This is my first time at Jewish Agency camp. My sister is the one who told me about it – she’s a counselor here. Before camp, my only Jewish activity was the Sunday school. I like learning about Israel and I want to know Hebrew, so I plan to sign up for more activities in the city, and I’m definitely coming back to camp next summer! –Alina Gribtsova, 9, Dnepropetrovsk
I go to Jewish day school, and my friends were talking about this camp and I decided to come, too. This is my first time at a Jewish Agency activity. The counselors and the other kids are very nice and have become my friends. I like it here a lot – the games, the place, the time together. I like thinking about Israel as the holy land of the Jewish people.
I’m very busy all year ‘round, playing the violin and taking ballet classes, but I’ll certainly make time to come back to this camp next summer!
– Nelya Shepilova, 10, Dnepropetrovsk
I have been part of the Jewish Agency camps in Kiev ever since I was a child. For me, it has always been the most special time of the year. The camps helped me become aware of my Jewish identity, and now here I am, working as a counselor for the first time, working with kids who know very little about our people, but are eager to learn as we develop together.
To me, informal Jewish education is an opportunity to go beyond the regular school framework: it’s an opportunity to create, to develop myself, and to ask questions together with our campers. I want to help them discover their background, and be aware of our heritage, and have tools to choose what kind of people they want to be.
In Kiev, our camp is the “Art-Midrasha Academy.” The theme was “Jewish history from Avraham until today,” and we finished with an exciting quest, our “expedition with Jewish personalities” activity. The 11-, 12, and 13-year-old campers “travelled” with their counselors through Jewish history, learning stories of Jewish heroes and leaders, “meeting” politicians, writers, artists, sages, and more. The campers learned how one person can influence history, and they learned the vocabulary of Jewish life – words such as “tzedaka,” “mitzvah,” and “galut.” The campers then had Bet Midrash sessions where they researched specific personalities, and at the end of camp they very enthusiastically presented to the entire camp their research about the person’s actions and influence on Jewish history. – Dasha Sidorenko, Camp Counselor, Kiev
Shabbat at camp is extraordinarily special. During our camp session in Riga, the first Shabbat of camp was, for many of the children, their first Shabbat experience ever.
For the youngest participants, ages 7 to 11, on Friday we taught them how to make challah using three different types of braiding. The campers and their counselors together sang Kabbalat Shabbat sons, wearing beautiful clothes and showing great spirits. After our festive Shabbat meal, we played games and riddles, sang songs, learned Hebrew, and did interviews of each other for the camp newspaper. We had a great time!
On Shabbat morning, we talked about the Jews receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai. A team of counselors led Beit Midrash discussions to get the children thinking about rules – what they are, and why we need them, and what a brit (covenant or contract) is.
Then the counselors dressed up as Jewish heroes of the past, and told the campers about the weekly Torah portion, Parshat Hashavua. The campers then created theater sketches about the stories they had learned, and did their little plays for the entire camp.
– Anya Azovtseva, Camp Counselor, Riga
We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) for their generous support of the 2014 summer camps session.
The 2014 Jewish Agency summer camps in the former Soviet Union are being provided with support by UJA-Federation of New York, The Jewish Federation of Cleveland, The ASSOCIATED: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, The Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County, Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, Jewish Federation of St. Louis, The Jewish United Fund / Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, Crown Family Foundation, The Nathan T. Sedley Memorial Fund and the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County, Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund of San Francisco, Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle>, Minneapolis Jewish Federation, and The Genesis Philanthropy Group.