by Rivka Golding
Like most camps, the Jewish Community Center Summer Camp is jam-packed with exciting trips, arts & crafts projects, swimming and sports. The camp has had over 600 campers throughout the summer, and offers programs for children ages two to ninth grade.
What sets the JCC Summer Camp apart from other camps is its focus on the importance of social action, and its ability to incorporate Jewish values into its programs. This year’s camp theme is “Superheroes”, and the camp motto is, “You don’t need superpowers to be a superhero; you just need JCC Summer Camp.” Campers’ superpowers come in the form of helping others.
Every week the campers partake in a camp wide values-based program, in which they learn about the importance of various Jewish values including Tzedakah (charity), Kehillah (community), Gemilut Chasidim (kind deeds), and Tikkun Olam (social action).
This past week’s program included a performance by Drama by George, to help educate the campers about bullying. Throughout the performance, campers learned to recognize bullying, strategies to prevent bullying and ways to stop bullying if it is occurring among their friends.
July 14-18 was JCC Summer Camp’s fifth annual Caring and Sharing Week, where campers typically raised money to go to a charity and food for the JFCS Food Bank. This year’s project took on a much larger role with the attacks in Israel.
Dafna Chen, the JCC Summer Camp shlicha (Israel emissary) originally came to Louisville to teach the campers about Israeli culture, and to give them a taste of what it is like to live in Israel. When Israel started being attacked, Dafna, or Dafi as she likes to be called, thought that she would need to return home but decided to stay and help Israel from here.
When the code red sirens go off in Israel, warning of an approaching missile, citizens living in the South have only 15 seconds to seek shelter. With rockets constantly being launched at Israel, Israelis may sit in bomb shelters for hours on end. With Dafi’s help, the campers came up with their own ideas as to what they could send to Israeli children to keep them entertained, and to take their minds off of the rockets.
During Arts & Crafts time, they created decorations for the bomb shelters’ otherwise grey, concrete walls. They made card games, paper puppets, and costumes, for the Israeli children to play with, and wrote letters to let them know they are thinking of them.
Dafi hopes that the care packages will, “allow children in Israel to forget a little bit about what is going on outside the bomb shelter, and give them a sense of comfort inside the shelter.”
During Caring and Sharing Week, the campers received a tour of the JFCS Food Pantry, and were very excited to see some of the several hundred pounds of food they collected throughout the summer sitting on the shelves. After the tour, the children were committed to reaching their fundraising goal. It was hard to miss the campers eagerly selling snacks in the JCC lobby, or offering car washes in the parking lot.
On Friday, July 18 the camp donated $450 to the Sonny & Janet Meyer Family Food Pantry Fund. They are still collection donations.
Kim Toebbe, Volunteer coordinator at the JFCS, was impressed with the children’s enthusiasm, and explained that the camp’s donation would directly benefit families with children because, “children who receive reduced lunches in school may go hungry during the summer months.”
Caring & Sharing Week is a vital part of the JCC Summer Camp’s mission, and it allows the campers to see how their actions can affect the world around them.