Before campers emerge joyously from buses to summer camps across North America, thousands of staff members have undergone intensive training and preparation designed to ensure that every camp offers children and teens an experience of a lifetime.
At URJ Crane Lake Camp last week, counselors, specialists, and the rest of the staff dedicated a day to study that gave them an opportunity to think about their own values and perspectives as a precursor to an intensive afternoon of planning evening programs for the summer.
[URJ Crane Lake summer shlichot explore Israel Resource Cards] Using The iCenter’s Israel Resource Cards, Crane Lake staff shared stories about their personal connections to Israel and then considered how they can use their own experiences to craft immersive experiences for campers. In another session, members of the 20-strong delegation of Israeli staff members—most of whom are in camp for the first time—were challenged to remember why they applied to work in camp.
“When I first got here in 2017,” said third-year staff member Inbar Kedmi, “I was in shock. I didn’t speak—not English, not Hebrew, I was just silent. But as soon as the campers arrived, I remembered why I had come, and why I wanted to do this. That will happen for all of you, too.”
[URJ Crane Lake summer shlichim explore Israel Resource Cards] Later in the afternoon, as staff worked in small groups to plan evening programs for every age group throughout the summer, Israelis sought input from Americans, and groups of Israeli and American staff members came together to build programs that merged the Israelis’ ideas with the expertise of the Americans, many of whom grew up at Crane Lake and have a deep understanding of camp culture and traditions. The cards found their way into many of the planning sessions, providing inspiration, ideas, and information for staff as they cobbled together programs that will be workshopped with program specialists before being implemented in the coming weeks.
Each summer, The iCenter, in partnership with the Foundation for Jewish Camp and the Jewish Agency for Israel, collaborates with dozens of Jewish camps across North America, helping their staff members infuse Israel into the magic of the summer season. Whether camps participate in the Israel @ Camp Intensive or another regional program, or receive the educational resources we send each spring, their work helps make Israel an integral part of the camp experience for tens of thousands of young Jews. As members of The iCenter team visit camps across the U.S. and Canada, we share Letters from Camp that highlight some of the innovative and effective ways that camp staff members are helping campers engage with Israel.