Issue #522

September 24 2015 / 11 Tishri 5776


A Midsummer Night's Dream: Reform Jewish Camps Around the World

Instant Connections: FSU Summer Camps Attract Over 800 Participants

Summing Up Summer: Rita Fruman, Netzer Coordinator FSU
Netzer Police: Cracking the Case of the Jewish Prophets 
Netzer National Spy School: Investigating King Solomon
Who Ya Gonna Call? Netzer Ghostbusters
Big Finish: Transforming While Staying True to Jewish Values
Hava Nagila! Trekking Through the Ural Mountains 
A Star is Born: FSU Integrative Camp
Righteous: Gentiles Host Progressive Jewish Summer Camp in Olesin, Poland
Experimenting in Odessa: Netzer Lab

Dear Reader

Upcoming Events

A Midsummer Night's Dream: Reform Jewish Camps Around the World

This summer was full of action and fun-filled learning experiences for Reform and Liberal Jewish youth, young singles and families from around the world.

According to Maoz Haviv, executive director of Netzer Olami and TaMaR, this year’s camps were an unqualified success. “Close to 3,300 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.

Summer of Smiles: IMPJ's Havayah Summer Camp.

In Israel, the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism's (IMPJ) Havayah Summer Camp attracted 250 teenagers and children to Givat Havivah.  IMPJ's youth movement, Noar Telem, worked hard to prepare for this year's summer's camp. One session was held between July 15 and July 22, for younger campers, and a second was conducted from July 29 to August 2, for older children.

Campers from across Israel gathered for a summer of fun, games, Jewish learning, engagement and leadership development.

Meanwhile in North America, 10,000 kids spent their summer in one of 15 Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) camps. URJ's Kesher Birthright Israel trips attracted approximately 1,600 participants. In addition, 600 teenagers travelled and experienced the summer of 5775 at various North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY) summer programs, as well as the EIE NFTY High School.

The URJ also welcomed 15 Israeli campers. Specifically, the Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute (OSRUI), Camp Harlam, Camp Coleman, Kutz Camp, Goldman Union Camp Institute (GUCI) and the Greene Family Camp made the youth from Israel feel at home.

Our camps brought the excitement of immersive Jewish experiences to kids and teenagers around the world, strengthening their Jewish identity and helping instill Reform Jewish values in the next generation.

Below, is a brief summary of the summer that was.

LJY Netzer
Name of Country: England
2015 Camp Dates: August 11 – 24
Campers: 137
Staff: 52
Age Range of Campers:  8-15
Summer in Israel: (age 16): 45
Total: 232

Noar Panama
Name of Country: Panama
2015 Camp Dates: July 10-13
Campers: 41
Staff: 15
Age Range of Campers: 8-16
Total: 56

Netzer France
Name of Country: France
2015 Camp Dates: July 6 - 19
Campers: 65
Staff: 15
Age Range of Campers: 6 – 16
Total: 80

Netzer South Africa
Name of Country: South Africa
2015 Summer Camp Dates: June 28 – July 3 
Campers: 14
Staff: 5
Age Range of Campers: 14-17
Total: 19

Name of Country: England
2015 Summer Camp Dates: July 28 – August 11
Campers: 500
Staff: 200
Age Range of Campers: 10-15
Summer in Israel (age 16): 270
Total: 970
Netzer FSU
2015 Summer Camp Dates: June 4 – August 20
Campers + Staff: 800
Age Range of Campers: 7-35
Total: 800

UpJ Netzer
Name of Country: Germany
2015 Summer Camp Dates: July 30 – August 10
Campers: 80
Staff: 20
Age Range of Campers: 8-17
Total: 100

Netzer Barcelona
Name of Country: Spain
2015 Summer Camp Dates: July 13-25
Campers: 43
Staff: 17
Age Range of Campers: 5-16
Total: 60

Netzer Melbourne + Netzer Sydney

Netzer Melbourne
Name of Country: Australia
2015 Summer Camp Dates: June 30 – July 5
Campers: 87
Staff: 15
Age Range of Campers: 8-18
Total: 102

Netzer Sydney
Name of Country: Australia
2015 Summer Camp Dates: July 7-12
Campers: 73
Staff: 13
Age Range of Campers: 8-15
Total: 86

Read the complete Netzer Olami 2015 Summer Camp Report here.

Instant Connections: FSU Summer Camps Attract Over 800 Participants

Summing Up Summer: Rita Fruman, Netzer Coordinator FSU

"Another exciting and fun filled summer camp season has come and gone in the FSU. 

As an active Netzer member since 1999, I can honestly say that Netzer camps truly change lives. For many youth, these camps are the only possibility to be in a Jewish environment, understand who they are, discover the best way to be Jewish and continue this journey following the summer camps in our Netzer clubs and Reform communities.

In 5775, so many special moments opened the participants' hearts to Reform Judaism and Zionism. 
Camping on Reform Zionism: Rita Fruman, Netzer Coordinator FSU. 

At each camp, the Hebrew language was an important part of the daily activities. Participants not only learned new words, they sang Hebrew songs and every morning the "Boker Tov" activity included Israeli dancing. Another example was prayer. Each one was informative, spiritual and emotional. Each service was different, unique and participants were encouraged to participate and read the prayers in Hebrew. 

This year, staff decided to explore a topic we had never touched on before, the Book of Prophets. This is one of the books in the Bible that is very important for Reform Judaism, containing Reform Jewish values such as Tzedakah, social justice, helping those in need, personal responsibility and Tikkun Olam. 
This was especially relevant this year as we continue to experience instability and injustice in the region. 

This great Jewish text contains important lessons and everything we learned during the camp program is pertinent to the lives of Jewish youth today. We hope that they take this knowledge and experience home with them and continue to be active Jews in their communities and change the world.

For me, as Netzer coordinator in the Former Soviet Union, this is a unique opportunity to say thank you for this great gift – for these camps that you continue to support for so many years! 

With all my heart and all the hearts of those 800 young people that took part in the camp program, we want to say thank you for your generous support and belief in us."

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Netzer Police: Cracking the Case of the Jewish Prophets

Minsk, Belarus 

From July 13 -19, 97 youth enrolled in the 'Netzer Police Department' in the 'Jewish Progressive Police', a division that specializes in cracking unsolved cases from the past, namely the Book of Prophets. Staff members were appointed 'captains' and their aim was to guide their young 'sergeants' towards discovering a history shrouded in mystery. 

On the Case: Scenes from the Netzer Police Academy.

The second goal was to build a bridge between this young Jewish Progressive generation and the Book of Prophets, by using examples of social justice, personal responsibility and Tikkun Olam from the past and teaching participants how relevant these texts are today.

As a way of carrying out Reform values, camp participants prepared toys that were then taken and distributed to children at a local Minsk orphanage. Camp participants from Russia and Ukraine took some of the toys that were made and donated them to local orphanages. 

This initiative was such a success that it has been suggested that Netzer clubs in the FSU region establish a Children for Children project that will include visits to orphanages during the year. 

As always, moving Kabbalat Shabbat and Shabbat Shacharit services were held. This year, for the first time, camp participants read from the Torah and took part in prayers. 

All participants left the camp having had a positive Jewish experience that increased their knowledge and facilitated new Jewish connections all over the FSU.

View the photo gallery here.

Check out this video.

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Netzer National Spy School: Investigating King Solomon

Minsk, Belarus

Between July 23 and July 29, 101 youth registered for the Netzer National Spy School. 'Special agents' (madrichim) had a number of 'open cases' and needed additional help. Therefore, they recruited these new students to reopen these files, comprised of the Book of Prophets. 
Spies Like Us: Madrichim and students dig deep into the Book of Prophets.

The characters who were investigated included Jonah, Deborah, Ezra, Yehoshua Bin Nun, King Saul and King Solomon. 

Solutions in the Scroll: Netzer National Spy School.

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Camp highlights included:

Religious Texts: Madrichim introduced a number of religious texts to camp participants, many of whom are about to have a Bar/Bat Mitzvah. The Bible, Mishna, Gemara and Shulchan Aruch were explained and discussed.
Maccabi Games: This was a competition between the different groups of 'spies'. On this day, both physical and emotional strength were tested. After all, many of the prophets had to have both physical and emotional strength to fight for their beliefs, even if it meant going against the majority. 
King David's Museum: Participants explored the museum, created at the campsite, and learned how David became such a central figure in Jewish history. The stories chosen focused on David's childhood and youth:  the approximate age of the participating campers. 
Special Guests: A delegation from the Atlanta Federation completed the last letters of a mezuzah scroll and along with camp participants celebrated with a special ceremony that included the Mincha service, filmed live and watched by parents. 

View the photo gallery here.

View the video now.

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Who Ya Gonna Call? Netzer Ghostbusters

Minsk, Belarus

From July 31 to August 9, 111 youth took part in this session of the camp. During this camp, participants were asked to track down ghosts from the past and create a team of young leaders who would learn and investigate together. The purpose of this session was to show participants different ways of self-development, using events from the Book of Prophets.

Chasing Ghosts: This FSU Netzer camp session had a distinctly artistic component.

This camp was full of creative energy. Nearly all the classes offered were dedicated to some form of artistic expression (theater, music, arts and crafts, etc.), adding an additional component to the program:
Theater Studio: Participants learned the basics of theater and many overcame their fear of speaking and/or performing in front of a large audience.
School of Rock: After taking part in a music class, participants, also known as the 'Via Netzer Band', performed Sim Shalom during the camp's final Shabbat Shacharit.
Israel and the Diaspora: Using text from the Babylonian Jewish exiles, parallels were made between those who chose to go 'back' to Israel from Babylon and those who make Aliyah today.   
Tea with Rabbi Leonid Bimbat: These informal talks enabled participants to receive answers to their questions about miracles, history of Reform Judaism, kashrut, and much more.

View the photo gallery here.

View the video now

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Big Finish: Transforming while Staying True to Jewish Values

Student Camp: Minsk, Belarus

Between August 10 and August 19, more than 90 participants took part in the final camp session of summer 5775/2015. The theme was "Transforming Myself while Staying True to my Jewish Values", using the Book of Prophets as a guide.

Highlights included: 

Poetic Kabbalat Shabbat: A special service where participants who led the prayers read poems they had written. Each of these poems described a change that these individuals experienced as a result of adopting the Shabbat rituals and traditions. 
Bureaucratic Minefield: Participants 'got married' in Israel and had to navigate the different bureaucratic hurdles that are a part of starting a life together (rabbinate, FSU-based archives proving Judaism, travel agencies, etc.). The goal of the game was to demonstrate the power of the rabbinate in Israel and its impact on the population. The game also showed how there is more than one way to be Jewish and to get married. 
Linear Beit Midrash: The topic was the reforms of King Josiah. Participants were divided into groups, which read and discussed relevant texts. Then, the campers wrote down questions below certain texts that were unclear. Next, other groups provided answers to these questions using mime.
Breaking through Borders: Participants left the camp venue to go on a hike and attend a special Mincha prayer service in the forest, as well as to speak about emotional breakthroughs they'd experienced during the summer. 

Popping In On Mother Nature: Campers explore the great outdoors and share experiences.

View the photo gallery here.

View the video now.

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Hava Nagila! Trekking through the Ural Mountains 

For several years now, the Russian Chelyabinsk community of Hava Nagila has held a traditional congregational summer camp. In 5775/2015, the Zyuratkul Reserve, located in the Ural Mountains, was chosen as the camp venue. 
Lost in Books: Hava Nagila's younger members feed their minds.

A total of 43 people, including children, youth and families, participated.

Yidishkeit Visits the Ural Mountains: Hava Nagila summer camp.

Aside from hiking, camping and other sports activities, there were discussions on various religious and cultural issues. Many topics were covered, but special focus was given to the issue of equality between women and men and Reform Judaism's role. 

In addition, classes were held that used classical texts and ethical issues raised by them to address contemporary concerns. 

Classes were prepared and led by Igor Zinkov, rabbinic student at Leo Baeck College. 

This is Igor's native community and everyone felt very much at home with him. 

View the photo gallery here.

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A Star is Born: FSU Integrative Camp

From June 2 to June 8, the "Shalom Star" integrative family camp took place outside of Moscow, with 130 people taking part in this innovative educational program. 

For years now, the beginning of June has marked the time when many Jewish organizations and foundations, the World Union included, unite to hold a family project that integrates children with special needs into the Jewish community. 

There were lectures for parents on Jewish history, tradition and literature. In addition, classes were conducted for children and those with special needs.  Consultations with psychologists were also available. 

Everyone enjoyed the joint trips, arts and crafts, songs, evening activities, theater and the traditional final night campfire. 

While this year built on previous years' accomplishments, two events made 2015 unforgettable.  First, Sasha Lashkevich, is a 17-year-old boy who faces multiple challenges (autism and other mental disabilities). Despite this, he is currently learning at school and plans to continue his studies at a college that has a program designed to meet his needs. 

A Special Place: FSU Integrative Summer Camp, June 2 – 8, 2015.

At the camp, Sasha celebrated his Bar Mitzvah. This is the first time that such a ceremony was held at "Shalom Star".

This moving event was witnessed by Sasha's mother, his family and all camp participants. 

The second highlight was the festive talent show held on the last night of the camp, which included singing, poetry reading, a violin and string quartet performances. The show ended with a toe tapping song that children taught their madrichim. 

Integrating children with special needs into the wider society is both immensely rewarding and very challenging, requiring special skills and a lot of patience. 

Thanks to Sasha and other inspirational stories, everyone involved with in the integration project is more dedicated than ever to the important work we have to do.

View the photo gallery here.

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Righteous: Gentiles Host Progressive Jewish Summer Camp in Olesin, Poland

By Alexander Gaidar, Executive Director of the Progressive movement in Ukraine and Alexandra Gaidar, Educational Coordinator for Ukraine.

"In April 2015, the phone rang: a familiar voice. Our friends were in Ukraine for a few hours, this time in Kiev.

After meeting us at the Progressive movement's Hatikva Center, Gustav and Mary Musket invited us to stay at their home for 10 days in June, along with 40 children from our communities all over Ukraine, ages 9-11, who are too young to attend our interregional camps.

Two Faiths, One Belief: The Musket's summer camp is
inspired by the connection of the Jewish People to Israel.

These days, from June 4-15, were unforgettable and included sessions about Jewish tradition, Zionism, kashrut, arts and crafts, quizzes, games and competitions. We also visited places of Jewish historical significance in Warsaw.

Our first encounter with Gustav and Maria Musket dates back to 1998, when they came to Lutsk from Warsaw for a few hours to find a Jewish community. 
Back in 1998, we were among the 28 children and five adults who travelled to Olesinov, a village near Warsaw. We stayed in a cozy three-story wooden house. It was the first family camp for Jews from the Progressive Jewish community in Lutsk. 

Boy Meets Jewish World: Progressive Jewish summer
camp in Poland, June 2015.

The Musket family is Protestant. They believe that we are all part of a biblical prophecy that will be fulfilled when all the Jews gather in the Land of Israel. 

Gustav and Maria's connection to the Jewish People is being passed on to the couple's five children, all of whom have Jewish names.
Thanks to all who prepared and carried out this wonderful camp! Thanks to everyone who made it possible for this wonderful journey into the world of goodness, joy, friendship! 

A special thanks to Gustav and Mary for opening their home and their hearts to us."

View the photo gallery here.

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Experimenting in Odessa: Netzer Lab

By Rabbi Julia Gris

"For the second year in a row, Emanu El Odessa operated the Ivri Summer Day Camp. During the school year, Ivri operates weekly classes on Saturdays, in a friendly environment for children and their parents who want to learn more about Judaism and study Hebrew in a creative way. During winter and summer holidays, day camps are organized.

These five unforgettable days were filled with creativity and excursions. Each day began with a "Boker Tov" – Israeli dances and games. Language classes were conducted in the morning and afternoon, with lessons being taught through songs and games in Hebrew and English. 

Each camp has a theme and this year, twenty-five curious boys and girls aged 7 to 13 years were part of a secret "Netzer Laboratory." Netzer madrichim developed and carried out the program. 

Mad Scientists: Netzer Lab participants took part in a whole lot of interesting experiments!

For each activity or test, young researchers received a new formula, necessary to conduct experiments. During the project, participants 'met' with Jewish Nobel Prize winners and inventors. With the tips they received, campers were able to invent their own ways to "change the world" for the better. Creative methods in the laboratory included the use of clay, rubber and soap - to name but a few.  

In addition, children visited museums and exhibitions in the city, spent a day at the sea - as part of the "forgotten research laboratory"- visited a "laser-club" and took part in a number of scientific experiments. 

The last day of the project ended with a performance for parents."

View the photo gallery here.

View the video here.

Read the complete FSU Summer Program Report 5775/2015 here.

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Upcoming Events

November 4–8, 2015 – Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) 73rd Biennial Conference, Orlando, Florida

November 5, 2015 - International Humanitarian Award Dinner Honouring Rabbi Lenny Thal & Installation of Rabbi Daniel Freelander, 
URJ Biennial Conference, Orlando, Florida

November 8–12, 2015 - Southern Jewish Civil Rights Experience, Atlanta, Georgia - For Registration Please Click Here

April 14-17, 2016 - European Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ), Biennial Conference, London, UK

May 27-28, 2016 - Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) Conference, Israel

July 15-17, 2016 - SAUPJ 2016 Biennial Conference, South Africa

August 4-7, 2016 - Latin America Region Biennial Conference (WUPJ-LA), Sao Paulo, Brazil

November 17-20, 2016 - Union for Progressive Judaism (UPJ) Biennial Conference , Perth, Australia

May 15-21, 2017 – CONNECTIONS 2015, World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) 38th Biennial Conference, Jerusalem, Israel

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