By Stacy Rigler
A few nights ago, we celebrated Israel Night, a chance to recognize the over 30 members of our Israeli Delegation (called Mishlachat) who have travelled halfway across the world to work here at camp this summer. The night was the combined work of mine and our Rosh Mishlachat (head delegate) for more than a year. Last year at this time our Mishlachat (who were amazing!) struggled to figure out how to teach about Israel to our American kids. What do they want to know about Israel? What’s fun about Israel? What’s not controversial about Israel? What should I be teaching?
For second session 2017 Michael and I set topics for each unit. The unit topics related to their overall Jewish life goals and were refined prior to the start of the summer.
Carmel – to learn about life in Israel and the connection to our camp community.
Sharon – to learn about Israel and the Bible
Kineret – to learn about where Israelis came from and how this influences their society
Arava – to learn about Israel’s heroes, role models, and famous individuals
Galil – to learn about the complexities of Modern Israeli life
K’far Noar – to learn about the connection between Israel and American Jews
Chavurah – to learn about the law of Return and who is a citizen in Israel
Our goal with Israel education is to present a nuanced view of the modern State of Israel. While it is certainly a goal of ours that our kids love Israel we believe that in order to truly appreciate our Jewish Homeland our campers have to know about it’s challenges and successes. Our faculty work with our campers and staff to help do this within an open and safe community.
Our goal for Israel night is to help our campers learn more about our Mishlachat in a personal way. In Kineret they tried to match the coming to Israel stories with the Mishlachat members in their unit. In Sharon they learned what Jerusalem does and does not mean to Mishlachat members. In Chavurah they heard snipers of the staff’s life and then went by group to ask questions about their family, their school, and their homes. Having our Mishlachat share their own stories, their personal connection to history and their personal pain about criticism to their state, or how they try to work to make their homeland a better place for everyone, makes the land of Israel seem closer.
Here at camp no matter the subject we encourage questions, exploration, and a deep look at complicated topics. Israel education is no different. Last night was a great example of our middah of Binah – how we can really take time to get to know someone else and understand, for just a moment, a piece of their story.
Rabbi Stacy Rigler is the Jewish life supervisor. She is an educator at Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park and a proud camp alumnus and parent.