Summer Camp Road- Trip
SAZF Executive Director, Nicci Raz, reflects on her recent visit to summer camps across the coast.
Camp fires, music, good friends, beach and volley ball – I was transported back to my youth when I visited all the summer camps this past December. I realized that so much of my Jewish identity and sense of belonging was nurtured during my time spent at summer camp. So all these years later, I returned as “camp inspector”, prepared to inspect and ensure compliance –to do my job, but the amount of fun and inspiration I gained from being there was an unexpected surprise.
Since joining the SAZF, I have had the privilege of getting to know the leadership of all four movements (Habonim, Bnei Akiva, Netzer and Betar). I have been extremely impressed by their maturity, professionalism and passion for Zionism. Their tremendous efforts paid off this year and over 2000 children attended summer camps over the December holidays.
My road trip lasted just under a week with the Netzer camp site in Grabou being our first stop. The word “Netzer” is an acronym for “Noar Tzioni Reformi” – Reform Zionist Youth and their ideology is strongly rooted in social activism and Tikkun Olam. The theme of their camp “Lech Lecha” (Go Forth) was an apt description of the incredible energy and warm welcome we received. The camp was buzzing with activity as we saw the educational programs in action, teaching knowledge of Judaism, Jewish History, Israel’s history, culture, and Zionism.
Next, we arrived at Habonim Dror and although I had visited the site in April ahead of the summer camp preparation, it was so exciting to drive through the gates and see circles of chanichim engrossed in their peulot (activities). If the sheer beauty of the camp site setting wasn’t enough to impress, the quality of the educational sessions certainly was. With something to offer everyone-Habonim ensures the Kabbalat Shabbat, a candle lighting ceremony on the beach was an incredible experience. I got swept up in the vibe singing Israeli songs and feeling so connected to Judaism. In the capable hands of Kelly Brooke, Habo 2016 was a camp to remember and a place I personally can’t wait to visit again.
Onwards to Mossel Bay - Bnei Akiva camp- Machana Orot Yisrael. Bnei Akiva lived up to their promise by nurturing the light within every one of their chanichim this year. With a newly renovated camp site that boasts 2 pools, a sports arena, Shul and much more, it was hard not to get swept up in the hive of activities taking place throughout the day and late into the night. Early morning inspiration was enhanced by different guest Rabonim giving shiurim and the fun factor with different tochniyot and guest performances really provided non-stop entertainment. Under the leadership of Jordy Sank, the enthusiastic madrichim prepared tochnioyot that encourage the chanichim to passionately expand their love for Judaism, Zionism and Jewish unity. A highlight for me was enjoying a concert performance by Mathew Mole and standing in line like a groupie for a quick “selfie”.
As I prepared to wrap up my camp road-trip I was struck by how much love, passion and time goes into planning a summer camp and was overwhelmed by a sense of gratitude and pride at what our youth movements achieved for Machaneh 2016.
All that is left to say is thank you- Thank you to the hardworking madrichim who spend months planning programs to engage and educate their chanichim; to the CSO teams who guard our children and ensure they are safe at all time; to the doctors , medics and psychologists who give up their holiday to treat our children; to the community organisations and leadership who help ensure that our youth movements stay strong and grow; and finally to the parents who entrust their kids to us for three weeks. I cannot wait for my 2017 road trip!