Last month I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Israel for the very first time in my life. For many years, I had planned on attending Birthright with my best friend Jake, and for many years, our plans fell through for one reason or another. It seemed like a stroke of fate when I learned that I was eligible for a trip to Israel as a summer camp professional to represent Camp Davis and Nashville at the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI)’s annual shlichim training.
Every year, Camp Davis brings a shlicha to camp to lead the daily sessions of Israeli Culture. A shlicha is an Israeli emissary, and according to the JAFI website, each year they, “[send] between 1,500 and 1,750…Shlichim…around the world to strengthen Jewish identity and connection to Israel.” The Camp Davis shlicha and most of the other shlichim traveling to American day camps stay with host families in the community and gain a lot from this component of the experience.
I had the privilege of meeting the Camp Davis shlicha for this summer, Mika, at this training, as well as about 400 other incredible young Israelis who are excitedly anticipating a life-changing trip to the US. Mika is 20, incredibly thoughtful and kind, full of life and energy, and has a passion for working with children. Getting to meet and engage with her in person before the start of camp was a total game-changer, as we were able to collaborate on lesson plans for her activity, share meals together, get to know each other on a more personal level, and overall create a strong level of trust with one another.
The first half of the trip prior to the training also had a tremendous impact on me. The Jewish Day Camp Network (JDCN) – which Camp Davis is a part of, along with dozens of other JCC and Jewish-specific camps around the country, hosted the Israel B’Yom trip which gave myself and 10 other JCC Camp Directors the chance to experience the state of Israel as a cohort. We of course did some sight seeing and indulged in many delicious Israeli foods, but also learned quite a bit about Israel and how we can better incorporate Israel into our camps.
I am extremely grateful to JAFI, JDCN, and the Gordon JCC for this incredible opportunity. I hope that I am able to return next year or again soon for future trainings, but at the very least, I know that I will certainly return to Israel in some capacity soon. In the meantime, we hope to see you at Camp Davis for Summer 2023!
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