Voices from the field

Letters from Camp: Bringing Our Values as Israelis to Camp

Kibbutz Bob Waldorf

Growing up in Kibbutz Ha’ogen in Central Israel, Elinoy Granot says she always knew she wanted to be a shlichah (Israeli emissary), so when she was sent to Kibbutz Bob Waldorf, the camp of the Jewish Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Los Angeles, in 2016 to be a ropes specialist, she had high hopes.

Still an IDF soldier at the time, Elinoy had a challenging summer as she tried to mesh the dream of bringing her story to camp with the reality of fitting into the busy team of young people creating meaningful summer experiences for children and teens. “I didn’t really feel appreciated for who I was,” she says, adding that when she came back for a short winter session a few months later things began to change.

Now in her second year as head of the Israeli delegation at Bob Waldorf, Elinoy says she strives to help the Israelis on staff bring their stories and skills to camp in meaningful ways. For her personally, that means telling campers and American staff what it’s like to grow up and live in a kibbutz in the 21st century, and for the rest of the mishlachat (Israeli delegation).

“I can help them represent their own values as Israelis and feel comfortable doing it,” she says. “If I’m not in Israel,” she continues, “I want to be doing something for Israel. And here at camp, we all know why we’re here. At the end of the summer, they can all look back and see what they achieved.” Elinoy has had several years to find a balance between fulfilling her general role at camp – in addition to being Rosh Mishlachat (Delegation Head), she’s head of sports this summer – and her mission of bringing Israel to camp. She recognizes that she still has a lot to learn about the American Jewish community and the reality of the lives her campers lead all year long, but she feels good about her ability to help connect people to Israel in meaningful ways.

The iCenter’s Israel Resource Cards have been a big help, she says. “When I first saw them, I felt like they came from heaven!” she says. “They’ve given me the ability to address our campers on their terms. Every shaliach should have them in their pocket!”

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.