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Summer Camp as a Catalyst for Thoughtful Experiential Israel Education

Ramah is partnering with the Shalom Hartman Institute to invest in counselors’ education, leadership, and professional development.



“Three camp counselors stood at the front of our seminar room at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem and asked a pair of questions. “What do you love about camp?” and “What would you change about camp?” In response to the first, we heard many enthusiastic answers: Camp builds up my confidence; it makes me feel surprised by what I can accomplish; it challenges me creatively; it allows me to be the first Jewish educator in the lives of my young campers; it provides a Jewish experience that feels fun and spirited with people my age.

In response to the second, we heard thoughtful critiques and suggestions for improving camp culture, maximizing leadership opportunities for young staff, raising salaries and other concrete recommendations.

These three counselors then asked a third simple, yet profound, question: “Even after offering these suggestions for improvement, do you still love camp?” All hands shot up. This strategically designed activity demonstrated powerfully how each of us can hold multiple emotions, even negative ones, while maintaining a core, positive commitment to an institution. These creative counselors helped their peers bridge this exercise and experience to their relationship to Israel, reminding them that with regard to Israel, they can also feel multiple, even conflicting, emotions.

This brief exercise offers but one example of the possibilities that the summer camp setting affords for thoughtful, experiential Israel education. Many Jewish camps have at their core a strong vision for how campers, staff members and alumni should be engaged with Israel and Israelis. Such education is and should be core to the enterprise, as the Jewish camping sector has a strong vision for how campers, staff members and alumni should be engaged with Israel and Israelis.”

Read the full op-ed by Daniel Olson on eJewishPhilanthropy

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