Day Camps <3 Israel

Day Camps <3 Israel

Interested in hosting Israeli Shlichim for Summer 2019? JCC Rainbow Day Camp is looking for families willing to provide home hospitality for 2-3 weeks (dates flexible) for one of the two female Israelis spending their summer working at the camp. Each Israeli counselor will be staying with up to 3 families beginning Friday, June 7 through Sunday, August 11. To learn more, read the story below, then contact Shelby Kass.

“Hakshivu, Hakshivunah. Kol ha machaneh,” says the voice on the loudspeaker that broadcasts throughout camp. This is how camp director, Lenny Kass, has been starting his announcements at the Albert & Ann Deshur JCC Rainbow Day Camp for decades. Hebrew for “Attention, attention, all the camp!” this phrase is just one of the many ways that campers are introduced to the culture and language of Israel at JCC Day Camps.

“I have always felt that the best way for campers to experience Israel is to intertwine it throughout camp all summer, rather than to highlight it on just one special day,” explained Lenny. Continuing to expand these offerings has always been a priority, and this summer, day camp has really upped its game.

Two young Israelis joined the JCC Rainbow Day Camp staff at the start of the 2018 camp season. Shira Segal and Mor Levi were selected to be summer camp shlichim (emissaries) after finishing their military service. While they spend the afternoon running activities like Israeli Dancing, Israeli Adventure, and Israeli Games, in the mornings they are embedded within a camp group and develop personal relationships with the campers.

Associate Director Shelby Kass sees these relationships as the most important part of their work. “The other day, a group was playing in a sandbox that is shaped like the State of Israel. As they were talking with campers, Shira and Mor each pointed out, in the sand, where they live in Israel. Having these young leaders here to give our sandbox context and bring Israel to life in Fredonia, Wisconsin, is a moment that I won’t soon forget.”

In addition to these interactions with the shlichim, 12 counselors are participating in a pilot for the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s Israel Education for Day Camp Staff Initiative. The program is intentionally designed to include both Jewish non-Jewish staff members, to expand its educational reach and to allow the college-age Jewish participants, critically important practice in discussing Israel with non-Jewish peers. JCC Rainbow Day Camp’s selection – as one of only three national camps – to be a part of this pilot group speaks to how respected they are amongst their day camping peers.

Lenny also spent time in the off-season this year coaching the leadership team of the JCC Day Camps on the Karl Community Campus in Whitefish Bay to create moments of community and Jewish learning. Jess Lanke, director of the specialty day camps, recently participated in the JCC Staff Israel Trip and was committed to bringing Israel to the Whitefish Bay day camps. Her partner in this effort is Director of Youth Programs, Aaron Stern, who spent many years attending, and then working at, Steve & Shari Sadek Camp Interlaken JCC.

Stern’s experience with Jewish camping and Jess’s passion for Israel came together to expand the impact of these camps. While each camp has a unique focus on a specific sport, art, or adventure, all gather on Friday afternoons for Jewish learning, which often incorporates Israel, followed by a Shabbat assembly.

When the Jewish National Fund (JNF) came to camp in June, all of the 3rd-5th grade campers had an opportunity to learn about the innovative ways that Israel solved its water shortage. “We had a relay race to see which team could move a bucket of water fastest across the map of Israel without losing any water. We learned that Israel only has one lake, so they have to move water across the country without losing any because they have less water,” explained camper Emerson Cantwell.

During Milwaukee Bucks basketball camp at the JCC, Friday afternoon brought a Jewish learning rotation that included making Israeli salad with JCC leadership, including President and CEO, Mark Shapiro. This added value to a camp partnership with an organization like the Milwaukee Bucks is just one of the reasons the JCC Day Camps have become a destination for families.

As summer winds down, the ways in which JCC campers made connections with Israel are sure to carry over into the school year and beyond. At the end of August, a new set of ShinShinim (18 year old emissaries) will be joining our JCC family and getting to know the kids participating in Kids Center after school programs. We look forward to meeting these new friends and continuing our close relationship with the people of Israel.