by Sarah Beth Podell
Communication & Admin. Coordinator, URJ Harlam Day Camp
Over the last decade I have spent eight summers working at our residential camp, Camp Harlam. In that time, I have been incredibly fortunate to work with some bright, fun and amazing people. But each summer, there is one cohort of our staff that always impresses me, our summer shlichim, our Israeli staff. These individuals leave their homes and families to travel to the United States and work in a Jewish camp. For them it is often an opportunity to learn about our Jewish communities and to travel. For our camps, it helps to build a special and very personal relationship with Israel. They infuse Israeli culture into our cabins, Hebrew into our vocabularies and share their passion for their country on to our staff and campers.
It was not until I started working at Harlam Day Camp that I started to think about what that impact could look like if our shlichim had the opportunity to spend time with our campers as well as their families. This summer Harlam Day Camp will have two summer shlichim. Our camp will have the same special opportunity to build a love and commitment to the State of Israel that we see in our residential camp. What makes this so different from our residential camp is that we share this opportunity with our camp families and the greater Philadlephia community.
During this summer, our shlichim, Tal and Chen, will be staying with camp families and others from our local Harlam community. These families will have the special opportunity to share in their child’s camp experience and build that personal connection to Israel. While Eytan, our camp director, and I were talking about the impact of the home hospitality experience he shared a story of a family from his previous camp. A few months ago Eytan attended a former campers Bar Mitzvah. While always a special experience to celebrate special occasions with camp families (at events like that, Eytan always says he feels like a proud uncle) this one was made even more special by the presence of camp shaliach who had stayed with the family while he was working at day camp. Not only had they remained close over the years, it was important to the family, and this now extended member, to be together and celebrate this event in their lives.
These are the types of meaningful relationships that we hope, and believe, will be formed at Harlam Day Camp this summer between our community and our two incredible shlichim. These powerful relationships will grow around dinner tables, on car rides and in the small moments at home that our families will share with our shlichim.
Housing a shaliach can be an incredibly enriching experience for you and your family. If you or someone you know is interested in hosting a shaliach for a week or two this summer please e-mail Sarah Beth Podell. You will also find some additional information about being a host below.
Hosting a Harlam Day Camp Shaliach*
What You Need to Know
* Shaliach – Emissary from Israel | Shlichim – Plural of Shaliach; emissaries from Israel
WHAT are Shlichim and WHY do we have them?
As part of our effort to bring Israel to Harlam Day Camp we have Shlichim on our staff. Having these Israeli staff at camp helps campers and staff to build a personal connection to Israel and greatly strengthens our Israel education at camp. While these amazing members of our team make Israel more real to our camps, they work in partnership with the rest of our staff and leaders to create a robust and diverse relationship between our camp, its community, and Israel.
WHO are they?
We have two Shlichim coming to Harlam Day Camp this summer, Tal and Chen. Both Tal and Chen are very impressive young women who have recently finished their service in the Israeli army and are excited to work with kids and to help educate people about Israel. They are both 21 year-olds and they will be working as counselors and leading special Israel programs. They were chosen from hundreds of applicants because of their passion, personality, and because they appear to be excellent role models for both campers and staff.
WHAT does hosting a Shaliach entail?
To house a Shlichim (either one OR both of them) you need to have two things:
- A place for them to sleep and live comfortably for a minimum of two weeks during the summer.
- A way for them to get to and from camp during the week (i.e. assist with them getting to a camp pick-up/drop-off bus stop, live close enough to JBHA for them to walk, or be able to drive them).
WHY should I host a Shaliach?
Hosting a Shaliach can be an incredibly enriching experience. Often we hear stories of families housing Shlichim and years later they are still in touch, celebrating special occasions together, travelling together and considering one another to be part of their family. In addition to having a new friend and place to stay when you and your family visit Israel, this is a great way to bring a little bit of camp and Israel into your home. These terrific young people are fun, easy-going, smart, and passionate about the connection between our camp and Israeli. And they’re especially excited to live with you!
HOW can I learn more or volunteer?
To learn more about hosting a Shaliach please contact Sarah Beth Podell at SPodell@URJ.org or at (610) 668 -0423, ext. 1035.