Connecting with heritage at summer camp | The Jewish AgencyConnecting With Her Jewish Heritage at Summer Camp

Connecting With Her Jewish Heritage at Summer Camp

Connecting With Her Jewish Heritage at Summer Camp
Until age 17, Uliana had no real connection to her Jewish identity, only a desire to explore and learn more about it.

During the Soviet era, Jews were subjected to state-sponsored discrimination—in education, in the workplace, and in other areas of civil society—with their passports and official documents marked with the nationality of JEW. As a result, Jews were forced to disregard their heritage or practice it in secret. Most Jews living in the Soviet Union have little knowledge of what it means to be Jewish, and no understanding of what it means to have a positive Jewish identity. Such was the case with Uliana.
Uliana at summer camp in the FSU

Growing up in Velikiy Novgorod, Uliana never knew her father, who was Jewish. Yet she wanted to connect with her heritage and felt that going to Jewish summer camp was the way to do so.

Jewish overnight camps have long been known for strengthening campers’ ties to their Jewish roots—and that’s especially important in the FSU. The Jewish Agency’s summer camps offer intensive five- to fourteen-day immersive Jewish experiences, in a fun, interactive Jewish learning environment that provides a gateway to a lifetime of involvement with Judaism and Israel. For the majority of participants, camp is their first introduction to Jewish history, culture, and Israel as the heart of the Jewish people.

“The most amazing experience for me at camp was Shabbat at sunset. I felt myself becoming a full-fledged part of a big community that accepted me as I was,” recalled Uliana. ”In the summer camp, the counselors were not overseers, but friends that care about me and my life.”

“I feel that I belong to something big and special —to the Jewish world.”

Jewish programs in the Former Soviet Union, including seasonal camps run by The Jewish Agency, meet the unique needs of Russian-speaking Jews and their families, fostering a connection to their Jewish identities

In 2017-18, 8,112 campers and counselors ages 6-27 took part in almost 130 educational overnight summer and seasonal camps held in 25 locations throughout the FSU.

Because of Uliana’s experience at the FSU camp, she’s considering joining The Jewish Agency’ Educational Leadership Institute (ELI) counselor training program as she doesn’t want to let go of her connection to the camp and the people she met there.

“I'm generally a closed-off person, but I was able to open up at camp, and now I want to positively influence someone else who needs it like I did,” said Uliana. “My heart is filled with joy and new emotions because of my time at camp. I feel that I belong to something big and special —to the Jewish world.”