petersburg and Moscow camp sites this summer gave campers the unique opportunity to participate in joint activities and dialogue including cultural and social events.
This year was also distinguished by the first ICHIEC camp sessions for campers hailing from the Kiev region in Ukraine. Four camp sessions for 600 participants took place at a campsite in Yalta, on the shore of the Black Sea. The location enabled the campers to enjoy swimming and day trips in the area.
In keeping with the mission defined by ICHIEC, camp places a special focus on nurturing awareness of the collective Jewish memory, commemoration of the Holocaust and community development. The most powerful exposure to the Holocaust was the encounters with Holocaust survivors who resided at camps for 1-2 days and took part in all camp activities. Their presence enabled campers to hear personal accounts and ask questions that gave them a much deeper understanding of the Holocaust.
All of the camps, which are staffed by counselors from local communities and Israel, many of whom are former campers, devote thoughtful planning to the development of programs that will engage the intellect and the imagination. Significant efforts are also invested in multi-faceted training for the counselors from both local Jewish communities and Israel before, during and after camp. The training includes both knowledge of Jewish history and heritage and leadership and personal development. Every camper also receives a camp book which is an important resource that guides them through camp and serves as a resource as they explore their identity and find their place as part of the Jewish people.