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Jewish Agency, Mosaic United to bring 1,500 Israeli teens to camps for a summer of healing

The “Campers2Gether” initiative responds to stark realities for Jewish youth worldwide, including displacement and loss for Israelis.

Jewish Agency summer shaliach leading Shabbat singing during summer 2023. Credit: Photo by Omer Shabtay
Jewish Agency summer shaliach leading Shabbat singing during summer 2023. Credit: Photo by Omer Shabtay

The Jewish Agency for Israel, Mosaic United and Israel’s Ministry for Diaspora Affairs and Combating Antisemitism announce a new initiative—“Campers2Gether”—to bring more than 1,500 Israeli teens who have been displaced or otherwise affected by Israel’s war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip to Jewish camps in North America and across the Jewish world in the summer of 2024.

Launched by the Jewish Agency and Mosaic Teens, a division of Mosaic United, in partnership with the Foundation for Jewish Camp and Jewish Federations of North America, Campers2Gether responds to today’s stark realities for Jewish youth both in Israel and in Jewish communities across the globe. Teenagers in Israel, particularly youth evacuated from the Gaza Envelope and northern Israel, are dealing with loss and uncertainty. On the other side of the ocean, world Jewry is dealing with antisemitism and disinformation campaigns about the situation in Israel.

“For so many of us in the Jewish community, some of our fondest memories come from summer camp—a thoughtful, safe environment where we were able to practice independence, make new friendships and learn about ourselves,” said Mark Wilf, chairman of the Jewish Agency’s board of governors. “Campers2Gether now takes the transformative power of the Jewish summer camp setting to the next level at a time of unprecedented need for the Jewish people. The program will generate positive experiences for affected Israeli teens, utilizing the camp community to convey a healing sense of unity, while simultaneously providing a platform for global Jewish youth to understand Israel on a personal level.”

Campers2Gether will provide Israeli campers with a respite from the current upheaval in their lives, enabling them to reinforce their resilience, revive their social connections and regain confidence and self-esteem. They will also immerse themselves in the Jewish values, culture and traditions that are hallmarks of the Jewish summer-camp setting, helping them connect to their own identities and the larger Jewish community. Moreover, campers from both Israel and North America will forge meaningful connections that foster their sense of Jewish peoplehood.

Avi Cohen-Scali, director-general of Israel’s Ministry for Diaspora Affairs and Combating Antisemitism, stated, “The future of the Jewish people depends on the investment we make in the next generation. Campers2Gether not only provides a reprieve for Israeli teens who experienced terrible tragedy On Oct. 7 and need to heal, but also nurtures the bonds that unite us as a people.”

Campers ages 14-16 will be grouped in cohorts of up to 20 kids. Campers2Gether begins with pre-camp cohort activities and concludes with post-camp cohort meetings. Supplementing the experience are therapeutic activities and counseling sessions facilitated by professionals.

“We have long believed in the transformational power of mifgashim between Israeli and Diaspora teens,” shares Alana Ebin, director of Mosaic Teens. “Amidst a summer fraught with challenges, Campers2gether offers a unique solution: If teens can’t travel to Israel, then Israel will travel to them.”

This endeavor is just the latest in the space of summer camp and teens for Mosaic United, a joint partnership between the Israeli Ministry for Diaspora Affairs and Combating Antisemitism and Global Jewry.

Camp staff, including camp directors in North America and educational leaders in Israel, are receiving trauma-informed care training to help attune them to Campers2Gether participants’ backgrounds post-October 7. Renowned trauma expert, professor Mooli Lahad, founder of the International Community Stress Prevention Center, is working with Campers2Gether to assess participants’ mental health and provide staff guidance on meeting the teens’ emotional needs. Israeli staff being recruited to accompany the campers on their journey will receive extensive training and also prepare for the summer with training that expands their understanding of North American Jewry, including insights on antisemitism. In many cases, campers from Israel will be accompanied by staff members who are from their home communities, providing a sense of comfort and familiarity.

Further, the Jewish Agency is developing a communication and preparation process for the campers’ parents in collaboration with trauma experts, covering all phases of the experience before, during and after camp.

Campers2Gether marks the Jewish Agency’s latest major initiative that utilizes the Jewish camping experience, along with the Partnership2Gether Global Network, as a vehicle for bridging the distance between the people of Israel and world Jewry. For more than 50 years, the Jewish Agency has specialized in training and sending thousands of shlichim (Israeli emissaries) to Jewish summer camps in North America and across the world. As a result, the Jewish Agency holds longstanding relationships with hundreds of Jewish camps and has the unique ability to successfully recruit, train and immerse Israeli participants within Jewish summer camps.

Partnership2Gether (P2G) connects over 300 Jewish communities around the world through meaningful, hands-on engagement that builds lasting relationships, providing the organization with strong roots in Jewish communities throughout the world. In response to Oct. 7, P2G has formed additional partnerships so that each Gaza border community is paired with a Jewish community that will help support their rehabilitation. Recognizing this, the Jewish Agency aims to strengthen Israeli youth and inspire global Jewish youth through impactful educational camping experiences.

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Since 1929, The Jewish Agency for Israel has been working to secure a vibrant Jewish future. It was instrumental in founding and building the State of Israel and continues to serve as the main link between the Jewish state and Jewish communities everywhere. This global partnership has enabled it to address the Jewish People’s greatest challenges in every generation. Today, the Jewish Agency connects the global Jewish family, bringing Jews to Israel, and Israel to Jews, by providing meaningful Israel engagement and facilitating Aliyah. It also strives to build a better society in Israel - and beyond - energizing young Israelis and their worldwide peers to rediscover a collective sense of Jewish purpose. The Jewish Agency continues to be the Jewish world’s first responder, prepared to address emergencies in Israel, and to rescue Jews from countries where they are at risk. For more information, please visit: www.jewishagency.org
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