A Paws-itive Influence at Camp

A Paws-itive Influence at Camp
When Amit Amar, 24, of Kiryat Tivon, boarded the plane in Israel to head to Camp Yavneh in Northwood, New Hampshire, she had a special companion with her: her dog Shvavi.

Shvavi, whose name is derived from the Hebrew word for chips (Shvav), was adopted by Amit from “Dogs4People,” a therapeutic kennel in Azrikam, a moshav (cooperative agricultural community) near Ashdod. At the kennel, she studied how to be a therapy dog handler and trainer and adopted the pup when she finished the course in May.

Shortly thereafter, Amit and Shvavi were headed to the New Hampshire camp. Camp Yavneh is an overnight Jewish summer camp that blends state-of-the-art camp programming and Jewish traditions in a fun and ruach (spirit)-filled environment. Amit chose to attend the camp since her host family’s kids from her year as a Jewish Agency ShinShinit (gap year emissary) in New Haven, Connecticut, went there.

“Getting Shvavi on the plane and into the US was a bit difficult but I planned everything in advance and tried to be very organized,” said Amit on getting Shvavi to camp. “Shvavi is a calm dog, he slept most of the flight and even made new friends. The kids at camp were very happy to meet Shvavi and excited he was going to be around all summer.

“The campers tell me about their dog at home, and they pet Shvavi all day long,” said Amit. “There is one camper who loves to play with Shvavi when he needs some downtime. We go into the Mercaz Mircuz (the chill room or ”centering” center) and he’ll sit with Shvavi in a hammock. I can see the connection Shvavi feels with this camper’s energy while he rests with him and licks his face.”

In the future, I’d love to see more and more Shlichim with Therapy Dogs attend Jewish summer camps. The effect on the campers is simply amazing.

A select group of outstanding emissaries, The Jewish Agency for Israel's Shlichim are called to manifest our collective heritage in communities around the world. They provide a living connection to Israel by promoting Israeli experiences, facilitating Jewish social activism, and speaking authentically about faith and culture.

Amit’s experience with Shvavi at camp and at camp, in general, have been overwhelmingly positive.

“Camp is really the best place to get out of your comfort zone and it allows Shlichim (Israeli emissaries) to bring Israel to the Diaspora in their own way. And being a part of something so big makes you learn so much about the life of Jews in America, traditions and even about yourself,” reflected Amit. “In the future, I’d love to see more and more Shlichim with Therapy Dogs attend Jewish summer camps. The effect on the campers is simply amazing.”

After camp is over, Amit will spend two weeks in New Haven, CT, with her former gap year host family and coordinator. She will also help to run the orientation of the new Israeli emissaries in Connecticut and Massachusetts for four days at Camp Laurelwood. When she returns to Israel, she plans to study Physical Therapy and aspires to combine the world of Therapy Dogs and Physical Therapy in her career. And Shvavi will be right there at her side, offering his support.