U.S. Summer Camps Welcome ORT Students
ORT students brought their enthusiasm and global perspective to Jewish camps in the U.S. this summer and gained life-changing experience in the process. ORT partnered with the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) to recruit young adults from the ORT network of schools to the U.S. to serve as counselors in North American Jewish camps. “It is an opportunity for recent ORT graduates and/or high school seniors to expand their horizons by building lifelong friendships; learning about North American Jewish life; sharing their story and culture with campers and peers; and most importantly, being role models for Jewish children,” explains Daniel Tysman, Head of the World ORT Education Department.
Two students from ORT Sofia Dimcho Debelyanov School are counselors at the JCC Denver Ranch Camp in Elbert, CO; another Bulgarian student and a student from the ORT Renzo Levi School in Rome are counselors at CYJ Midwest in Waupaca, WI.
Isak Levi and Gabriella Khayutin are working with the youngest campers at the Denver Ranch Camp. In addition to being group counselors, Isak teaches dancing and Gabby has been assigned to work with special needs children. Both learned about the camp positions through ORT promotion on social media and jumped at the opportunity. “I feel that I’m more independent than I have ever been before,” says Gabby, an Israeli-born student who just graduated from the ORT school and is about to begin her university studies in the Netherlands. “I feel that I have grown from this.”
Each time I talk to my parents, I tell them how much more I feel connected to being Jewish, I want to continue saying blessings before and after eating and singing together like we do here on Shabbat.Gabriella Khayutin
Isak concurs, explaining how he hopes to bring home the camp’s tenets and practices including building community through kindness, respect, and tikkun olam. “In each cabin, we build a bridge by making a contract between the counselors and kids and one another. The key is making everyone feel included and safe, and that would be a great thing to share when I return to school as a senior,” Isak says.
Both students underscored how the ORT school prepared them for the camp’s Jewish cultural and religious activities, but also how they are now inspired to go beyond what they knew. “Each time I talk to my parents, I tell them how much more I feel connected to being Jewish,” Gabby explains. “I want to continue saying blessings before and after eating and singing together like we do here on Shabbat.”
“Jewish camps are an important factor in building Jewish identity. The students have gained valuable experience and built leadership skills that benefit their Jewish communities,” added Mr. Tysman.
Isak says his ORT school experience has contributed in other unsuspecting ways. “I have been sharing ideas about STEM projects from my experience at my school and applying them here, which is great!”
The two students are also exuberant about the close friendships they have made. “I would like to come back next year,” says Gabby. “My life has been changed by being here.”