Jewish camping: Transforming lives around the world

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Our Jewish values are borderless. The guiding principles that inform the work of the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island are the same values that we prioritize in our support overseas. The transformational power of Jewish summer camps is one of these principles.

According to the Foundation for Jewish Camp, “The key to the Jewish future is Jewish camp. We know from research – and nearly two decades’ experience – that this is where young people find Jewish role models and create enduring Jewish friendships. It’s where they forge a vital, lifelong connection to their essential Jewishness.”

Through support of the Alliance Annual Campaign, community members provide scholarship assistance for local children to attend J-Camp, Camp JORI and Camp Gan Israel. But did you know that at the same time, you are helping children who are thirsting for Jewish education and life-changing experiences to attend summer camp around the world?

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) are the Jewish Alliance’s core overseas partners, allocating funds each year to their programs and services in Israel and around the world. The JDC’s Jewish Renewal programs provide some youths’ sole opportunity to explore their Jewish roots and create Jewish experiences.

This year, nearly 15,000 children and adults will participate in JDC’s camp programs, which include more than 130 camps in 20 countries across Central and Eastern Europe and in the former Soviet Union.

Jewish camping has become a leading outreach activity of the JDC, bringing together youth and families eager to experience rich Jewish content and serving as the gateway into Jewish life year-round at the many Jewish community centers and Jewish centers across the former Soviet Union.

Pavel, a young Jewish camper from Belarus, is one of the thousands who have benefited from the JDC’s transformative camps. Last year, Pavel and his parents participated in the Summer Family Retreat Camp operated by JCC Emunah in Minsk, the capital of Belarus. Prior to this experience, he and his family had no formal Jewish life.

Pavel enjoyed playing sports, learning about Jewish traditions and history, and making honeycomb Shabbat candles with his friends.

At the end of the retreat, the family came together to participate in the camp-wide Shabbat celebration.

“Lighting the candles as a community was remarkable for us,” said Pavel’s mother, Natalia. “We want to continue the tradition so we have started attending other JCC programs. And this year again we are returning for another retreat with the families we’ve befriended in our community.”

Stories such as these are proof positive that Jewish camping is effective and necessary in opening doors to other Jewish values-based experiences.

You can make a difference in a Jewish child’s life by donating to the Alliance Annual Campaign.

For more information about the programs and services that the Alliance supports for youth and families locally and abroad, contact Stephanie Hague at
shague@jewishallianceri.org or 401-421-4111.

STEPHANIE HAGUE is the philanthropy officer at the Jewish Alliance.