Reform Judaism Camps Out All Over the World
This summer was full of action and fun-filled learning experiences for Reform and Liberal Jewish youth, young singles and families from about 14 World Union countries around the world. According to Maoz Haviv, executive director of Netzer Olami and TaMaR, this year’s camps were an unqualified success. “More than 3,000 Netzer members participated in these events, not including NFTY camps in North America. This is a very respectable number, and I am fully confident that the experience enriched their lives, increased their understanding and insights of their Judaism, and enhanced their Jewish, Zionist and movement identity,” he said.
According to Maoz Haviv, executive director of Netzer Olami and TaMaR, this year’s camps were an unqualified success. “More than 3,000 Netzer members participated in these events, not including NFTY camps in North America. This is a very respectable number, and I am fully confident that the experience enriched their lives, increased their understanding and insights of their Judaism, and enhanced their Jewish, Zionist and movement identity,” he said.
FSU SUMMER CAMPS ATTRACT HUNDREDS
Netzer FSU held many different camps for various age groups in Belarus, Ukraine, Latvia, Lipetsk and Russia. The participants experienced a broad range of interesting and challenging programs. Many diverse aspects of Jewish and general history played a major part in many of the camp themes, providing a unique camp experience that was both entertaining and educational.
“‘To give each participant in our summer camp program the opportunity to choose his/her Jewish path and try to realize it’ – this was the motto of our Netzer summer camp program in the FSU in 2011/5771,” said Margarita Fruman, coordinator, Netzer FSU.
“The educational staff developed and implemented very interesting programs, as well as innovative and creative fun in nature for each camp. These programs were filled with Jewish and Zionist content, knowledge and ideology with a religious component.
“The letter below was written by Tania Gaidar, one of our senior madrichotfrom Ukraine. She sent it to me after I returned to Israel from the FSU. I feel it is important to share her feelings and those of all that are involved in the camp program, be it staff or participants. Thank you for all your support, assistance and belief in us. You have really made a difference in all our lives,” she said.
As an active Netzer member since 2005, I wanted to write to you on behalf of FSU youth about the summer camp program.
Netzer camps truly change lives. For many children, these camps are the only possibility to be in a Jewish environment, understand who they are, discover the way to be Jewish and continue this journey after the summer camps.
There are so many precious moments with these youth that have opened their hearts to Judaism at the summer camps.
One of the best examples is the Shacharit service. Each one is informative, spiritual and emotional. Each service is different, unique, and participants are encouraged to take an active role.
After the camps, many of the participants begin coming to our Reform congregations for services. They are encouraged to stay active and strengthen their knowledge by being more involved in their congregations. Their desire to be more involved in the services and even lead them demonstrates the strong impact the summer camp program has on FSU youth.
During the camps in Ukraine, we talked a lot about Jewish values and tzedakah. The youth were amazed that there are people whom they have never met or seen, but who care about them and made this camp happen. They asked me to thank you, bless you and wish you and your families joy, health and prosperity in the New Year.
With all my heart, I want to say thank you for this great gift – for these camps – and I hope that this letter expresses our gratitude for such an essential program.
With great respect,
Moscow Family Special Needs Camp
This year was the third year the Netzer FSU Camp, together with the Meod Community Center, included the annual integration family camp. The camp provides a unique experience for both regular families and families with special needs children. The camp had 129 participants.
The dedicated professionals who provided the backbone of the camp’s staff created a program that incorporated activities suitable for both regular and special needs children, enabling them to interact with each other. A group of highly motivated volunteers, including 2 Israeli madrichim supplemented the staff, enabling the camp to provide an assistant per pair of special needschanichim.
The theme of the camp was a small legend in which families came to a fairytale and mystic world filled children's stories. Each day, families learned through these stories about the Jewish world in general and the specific world in the camp. This world was described and written as a fairytale of the camp.
The stories included the legend of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba,Shtetl legends and folklore, Shavuot in Israel and Soviet era Jewish life. Thechanichim were able to experience the stories by dressing up in period-relevant clothing, producing puppet shows, appropriate psychodrama activities and other suitable activities enabling the participants to experience the camp themes.
“Feedback from this camp was extremely positive,” said Evgenia Rozental, Educational Program director, Moscow. “The camp program successfully met the challenge of integrating special needs children with regular ones, with the kids learning to appreciate and accept one another”.
To view additional photos from Moscow Family Special Needs Camp, click here.
Family Interfaith Camp, Lipetsk region
As part of the regional target program, "Development of Civil Society 2009-2012", the Progressive Jewish community in Lipetsk won a design competition and was awarded a contract by the State to organize and conduct a three-day interfaith retreat for families. The camp, in which 120 participants took part, took place in the Lipetsk region, Zadonsky area.
This year’s camp was the third one to be run by the Lipetsk community according to the contract it won. Three national communities were involved in the project: The Progressive Jewish community of Lipetsk; All-Russian Public Organizations of Lipetsk, the regional branch of "All-Russian Azerbaijani Congress", and Lipetsk regional branch of the Russian public organization, "Union of Armenians of Russia".
This year, the program was revamped to make it a more meaningful and enjoyable experience. A creative team, which included representatives from all the participating communities, succeeded in developing a new and exciting program, which was a significant improvement over the past two years.
The camp program was very full and included a literary and musical evening, sporting events and other family-oriented fun activities. In the evenings, after putting the children to bed, adults sat around the campfire singing their national songs.
The program also included topical discussions and other educational activities. The most interesting topic of discussion was “World War II, 70 years ago”. It turned out that every family had been impacted in some way by the war, and the memories and stories have been passed on from generation to generation.
Visits to different national communities were included in the activities. Each community prepared a tour of their national and cultural heritage. Participants learned about works of national authors, shared ideas and drew parallels, once again, realizing how similar we are.
On Friday, the Jewish community invited everyone to experience Kabbalat Shabbat, which included an interesting discussion about the story of creation, common to all three religions. The next day, we went on a visit to the Azerbaijani community, where we talked about the Novruz holiday, which is very rich in ancient traditions and games. During a visit to the Armenian community, we learned about the Vardavar water holiday, followed by a tasting of national cuisine dishes, and we once again realized how insignificant the differences between us are, especially compared to what we have in common.
“The ultimate proof of the camp’s success was the friendships created, with many participants planning to remain in contact and strengthen interfaith relations,” said Olga Zamyatina, chair, Lipetsk Progressive Congregation. “We already have plans to include additional nationalities in next year’s Interfaith Camp”.
To view additional photos from the Family Interfaith Camp, please click here.
Moscow Youth Camp
A total of 105 people participated in the student camp held outside of Moscow. The topic of the camp was “Jewish Life in Israel and the Diaspora in Modern Times” and the program was implemented in “Netzerwood”, the Jewish Reform version of Tinsel Town (Hollywood).
The modern world was looked at from a young Jewish perspective; how they view it through television, movies and the media and they discovered that there are many conflicts, war and hatred both in the Jewish world and the world that surrounds us. The objective was to look at various issues and conflicts such as: the Holocaust, wars, political and social conflicts. As the younger generation of Jewish youth, they wanted to see how they could help to change the world using the Jewish and universal principles they believe in to make it a little bit better.
Participants were asked to make movies using Jewish and Zionist content and universal principles and ideals that exist in the world today: love, memory, tolerance, ability to hear and listen, respect, and the main principle, peace.
A day was dedicated to the Shoah and Tisha B' Av. The first part of this day focused on the Shoah and the other tragedies that the Jewish People have endured. The second part focused on Tikvah and Tkumah. The objective was to show that despite all the misfortunes and travails the nation has endured throughout the ages, the Jews maintained their faith, never lost belief in their heritage and traditions, and most important of all, never abandoned hope. In addition, Jewish Identity, Zionism and Israel were discussed at length.
To view additional photos from the Moscow Youth Camp, click here.
"There is more than one way to be Jewish"
The Netzer student camp is a special one as the organizers view the educational process for this age group as vital in their efforts to groom future leadership. The program was rich, interesting and varied. The main subjects included Jewish life in the FSU, what choosing to be a practicing Jew and committed Zionist involves, and the many paths one can choose to reach these goals.
Discussions were held on understanding prevailing mutually-held stereotypes between Jews and non-Jews, and between Jews from different religious streams. Part of the program was dedicated to how one can be Jewish and topics included Zionism, Jewish informal education, the IDF, Torah, Tikkun Olam and more.
Problems and challenges existing in the world and in the countries in which the chanichim live - and how Jews and Judaism meet the challenges posed by anti-Semitism and assimilation – were also discussed. But probably the most vigorous discussion was on Zionism and Israel, with a focus on how Israel fares in the battle for public opinion.
To view additional photos from the Moscow Student Camp, click here.
Summer fun in the Ukraine
This year, two Netzer summer camps were held in Ukraine, one for ages 11-13, the other for ages 14-17. The former had 68 participants, the latter 66. Both took place in the picturesque mountainous area of the Crimea, in the town of Kuibyshev.
Although day camps have been held in Crimea over the years, this was the first time overnight camps were held in this region for members from all over Ukraine. Although the programs of the camps were different, the underlying themes and values were not.
The main connecting thread was the theme of the development of Jewish communities and Jewish life in different countries. A significant portion of the program was devoted to modern Israel and its diplomatic relations with other countries. As a Zionist movement, one of the goals in the camps was not only to show modern Israel through the eyes of local media, but also through the eyes of Israeli citizens who came and worked with the madrichim during these camps.
"Secrets of Mr. X" (Ages 11-13)
Mr. X was a man who had lived in various countries worldwide, but had forgotten who he was. He needed help and wanted the campers to travel with him to these different countries and help him discover his identity.
Each day the camp was dedicated to a different country in which Mr. X lived. Each day, along with participants, he travelled to a country and learned the Jewish history there, the development and social freedoms they had in certain periods, as well as their contribution to these societies. At the end of the camp, Mr. X was able to piece together all the missing memories and found his identity in Israel along with participants as part of Am Israel.
A significant amount of time was devoted to Israel. Every day, chanichimlearned about the current state of diplomatic relations between Israel and the country about which they were learning.
To view additional photos from the Ukraine camps, click here.
Netzer turns tour operator (Ages 14-17)
The basic concept of this camp was the idea of a Netzer Tours travel agency. The agency was divided into three offices. Each day a different office received an order from a fictional client requesting a Jewish tour in a different country. The objective was to give as much information as possible in interactive forms such as songs, photography, video, an interactive paper, and more.
The goal of the participants was to collect these pieces of information and prepare a different one for each client (eg: the Golden Age in Spain, historical sites in Germany, among others). At the end of each day, a panel of judges evaluated the quality of the information provided by all groups. Each group then voted for the group they felt had the best presentation (they could not vote for themselves) and a winner was chosen.
At the end of the camp, Netzer Tours finished their work in Israel and “walked” from Eilat to Metullah. During this walk, they learned about the history (ancient and modern) of the places they visited. With all the places they visited, participants prepared a Jewish travel guide.
Like Mr. X, this camp also focused heavily on Zionism and Israel. Every day,chanichim learned about the current state of diplomatic relations between Israel and the specific country. The last day of camp was dedicated to Israel, learning about its modern history issues pertaining to its political and social situation, in order to facilitate better understanding of the country, its people and the challenges they face.
This was very special camp as expressed during the final feedback session with both new and returning campers.
Jana Stayonova (17) from Konotop: "I will never forget this camp. These were the best and most interesting days of my life."
Dmitry Berezin (15), from Kaminetzk-Podolsky: "This was an amazing camp! It was a week of life so different to our regular routine. Thank you to everyone who enabled this happiness to be part of my life."
Alina Alexandrova (16) from Kiev: "You cannot believe how much this camp changed my perspective as a person and as a Jew. I can't wait for next year."
To view additional photos from the Ukraine camps, click here.
Many new faces at Riga Family Seminar
Thirty people, many of them previously unconnected to the Baltic Reform Community attended the annual family seminar Jurmala. The seminar has become a tradition, and is a major component of Reform education in the Baltic States.
The new faces made it clear they are interested in increasing their Jewish awareness, and becoming more involved in the Baltic Reform Community.
Rabbi Alexander Lyskovoy led all the educational and spiritual activities. In addition to exploring Judaism in general and Reform Judaism in particular, participants also learned about Zionism and Israel.
As the seminar took place shortly after Shavuot, one of the main topics was the Book of Ruth. Lectures and related activities covered the source of this book, its underlying story and why it was eventually included in the Tanach. Other subjects included Matan Torah, the Ten Commandments and Jewish tradition, with emphasis on observance and conversion within the framework of Reform Judaism in the FSU, Israel and other major diaspora communities.
Torah study was also high on the agenda, with lectures and discussions explaining Pardes, a methodology promoting understanding of the Torah through 4 different levels: Pshat (literal meaning), Remez (clue), Drash (interpretation) and Sod (secret). Participants enjoyed taking an ancient text that in the beginning was incomprehensible and through this method, discover the meaning and understand and discuss their different perspectives with one another.
Havdallah Services on the Beach
Rabbi Alexander Lyskovoy and Ana Guberman, Coordinator for the Baltic States:“Not only was the feedback very positive, but even more important people are not just talking the talk, but walking the walk, genuinely interested in getting involved with the community and contributing to its growth and development”.
To view additional photos from the Riga camps, click here.
Belarus Pre-teen campers discover time travel
Upon arriving at the campsite in Mogilev, the 88 participants discovered they had entered an airport. Netzer Airlines, which operated all the flights offered trips not just to different countries, but to different time periods as well.
The first day was a trip to Egypt, circa 1250 BCE. The campers learned and experienced the story of the Exodus via a range of activities featuring Pessah, Shavuot and Sukkot, and the Ten Commandments.
The next day’s trip was to Spain, circa 1492. The participants experienced the end of the “Tor Hazahav” (Golden Age), ending with the expulsion and inquisition. After disembarking from their return flight, the campers discussed choice, especially as it pertains to Jewish life, the differences between the various streams, and what deciding to live and maintain a Reform Jewish lifestyle entails.
The next day’s activities took place in one of the shtetls of 19th century Eastern Europe (might have been Anatevka-Kassrilkova). Participants learned about shetl life, the traditional Jewish professions and the challenges the Jews faced in a changing world. This was followed by a screening of segments of "Fiddler on the Roof". The evening ended with a shtetl Purimspiel.
Finally the participants flew to Israel, as journalists on an investigation mission. They learned about the formation of the country, its history, culture and traditions, and current affairs. They then published their report in the camps in house “My Israel” magazine, which was presented in the auditorium.
Feedback was very positive, and it was clear that the four volunteer madrichim from the US had made a big hit with both the chanichim and their fellow madrichim.
"Netzer in my heart," camp final musical
To view additional photos from the Belarus camps, click here.
Belarus teens camp out with the mob in Mogilev
Upon arrival, the 86 participants discovered they had become “yiddisher wise guys”, members of a NY based Jewish Mafia. Unlike Bugsy Segal, Myer Lansky and other famous (or infamous) Jewish gangsters, their task was not to wreak chaos and havoc, but to save New York from the real mobsters who were ruining the city.
When not being mobsters, the campers participated in a broad range of activities that were both informative and educational as well as being lots of fun. These included a discussion on Memorial Day, a sightseeing trip of the city of Mogilev focused on what had once been a yeshiva, a Talmud-torah, synagogues and other buildings that had once belonged to the Jewish community. At the monument to Holocaust victims, Rabbi Gregory Abramovich conducted a memorial ceremony and recited Kaddish. The tour ended at the zoo.
The next day the Jewish good-guy gangsters restored a museum that had been fallen into disrepair. The museum was focused on Zionism and various aspects of Israeli culture such as Israeli art, photography, literature and film. The day’s discussion period was on the Israeli-Arab conflict and Israeli current affairs.
The following day dealt with economics and education. It began with a kind of “Hyde Park” where participants freely debated and discussed issues relating to education in Belarus and Israel. They learned about Israel’s leading universities, and how to enroll. Economic discussions centered on banking and running a company. The highlight was a game in which participants had to earn money by successfully running a company in Israel.
The second to last day ended with an adventure-filled night game in which the good-guy yiddisher gangsters defeated the bad-guy mobsters.
The final night ended with a New York Jewish style show, filled with many funny, touching and profound performances. The end of the show was a blast, as fireworks lit the night sky over the camp.
Shabbat Morning Services (Shaharit)
To view additional photos from the Belarus camps, click here.
This article on the FSU summer camps is a summary of the comprehensive Netzer Olami report. If you would like to read the full report, please click here.
EUROPE AND UK SEE IN THE SUMMER WITH GREAT ENTERTAINMENT
It was a busy summer for both LJY Netzer and RSY Netzer in the UK. The LJYMachaneh Kadimah had 115 participants. In addition, 41 chanichim went on the movement’s month-long Israel Tour and 19 on its Eastern Europe “Trip Kaitz”.
LJY Netzer offered an unprecedented number of hadracha options, sendingmadrichim to other Netzer branches including RSY Netzer, Netzer Germany and NFTY. Madrichim also helped out at two interfaith camps in Akko and Karmiel in Israel. Overall, more than 200 people engaged in LJY activities this summer.
Something cooking at Machaneh Kadimah
RSY Netzer also enjoyed an extremely successful summer, adding new events as well as the usual high quality camps and tours. Almost 1,000 chanichim andmadrichim participated in all the events, making it the movement’s most successful summer in over a decade.
The theme for RSY’s Machaneh Shemesh was "Torah Heroes", a look at some of main personalities from the Torah. In addition, about 180 16-year-olds took part in five separate tours to Israel, and RSY Netzer sent a team of leaders to Karmiel in the north of Israel for the second year to experience summer camps there.
LJY’s Machaneh Kadimah – out in full force
All this was possible thanks to the team of over 200 leaders who started working in May and, in some cases, are still working to finish off the summer season.
Netzer Germany’s Machaneh Yehonatan took place in Austria during the first half of August. Its theme was “Freedom”. Over 90 chanichim took part, led by 17 madrichim, with the local madrichim being reinforced by volunteers from Spain, the UK and the US.
Each of the five age groups were given the word “freedom” in another language, and learned during the camp about many occasions when freedom has been used and abused, from the time of the Exodus from Egypt until today.
Showing the colors at Netzer Germany’s Machaneh Yehonatan
This machaneh was extremely special since the newly-created Netzer GermanySiddur, in which drawings of the movement’s chanichim decorate the pages, was introduced. To celebrate this special event, Rabbi Tom Kucera and former president of the German UPJ, Jan Muhlstein, came to the machaneh for a very special Shabbat.
Machaneh Yehonatan was a wonderful occasion to build friendships, get to know each other better, meet people from different countries and learn together.
Netzer Spain saw 85 participants attending the two-week long Summer camp of the Barcelona brach, which took place in the latter half of July. The program focused on five main topics – Values, Tefilah, Stories from the Bible, Netzer and Israel. Local madrichim were joined by three madrichim from Panama, adding an international flavor.
Hanging out at Camp Barcelona
ISRAEL HEATS UP FOR THE SUMMER
Noar Telem’s Chavaia (Experience) summer camp was held at Neurim, a boarding school on a scenic coastal campus between Netanya and Hadera. Some 500 chanichim were led by about 50 Israeli madrichim, who were joined by three madrichim from the Shnat program of Netzer Olami, all members of Netzer South Africa. The camp was concluded with a special seminar for the movement’s bogrim who had staffed the camp.
This year’s NetzerFest, the annual one-day gathering of the Netzer and NFTY groups held every summer in Israel, was a great success. About 450 participants from Australia, France, South Africa, Switzerland, the UK and USA took part in an action-filled day focusing on Progressive Judaism, Reform Zionism and of course, Tikkun Olam – the three pillars upon which our ideology is based.
The day started with a special shuk with booths that ranged from “Feminism in Judaism” and “Environmentalism”, to information about rabbinical schools, Netzer programs and other educational offerings, as well as some good old carnival games like apple bobbing.
The group was then addressed by Maoz Haviv, the Netzer Olami mazkir(director), followed by the Shnatties who helped organize the event. Additional activities included meeting other young adults from around the world, educational discussions, arts and crafts, and afternoon worship services.
Fun at NetzFest
This special day helped to reinforce our pride in being Reform Zionists traveling to Israel and discussing our relationship to the Land, the Nation and the faith of the Jewish people. God willing, we will be, next year, in Jerusalem yet again!
WINTER CAMPS ENTICE CHANICHIM IN THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE
Netzer Australia’s Machaneh Agadah was held in both Sydney and Melbourne, with more than 145 chanichim. These winter camp experiences were highly enjoyable and the program was varied and educational.
On top of the world down under
Although not as large as Australia, South Africa is a big country, and the distance between Johannesburg and Cape Town, the two major hubs of the country’s Jewish community, is big enough to require Netzer camps in both cities. According to Netzer South Africa reports, more than three quarters of the participants were new faces, proof of the growth of the country’s Reform community.
Thumbs up for Netzer in Johannesburg