How to choose an Israel summer program


Josh Ungar will never forget the first time he laid eyes on the Western Wall.

“It was right before Shabbos and [the tour leaders] led us to the Wall and had us close our eyes and then open them when we were right in front of the Kotel,” remembered Ungar, 16, of his experience with Ramah Israel Summer, which is affiliated with Camp Ramah. “It was an amazing feeling, after hearing and reading about this place for all this time and finally being there.”

After spending last summer touring Israel with his peers, the Playa del Rey resident feels a stronger connection to the country and his Jewish roots.

Ungar is not alone. The Jewish Agency of Israel reports that in 2006, 7,870 high school students participated in Israel programs. But while the decision to go may be an easy one, the process of selecting a program is not always so simple. Countless organizations offer a variety of different types of programs, making overwhelming the task of finding the right fit. So, how can a prospective traveler narrow down the options?

“First [interested teens] should think about their goals in going to Israel,” said Sara Polon of Tlalim Tours, a Washington, D.C.-based company that creates tours for the Passport to Israel summer program of B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO). “Are they looking for a religious experience, a more outdoorsy adventure, an educational experience or maybe a community service experience?”

Teens can also start with programs aligned with the branch of Judaism with which they affiliate. Another consideration is the amount of time the youngster is willing to spend on his journey, as the programs range from a quick 10-day excursion to six weeks or more.

Jewish youth movements like USY (United Synagogue Youth), BBYO, Young Judea, Habonim Dror, NFTY (North American Federation of Temple Youth) and NCSY (National Conference of Synagogue Youth) offer a variety of programs that are often open to both members and nonmembers. In fact, 50 percent of BBYO’s Passport to Israel participants are not affiliated with the organization.

In general, these trips offer a combination of sightseeing, outdoor adventures, community service and Jewish education. But some of the youth movements also offer programs that emphasize just one of these aspects. USY offers Etgar! Outdoor Adventure Israel for teens who would like to spend the summer hiking and exploring the outdoors. Similarly, NCSY’s G.I.V.E. program focuses on community service.
In addition, some of the youth movement trips include Eastern Europe. Participants often visit concentration camps before making a pilgrimage to Israel.

The highlight of 16-year-old Daniella Kaufman’s NFTY trip last summer was a re-enactment of the liberation from Terezin, a Prague concentration camp, and then a cruise to Israel, mimicking the boat ride refugees took.

“We had a chance to arrive in Israel just as so many Jews did so long ago, and experience the feelings they felt when the port of Haifa, their gateway to freedom, came into view,” remembered the Valley Village resident.

For students in search of an academic experience, there are plenty of options. The Bronfman Youth Fellowship in Israel, a five-week program for high school juniors, selects 26 applicants from diverse Jewish backgrounds to study Jewish texts and explore Israel.

InnovationIsrael is a four-week program in which students take courses at Tel Aviv University and visit environmental, high-tech, bio-tech, medical, art and film studio facilities. For those looking for religious academia, NCSY offers Kollel (for boys) and Michlelet (for girls). Both programs focus on Torah study. NCSY also offers “Shakespeare in Jerusalem,” an Israel experience coupled with an “on-the-road” English literature course.

Students who want to spend their summer doing community service can explore Sar-El (the National Project for Volunteers for Israel), an Israeli non-profit that offers adults and teens 17 and older the opportunity to work in Israeli army bases and hospitals. Camp Tawonga, a Jewish summer camp based in San Francisco, is offering a Teen Service Learning trip to Israel where participants will work four days a week with locals on important community projects.

While programs vary in cost, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ Israel Connections/Experiences (ICE) program offers financial aid for many teens and young adults between the ages of 15 and 26 who have not yet visited Israel.

“We want to help every young person go to Israel for the first time,” said Deborah Dragon, The Federation’s vice president of public relations. ICE offers grants and scholarships with the help of more than 80 local Jewish agencies. The group funds 250 to 300 trips per year. The Jewish Free Loan Association, also a Federation agency, offers interest-free loans for Israel trips.

No matter which options young travelers choose it is clear that a summer in Israel makes a profound impact in the life of a Jewish teenager.

After her USY trip last summer, Daniela Bernstein, 16, of Los Angeles is already thinking about returning. “The trip cultivated my love of Israel and the complete realization of how crucial Israel is to Judaism and the Jewish people,” said Bernstein. “I am already planning my next visit.”

For information on financial aid and referrals for a variety of Israel programs, call The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ Israel Connections/Experiences (ICE) office at (323) 761-8342.

For information on Ramah Israel Seminar, visit www.ramah.org.il

For information on BBYO’s Israel programs, visit www.passport2israel.org

For information on USY’s programs, visit www.usy.org

For information on Young Judea, visit www.youngjudea.org

For information on Habonim Dror, visit www.habonimdror.org

For information on NFTY in Israel, visit www.nftyisrael.org

For information on NCSY’s summer programs, visit www.ncsysummer.com

For information on the Bronfman Youth Fellowship in Israel, visit www.bronfman.org

For information on InnovationIsrael, visit www.innovationisrael.org

For information on Sar-El, visit www.sar-el.org

For information on Camp Tawonga’s programs, visit www.tawonga.org

For information on the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ Israel Connections/Experiences (ICE), visit www.jewishla.org/lajewishteen/html/iep.html

God Was With Us That Night in the Negev


Our bus driver Boris had been navigating the roads of the Negev for at least an hour when the whole bus suddenly shook, rattled and rolled. As we gazed out the window, we saw that Boris had left the road. All we saw was rock, dust and a little more rock. It took about two more hours of off-road driving for us to reach our destination for the night.

I stepped off the bus and asked our counselor, “Where is the bathroom?”
“Follow me and I will demonstrate,” she said. “Girls to those rocks on the left, boys to the right.” Enough said.

I had just arrived in Israel that week for a four-week tour with 34 other California teens in Group Three of the North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY) summer Israel program. And we were about to spend three nights in the middle of the Negev Desert with nothing but food and sleeping bags — definitely a sight to see.

Not only did we do it, but so did 12 other NFTY groups in Israel this summer, and we would soon find out that the experience of sleeping on our ancestors’ land would set the tone for our whole trip.

We unloaded the materials from the bus including dishes, food supplies, sleeping bags and our own personal bags. Once dinner was made and served, our group began to gather for Maariv, the evening prayer service.

This was by far the most spiritual moment in my life. I gazed up at the stars as I chanted the V’Ahavta prayer with amazing new friends, standing around the same rocks that our people had wandered past thousands of years before. My eyes couldn’t help but tear up as we moved on to the Mi Chamocha, the song of freedom. At that moment I felt as though God truly was with us.

We ended the night with our usual closing circle, where we sang Hashkiveinu and the Shema, with the words: “Keep us safe throughout the night, until we wake with morning’s light.” But that night, I felt as though we didn’t even need to ask for safety, that this ground and these mountains would keep us safe.

As morning woke us with its light, we found ourselves at the beginning of a long day of hiking in the Negev and then swimming in Eilat.

On our last day camping out, Boris took us to a Bedouin tent. We were warmly welcomed and introduced to the interesting Bedouin culture. We experienced their music, cultural food and hospitality — especially when they invited us to use the tent’s bathrooms, equipped with actual showers. I would have to say that the next task might have been even harder then the previous day’s four-hour hike. This was the situation: four showers, 20 girls, 30 minutes.

That night I was in a Bedouin tent celebrating Shabbat like I never had done before. This was our third and final night sleeping on the ground of the Negev, so we were both excited and upset.

The next day we arrived at Kibbutz Yahel near Eilat. Our tour guide, Sivan, took us on a very short hike on the outskirts of the Kibbutz. As we all sat in a circle in the middle of two mountains — a lot like our accommodations for the past three nights — Ellie Klein, our madrich, shared some words that I will never forget. She told us that by successfully making it through this Negev experience, whether we knew it our not, we had already changed and grown.

This campout was our chance to be with the land of Israel, nothing else. Just the land with all of its components. Through the tasks that we had completed and the experiences we had, we had assured ourselves that we could do it again.

Ellie asked us to grab a rock and gather them all in a pile in the center of our circle. I found a rock and felt the firmness of it and dropped it in the center, feeling as though I had just left a piece of myself in the desert. Not only a piece of myself, but a newly grown, solid and firm me. The words she said about us and the natural land still echoes in my mind because I really felt that for those few days, I was at my true quintessential state — and so was the Land of Israel.

We left the rocks in a clump on the ground as we made our way back to Kibbutz Yahel. This experience was the start of a treasured summer traveling with the most incredible people. I was finding my true Jewish identity not only among the historical sights, but among the millions of rocks that make up Eretz Yisrael.

Daniella Kaufman is an 11th grader at New Community Jewish High School.

Israelis Bring Situation Close to Home for Campers


When news of Israel filters through to Camp Hess Kramer, the kids do what is only natural — they turn to the Israelis who are spending the summer with them to make sense of what they’re hearing, and to bring it home in a way that is intensely personal.

“Because my campers know actual Israelis, they can make that connection in a way that they can’t by just reading a news story or going through an intellectual exercise,” said Doug Lynn, director of Wilshire Boulevard Camps, which includes Hess Kramer and Gindling Hilltop, both in Malibu.

Like most camps, Hess Kramer, has a staff of Israelis who work as counselors and educators. This summer, 1,400 Israelis, most of them between the ages of 19 and 22, are staffing 200 Jewish day and sleep-away camps, according the Jewish Agency, which coordinates the stays.


Some Counselors Return to Israel

While no Israeli staffers have been called to active duty while already here for the summer, several who were close friends or family members of bombing victims went back to Israel.

In a normal summer, the Israeli staff’s mission is to bring Israel closer to the kids, and that has become more powerful this summer, as rockets rain down on Haifa in Israel’s north and pound Sderot in the south.

The Jewish Agency has been offering the shlichim, or Israel emissaries, programming ideas to help the kids understand the situation, and camps have modified and developed their own programs.

At Hess Kramer, kids took the opportunity to learn about the wider conflict in Israel and engage in informal conversations with Israeli staffers. At Camp Ramah in Ojai and at Camp JCA Shalom in Malibu, campers recited psalms and wrote letters to Israeli children in areas that were being attacked, an effort coordinated by The Jewish Federation. Los Angeles City Councilman Jack Weiss will deliver the letters in Israel this week.

Younger campers can use the opportunity to talk about emergency preparedness, and in that way relate to Israeli children in bomb shelters, said Ariella Feldman, who coordinates Israeli volunteers for the Jewish Agency. Older children can dissect the intricacies of conflict resolution, on a personal level and on a magnified national level.


Anxiety Affects Campers, Too

But beyond these formal opportunities, it is simply feeling the anxiety and commitment of the young Israelis in camp that is affecting the campers.
At Camp JCA Shalom in Malibu, the assistant director is from Haifa, and his mother flew in for the summer to be camp mom. The program director, a fighter pilot in the Israeli army, was supposed to arrive this week but was called up for duty. The camp has about 20 Israelis, including staff and some children.
The camps are all focused on providing comfort and support to the Israelis who are summering with them. Many are young and fresh off — or in the middle of — their own military duty, and have friends and siblings being called up to fight. Most know they will likely be called up when they get back to Israel.

Camps, normally stingy on allowing phone calls and access to electronic media, have allowed Israelis constant access to news and phone calls to Israel. Some camps have purchased phone cards for their Israeli staff.

Still, the Israeli counselors feel torn about where they are.

“Their families are under house arrest, they are stocking up on food, they are under attack — and they are here at camp,” said Feldman of the Jewish Agency.
Aside from the moral support they are getting from American campers, what is helping the Israelis is that this summer, the mission to educate and to personally touch American kids is even more vital.

“They are vacillating between feeling guilty about being here, and really understanding on a deep level why they are here,” Lynn said. “They are making these connections with Reform Jewish kids in a way that cannot be done unless they are here, so they are recognizing that at times likes these, their job here is even more important.”

Summer Tours to Israel Rerouted, But Not By Much


Most summers, the trip to the Naot Sandal factory on a kibbutz close to Israel’s northern border is a highlight of the teen tours run by United Synagogue Youth (USY). But this summer, with the north under constant threat of rocket attacks, the 400 USYers stayed in the central and southern part of the country, and Naot came to them, with a special sale near USY’s base in Jerusalem.

That was one of the easier adjustments to a constantly changing itinerary for USY kids and the other estimated 6,000 American teens on tours in Israel this summer.

“All of us that have kids in Israel are trying to make the best of the situation,” said Jules Gutin, international director for USY, the youth arm of the Conservative movement, which has about 50 California teens in Israel this summer. “We want the experience to be worthwhile and positive, as well as safe.”

So while kids may be missing out on trips to the Golan Heights, to the kabbalistic city of Tsfat, the Banias natural pools or Maimonides’ grave in Tiveria, tours are making up for it with extra time in Jerusalem and challenging hikes through the Negev.

Few Kids Have Returned Home

Most tours departed the United States before the violence escalated in Israel, and most of the teens have stayed. USY reports that as of early this week, three kids went home, and Young Judaea has a similar count, with six kids out of 470 being summoned home. Three of the 390 students on NCSY’s Europe and Israel trip did not continue on from Europe to Israel.

The Orthodox Union canceled a trip scheduled to leave this week with its Yad b’Yad program, where 15 developmentally and physically disabled adults were to be accompanied by 35 teenage counselors on a four-week tour of Israel.

Administrators worried about heightening participants’ anxiety, and about difficulties rerouting the group, or moving it quickly in case of emergency. The day before the trip, it was recast as a West Coast tour.

Israel Experience, the educational tourism arm of the Jewish Agency for Israel, coordinates programming and security for most of the trips that leave from North America.

“Trips are being rerouted based on the current situation, and it’s an hour-by-hour reevaluation,” said Rachel Russo, director of marketing for Israel Experience.

IDF, Police, Jewish Agency Monitor Tourist Itineraries

Israel Experience adjusts the groups’ schedules according to recommendations it gets from a situation room staffed by representatives from the Israeli army, the Israeli police, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and the Jewish Agency. Each teen tour group that signs up with Israel Experience — and most do — is tracked by GPS.

“They are really fluid in moving the groups when they need to move,” said Russo, whose daughter is in Israel with Ramah Seminar this summer.

Program operators have also been working overtime to keep in constant communication with parents. Young Judaea is sending out three email updates daily, in addition to photos and journals on its Web site. USY increased updates from the usual weekly to daily, and someone is available to answer parents concerns at all times.

Most teens also have cell phones with them, so parents are kept in the loop. So far, while parents have expressed concern, few are panicking. And by all reports, the kids themselves seem to be having a great time.

Bonnie Sharfman, whose 16-year-old, Zach, is on a trip with Nesiya, says she hopes the visit will have a lasting impact.

“We are choosing to look at this situation as an amazing learning experience for Zach and hope that he will return home in a month with much to say regarding the social, political and economic realities of Israel and the region,” she said.

— JGF

Hoop Star Scores On and Off Court


Aulcie Perry is a tall man — and a man who stands tall in Israel. At 6-foot-11, the former professional basketball center would stand out in a crowd anywhere in the world. In Israel, Perry draws crowds of fans, especially youngsters.

“I’ve been here a long time,” said Perry, an African American born in Newark, N.J. “Israel has been good to me.”

Perry has been good to Israel as well.

After a successful career with the country’s top basketball team, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Perry, 54, opened summer basketball clinics for children 7 to 14 years old in Tel Aviv. And he’s about to open another one — a camp set up to attract teens from all over the world, especially observant Jews.

This focus on teaching basketball in an Israeli and Jewish context began eight years ago, when Perry and Greg Cornelius, an American hoopster from East Carolina University who played professionally in Israel, developed plans for a summer camp. The result was the Basketball for Stars summer camp at the Wingate Sports Institute near Netanya.

“It is a very, very high-quality affair,” Perry said. “I bring the best coaches, and also coaches who are Israeli and were star players here in Israel. I also bring in the top players from Maccabi to come in and talk to the kids.”

Maccabi, Perry’s old team, just won the European championship for the second year in a row. And Perry was a key figure in Maccabi’s original rise to basketball prominence. Perry appreciates his old team’s consistent dominance, but he’s personally focused on the next generation.

Perry’s new venture, open to children from all over the world, will feature Jewish sports heroes, such as Tal Brody and Tamir Goodman, Perry in a three-week sports camp called Sal Stars (Hoop Stars in English).

Perry came to Israel in 1976. He was a player rejected by the NBA who was trying to improve his skills on a summer league team. In Israel, he impressed representatives from Maccabi Tel Aviv.

“I came to Europe to work on my game, and then go back and try again with the NBA,” Perry said. “Maccabi came to me. I signed up for two months. We won the European Cup. Things never looked the same again. Maccabi has been the top team since.”

Brody, from Trenton, N.J., was a college All-American in the 1960s, and was picked in the NBA draft. However, he chose to go to Israel.

“Tal Brody is ‘Mr. Basketball’ in Israel,” said Perry, who played with him on the Maccabi Tel Aviv team that won the European championship in 1977, Perry’s first year in Israeli basketball.

The win put Maccabi “on the map to stay,” Brody once said.

During his career, Perry led Maccabi to victory in the 1981 European Cup, the 1980 Intercontinental Cup, nine league championships and eight National Cups.

“It’s going to be something special,” Perry said of Sal Stars, explaining that it will teach not only basketball but tennis and soccer, too.

The program is open to Jewish youngsters from around the world, although it’s aimed at Torah-observant Jewish teens. It will be based in Givat Washington, a religious sports university near Ashdod. Givat Washington has world-renowned sports facilities and some of Israel’s best athletic trainers.

According to Perry, “the three-week camp will give them the highest quality of coaching and training in sports, as well as give the Israeli experience.”

“They’ll travel. They’ll see the country, the historic sites. It’s going to be something special,” he said.

The clinic will run from July 7 to July 28.

In March, Perry, who also is a sports agent, looked for potential players for international leagues. He scouted young talent from black colleges during the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association Basketball Tournament in North Carolina.

While Perry was with Maccabi, he would bring traffic to a halt as fans jockeyed for a view of a man who then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin said helped bring “honor to the people of Israel.”

Perry played high school ball at West Side High in Newark and college ball for Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Fla. In 1975, he had a short stint with the Virginia Squires of the American Basketball Association.

But it was in Israel that Perry found his game and his home, he said. Today, Perry, who is unmarried and has a son, observes Jewish holidays, but said in an e-mail that he “doesn’t like to classify” himself religiously.

“In Israel, they are more concerned about what you can do than what color your skin is,” he said. “You’ll have the opportunity if you’re capable and have something to offer.”

For more information about Aulcie Perry’s summer camps, visit

Cure Found for the Summertime Blues


 

When Sarah Winchell needs motivation or encouragement, during her daily prayers she visualizes Chimney Rock, a landmark in the Rocky Mountains surrounded by frozen lakes, a plunging cliff and a blanket of snow. The image has been imprinted in the 15-year-old’s mind since she saw the breathtaking view last summer on a Jewish backpacking expedition program through Teva Adventure.

“One of my counselors said, ‘Take a look around and whenever you need an inspiration when you’re davening, think of this [view],'” recalled the Sebastopol 10th-grader.

At a time when keeping young Jews connected to their roots has become more important than ever, a variety of summer programs help teens solidify their Jewish identities.

Teva Adventure offers a variety of wilderness programs enabling Jewish travelers to develop outdoor skills while keeping Shabbat and kashrut. While backpacking, hiking, mountain climbing and fishing, participants learn Jewish perspectives on the outdoor world. Programs for 14- to 19-year-olds include Rocky Mountain Teen Adventure and Derech Hateva in Israel.

Teva is still accepting applications for this summer. For information, call (310) 765-4035, or visit www.tevaadventure.org.

What better way to embrace one’s Judaism than visiting Israel? Organizations like North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY), United Synagogue Youth (USY) and B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO) offer a variety of tours to Israel, Europe and Central America where high school students get to know the culture and meet other teens from around the country. For arts enthusiasts, BBYO and Avoda Arts are offering a unique program fusing Jewish learning with creating art at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass.

For more information on USY programs for ninth- to 12th-graders, call (212) 533-7800, or visit www.usy.org.

For more information on NFTY programs for 10th- to 12th-graders and incoming college freshman, call (212) 452-6517, or visit www.nfty.org. Deadline: May 1.

For more information on BBYO programs for 10th- to 12th-graders in outdoor adventures, community service and college programs in Israel and the United States, call (818) 464-3366, or visit www.bbyo.org.

For the politically minded young adult, Aish HaTorah International is offering Hasbara Fellowships, a leadership-development seminar in Jerusalem, which educates college students about the history and politics of Israel and the Middle East.

For more information, call (646) 365-0030, or visit www.israelactivism.com. Deadline: one month before program begins (see schedule online).

High school students looking for a taste of college life can explore National Conference of Synagogue Youth’s (NCSY) special-interest programs, including the Ivy League Leadership Scholars program, which takes students to Columbia University’s School of Law in New York City and parts of Washington, D.C., where they’ll meet high-powered Jewish professionals and learn how to pursue demanding careers while staying committed to Judaism.

In the Summer Medical School Experience students take college-level classes from world-renowned doctors at Northwestern University campus. The “Hollywood Film School” experience at UCLA fosters a Jewish setting while teaching aspiring screenwriters, directors and editors the ropes for their future careers.

Last summer, Tova Wiener, 17, spent a life-changing six weeks in the Michelet program for girls (the boys’ program is called Kollel), a learning experience at a Jerusalem seminary.

“I thought that the best experience for me would be to connect to Israel through learning,” said Wiener, a senior at Yeshiva University High School of Los Angeles.

For more information on programs for ninth- to 12th-graders in Israel, Spain, Italy, U.S. college campuses and others, call (212) 613-8233 or (888) 868-7496, or visit www.ou.org/ncsy.

Teens in search of a cross-continental camp experience can meet Jews from all over the world at the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation AJJDC International Jewish Summer Camp in Szarvas, Hungary. Drawing campers from 20 countries, the camp is currently in search of 60 10th- and 11th-grade “American Ambassadors” to meet their international peers and share their Jewish communities and foster friendships.

Ronald S. Lauder Foundation AJJDC International Jewish Summer Camp

For more information, call (212) 362-3361, or visit www.szarvas.org.

To share one’s Judaism and learn about other religions, Interfaith Inventions, a Ventura-based nonprofit organization, boasts Interfaith Summer Camps in Ojai and Rose Mountain, N.M., where teens and preteens from various faiths come together to share their diverse backgrounds. The camp’s inaugural summer last year brought together Muslim, Jewish and Christian teens and preteens to share their cultures in a mutually respectful way with all the fun of camp.

For more information, call (310) 317-9262, or visit www.interfaithinventions.org.

 

Sweet Days of Summer at Day Camps


Local synagogues, Jewish centers and other cultural organizations are holding day camps throughout the summer months that expose children to Jewish culture, popular culture and even pre-Columbian culture.

The Jewish Community Center (JCC) of Orange County operates two camps in two different locations that cater to different interests and age groups.

For 2- to 4-year-olds, JCC’s Camp Yeladim offers a playful and creative environment in five sessions, with activities including water play days, cooking, sing-alongs, messy art play, puppet shows, family activities, science, oceanography and Judaic exploration.

Each week, Camp Yeladim has a different theme to help the young children experience the world through travel. The themes are: “Traveling America,” “Traveling and Camping,” “Traveling to Hawaii,” “Traveling to the Circus” and “Traveling and Tasting the World.”

Camp Yeladim is held at the JCC at 250 Baker St., Costa Mesa. Hours are 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays; half days from 9 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. The cost for a week is $350 a for members and $455 for nonmembers, or $240 for members and $315 for nonmembers for three days.

For more information contact Roberta Deutschman at (714) 755-0340, ext. 113.

Camp Haverim for kindgerarten children through ninth grade is offering four weekly summer sessions on the grounds of Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School in Irvine. Younger campers can participate in field trips, overnights, beach and swim days, sports, arts and crafts, music, drama, nature, dance, Jewish theme weeks and Shabbat programs.

The older campers have the same programs, but there will be extra activities, including amusement park outings and camping trips. Campers also may choose a one-week specialty sports or theater camp, where they receive coaching by sports experts or rehearse and perform “The Music Man.”

Camp Haverim’s hours are 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with costs ranging from $240 to $400 for members and $340 to $560 for nonmembers. Kosher lunches, Dippin’ Dots, T-shirts and camp pictures can be purchased for additional fees, and scholarships are available to qualified campers.

For more information call (714) 755-0340 ext. 126 or go to www.jccoc.org.

Silver Gan Israel offers a combination of Jewish life and culture, along with summer activities such as sports, arts and crafts and nature hikes. The camp is offered in two locations: the Hebrew Academy at 14401 Willow Lane, Huntington Beach, and Morasha Jewish Day School, 30482 Avenida de Los Banderas, Rancho Santa Margarita.

Both camps are open to children entering kindergarten through seventh grade and have a counselor-in-training program for students 13 to 18.

The camp’s focus is Jewish heritage and instilling appreciation for Jewish culture. Weekend Shabbatons, Israeli dancing, challah baking, stories and contests will be overseen by Jewish counselors brought to the camp from all over the world.

“All of our counselors come from working with children or in children’s programs within their local Jewish community in different parts of the world,” said co-director, Bassie Marcus. “Jewish spirit and identity is very important to every counselor with Silver Gan Israel.”

About 200 campers are expected to enroll at both locations. The camp schedules three two-week sessions, and campers can attend either all five days or just three days a week. Camp hours are 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. weekdays.

For campers in fourth grade or higher, an overnight and getaway trip to Big Bear in the San Bernardino mountains is offered in early August.

Cost per session is $350 for five days and $260 for three days. There are extra fees for T-shirts, baseball caps and tote bags.

For more information contact Joelle at the Morasha camp office at (949) 770-1270 or Rabbi Yossi Mentz at the Hebrew Academy campus office at (714) 898-0051.

Morasha is also offering a summer camp program for preschool-age children who can attend two-, three- or five-days a week for full- or half-day sessions. Activities include art, music, drama and storytelling, daily water play in an inflatable pool, weekly themes and Shabbat every Friday.

“Each week is a different theme like bubbles, circus, sand and red, white and blue that includes art, music and stories that go with that week’s theme,” said program director Lin Goldman.

Camp hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, with an hour of quiet time after lunch. The program lasts eight weeks and costs $155 a week, $100 for three days and $75 for two days.

For more information contact Goldman at (949) 459-6330.

Congregation B’nai Israel holds Camp B’nai Ruach at the synagogue, 2111 Bryan Ave., Tustin. The camp’s programs are designed to teach Jewish heritage to grade schoolers.

The camp is divided into five age groups: kindergarten, first- and second-graders, third- and fourth-graders and fifth- and sixth-graders. Seventh- through ninth-graders serve as counselors-in-training.

The camp meets weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in six one-week sessions. Campers go to the beach on Tuesdays, cool off at the pool on Wednesdays and take a field trip Thursdays related to the week’s theme. Field trips range from the Los Angeles Zoo to Carlsbad’s Legoland.

Cost for Camp B’nai Ruach is $195 a week for synagogue members to $225 for nonmembers. There is a $10 discount for extra children per week and additional costs for registration fees and camp T-shirts.

For more information on Camp B’nai Ruach contact Barbara Sherman at (714) 730-9693 or go to www.cbi18.org.

Temple Beth Sholom operates Camp Sholom at 2625 N. Tustin Ave., Santa Ana. Camp Sholom offers daily activities integrated with Jewish values. Campers’ grades are kindergarten to sixth, while seventh- to ninth-graders take part as counselors-in-training.

“All of our activities are based on Jewish living 24/7,” said camp director Rabbi Heidi Cohen. “We dedicate all day Friday to Shabbat at the temple, and at the end of the day, we imagine lighting candles and drinking from our Kiddush cups in observance of Shabbat.”

Every day is opened with Jewish songs and morning blessings, and Hebrew is used continually in the camp. Campers refer to staff members in Hebrew as madrichim meaning leaders, and each group is given a Hebrew name like rishonim, which means the “first ones”; chalutzim, “pioneers”; and habonim “builders.”

Sholom campers can attend camp five or three days a week. Tuesdays and Thursdays are off-campus days, with trips to the beach or local theme parks; Wednesday afternoons are for swimming. Camp hours are weekdays 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with extended morning hours from 7:30 a.m. and evening hours to 6 p.m.

Camp Sholom costs $194 for members and $221 for nonmembers for the first session; $184 for members and $210 for nonmembers for the second session; and $168 for members and $194 for nonmembers for the third session. Prices are less if parents choose only three days a week per session. One T-shirt will be provided with the cost of camp, and there is a $30 nonrefundable registration fee for each camper.

For more Camp Sholom information contact Rabbi Cohen at (714) 628-4600 or go to www.tbsoc.com.

The Bowers Museum in Santa Ana offers a day camp through its Kidseum that introduces children to foreign cultures. Kidseum offers seven weekly sessions for children 6 to 8 years old and 9 to 12. Camp hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays, with extended hours available for an extra charge.

Each session has a distinct theme or explores a different culture. Themes include a “Historical Journey,” “Pacific Rim Odyssey,” “Art of the Pioneers,” “Art of the American Indian,” “The Americans,” “Pre-Columbian Art Adventure” and “African Safari.” All programs include visits to the Bowers’ galleries, theme-oriented art projects and interactive music and dance periods.

Kidseum has space for only 30 campers each session. Cost per session is $165 for nonmembers and $150 for members.

For more information contact Genevieve Barrios Southgate
at (714) 480-1522 or go to