By Loui Dobin, Director URJ Greene Family Camp. Loui goes to Israel each April to train and meet the Israelis that will be staff at all of the URJ camps.
As I am writing these words, I am on a plane home from Israel. We took off a couple of hours ago and have just crossed the coast of France. Now that we are “feet-wet” over the North Atlantic, I have had a little time to think about my trip.
I landed on the eve of Yom Ha’atzmaut and was picked up at the airport by Amira Bar-Shalom, during Yom Hazikaron (Israeli memorial day) just in time to stand in silence as all of the sirens in Israel sounded for two minutes to commemorate those who had died.
That evening, I found my way on the roof of the apartment of Mike and Sally, two of MY camp friends from way back at Eisner, proving that camp friends last FOREVER! We got to see an incredible fireworks show over Jerusalem. After that, it was to the huge street party at the bottom of Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem with thousands of people listening to live Israeli rock and spraying whipped crème over everyone in sight. The next day, it was off to Tel Aviv and another party complete with “al ha eysh” (or “grilling” to you and me).
As the party was ending, it was time to leave and go to Kibbutz Shefayim and the five-day seminar for all of the Shlichim (Israeli staff members) coming to all of the camps in the US and Canada this coming summer. Camp directors from URJ camps, Ramah Camps, and Young Judea Camps all came together to give the new staff a taste of what camp would be like and to start their training process. Over Shabbat, all of the staff members from previous years arrived who will be returning to camps. I taught a number of sessions and led song led for Shabbat evening Services.
After that, I had some of the most fun that I have all year, leading a song session for hundreds of Israelis. It was really high –energy, but I am always a little nervous about my Hebrew pronunciation in front of all of those native Hebrew-speakers. Our Kvutzah (class group) was led by Or Sadeh, staff member from the last three summers. Jess Dangott, our summer eduction director, participated in sessions on Israel and Jewish education. Sydney Brobjorg spent Shabbat with us as well. She is on a year-long program in Israel, and was there to represent Greene campers and staff and to help answer camp questions.
Sunday after the seminar ended, I went back to Tel Aviv and sat in an outdoor café with Oded and Amir, two of our long-time GFC staff members. In good Israeli tradition, we talked politics, history, and current affairs. It was an incredible week spent with colleagues, friends, and the new and old staff of the Greene Family Camp. I am excited to bring the new Israelis to camp and have them positvely impact our American staff and campers.