posted on july 27, 2011
I spent the past two days presenting Faces of Israel at URJ Camp Coleman in Cleveland, Georgia and I have never seen a more engaged group. During my visit, I ran meaningful and content-rich sessions for campers going into the 9th, 10th and 12th grades. The sessions focused on the importance of having a Jewish state, and the predicament of religion and state issues in the Jewish homeland.
The campers engaged in passionate conversations about what it means to be Jewish and had the opportunity to design their ‘ideal Jewish state’. Each camper was then made the prime minister of his or her new state and we jumped into the difficulty of decision-making… Who should be given citizenship in the state? Should the country be run according to the Jewish calendar? What should Shabbat look like? What sort of national curriculum should be instated?
The campers beautifully rose to the challenge and many stayed after the end of the session to continue the conversation, pick up additional resources from me and even buy DVDs of the film footage.
Before leaving camp, I ran a “Hot Topics in Israel” lunch and learn for the staff and again stayed for an hour after the program to answer questions and spark debate about religious pluralism in Israel. One of my sessions at Coleman was recorded for a new film project about Israel education at Reform camps, so keep an eye out for that.
My only regret was that the visit was too short, but what a wonderful time and I hope to return next year!
written by amy beth oppenheimer