Voices from the field

Letters from Camp: Dancing on the Benches

Camp Ramah in Canada

The lunch scene at Camp Ramah in Canada is both familiar and surprising (from an Israel Ed perspective.) The chadar ochel (dining hall), like so many others, finds campers and staff sitting together eating a lunch of cheese pizza and salad bar, with the loud, excited constant drone of chatter coming from all sides of the large space.

Just as a visitor is thinking that it’s a typical camp meal, the unexpected happens: as the meal winds down, but before announcements or singing the birkat hamazon prayer, an Israeli song blasts over the loudspeaker. Campers and staff jump to their feet, many of them standing on the benches, dancing and singing away.

It’s a daily occurrence at Camp Ramah in Canada; After every meal someone is responsible for selecting and playing one or two Israeli songs, and everyone loves it.

This glimpse into an Israel-connected camp is not the extent of the Israel environment. Israeli shlichim (emissaries) strive to engage campers of all ages around Israel and make it fun for them. Campers compete to make the best chocolate balls, play Israeli field games, and participate in a mock-election as an introduction to the complex topic of Israeli elections happening (again) in September.

Israel is explored through all of the senses, including Israeli Masterchef competitions, an experience of deafness and blindness (a la Israel Children’s Museum in Holon), as well as simulations of the early Zionist Congresses and learning about Eliezer Ben-Yehudah and the development of modern Hebrew.   

To be sure, having fun with Israel over the summer is not without its challenges. The camp will continue to think about new ways to deepen Israel education for campers and staff, but an infusion of Israel throughout the summer brings Israel to life at Camp Ramah in Canada.

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.