12 Jul Representing Israel at Jewish Summer Camps
Representing Israel at Jewish Summer Camps
From ropes course instructors to music leaders and more, these summer camp Shlichim (Israeli emissaries) are excited to be making a positive impact at their camps throughout the summer.
Coming to the U.S. to serve as a summer camp Shaliach (male Israel emissary), is a nice change of pace for Shachaf, 21, from Kadima-Zoran in the Central District of Israel. He finished his military service in the Israel Defense Forces as a paratrooper a few months ago and is now serving as a music specialist and song leader at Tamarack Camps in Michigan. Each week, he’s leading music classes, performing in talent shows, and providing guitar, piano and ukulele lessons to campers.
“The Jewish Agency trained me really well; I felt so ready for everything which helped me feel more at home from the beginning,” shared Shachaf. “I feel every day I am providing a unique point of view about Israel and Judaism. In Tamarack especially, which includes people from a lot of different cultures and backgrounds, I think Shlichim have a lot of important knowledge to share.”
Each year, The Jewish Agency recruits charismatic and energetic young Israelis to travel abroad as Summer Camp Shlichim (Israeli emissaries) in North America, where they work in Jewish summer camps as counselors, specialists and educators. They participate fully in camp life, sharing Jewish traditions, teaching Israeli and Jewish culture, and serving as role models for campers and staff. In 2023, 1,500 Shlichim are working at 158 camps across North America.
For Naomi, 20, from Giv’at Shmuel in the Central District of Israel, this summer is her first as a Shlichah (female Israeli emissary) as well as her first time in the U.S., and while it’s been a bit of a culture shock, she’s glad she came as it’s been a fun experience so far. She’s serving as a ropes course instructor at Camp Nesher in Pennsylvania.
“I think by being a specialty instructor, some of the kids might feel more comfortable coming to me than maybe to their counselors about certain things,” said Naomi. “When I used to have teachers, I had ones I had a more formal relationship with and then I had ones that I had a more personal relationship with, and I want to have the latter with the campers; I want them to want to come to me to learn about Israel and just to talk.”
And after creating meaningful connections with her campers last summer, Gily decided to return to Camp Louise in Maryland, an all-girls overnight camp, where she’s currently a unit leader and head of the Shlichim delegation to the camp. The 21-year-old from the city of Ashkelon in the Southern District of Israel enjoys getting to be a positive role model for the girls and acting as a pseudo-big sister while sharing her experiences of life in Israel.
“I think representing Israel abroad is such a privilege because we get to make Israel fun, positive and engaging for all those kids who may not have this back home,” explained Gily. “Parents often rely on camps to be the camper’s source of knowledge of all things Israel. As Shlichim, our role is so important because we have the powerful ability to change or reshape someone’s perspective of Israel.”