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How Israel and Camp Fit Together

By Michael Levi

Michael is Camp Harlam’s year-round Shaliach (emissary).

Imagine yourself being in an office, planning and analyzing several types of information, and all of a sudden you receive an email that can change your entire life.

This happened to me, but what I did, was move this email to my spam folder.

Two weeks later, my best friend Alon, who served with me in the army, showed me the path back to this email and four months later, I found myself on an airplane to the US on my way to my first summer camp experience at URJ Camp Harlam.

This was the summer of 2015. I did not know what to expect and had never experienced Reform Judaism before. I came to camp as a soldier during my army service and fell in love.

I was one of 28 Shlichim (Israeli emissaries) who came to camp with the main goal of being great counselors and bringing the “real” Israel to the campers.

Israel is an essential part of camp. It adds to the diversity of camp’s community and shows various aspects of Judaism through Israeli culture. Israel is the place where people can see history, past, present, and future coming together, and we are a part of the Jewish people leading in the direction we want to take it. Campers are exposed to the terms “peoplehood” and “living bridges” and connect them to their own lives. They understand that we, as Jews around the world, have a sense of responsibility towards one another and regardless of where we come from, we all share traditions and culture. Moreover, campers learn to challenge themselves and ask relevant questions about Israel. They discuss and inform themselves about current and past events in Israel and listen to the different voices in American and Israeli society. They also learn that Hebrew is a language you can use in everyday life and that Jewish holidays can be celebrated in many ways.

This year’s Mishlachat (Israeli delegation). In the summer, Michael serves as the Rosh Mishlachat, the head of the delegation.

I returned to the army after my summer at Harlam knowing much more about Israel, America, and Judaism. I became a commander and decided to teach sessions about American Jewry and the importance of the US-Israel relationship as part of the courses I led.

I wanted to deepen my relationship even more and applied for a position as a year-round Shaliach. This is my second year as a Shaliach with the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest and the Jewish Agency for Israel. 2018 will be my fourth summer at URJ Camp Harlam, where I will be the Rosh Mishlacat (the head of the Israeli delegation) for the second year. Israel at camp is an exceptional teaching and learning experience for the campers, staff, and Israel itself.

Michael Levi is from a small village in northern Israel, near Haifa, called Gilon. Prior to his army service, Michael was a counselor in a Zionist youth movement “HaIhud Ha’Akalei” and later led his village youth group, providing different age groups with positive engagement. Michael had completed his army service as a commander in the Intelligence forces where he became a commander of the commander’s training. During his service, he was awarded for his creative leadership. In his second year of his Shlichut, Michael works with Temple Emanu-El in Westfield, Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel in South Orange, Temple Ner Tamid in Bloomfield, the JCC of Central New Jersey, and URJ Camp Harlam. Michael is a URJ Roswell Lech Lecha fellow.

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