Kefiada Counselors Return to Israel After Successful Summer

[by Jacob Efman]

During four weeks at summer camp at the Jewish Community Center, Danielle Elbaz, Liat Kazir, Yuval Monka, and their chaperone Yael Ben Yaakov, who came on the Kefiada program and brought a taste of Israel to Louisville, have returned home to their lives in Israel’s Western Galilee. As camp counselors, they taught others about Israeli culture and life, shared stories, formed bonds and gained insight into American culture and our Jewish community.

“I am proud that we had succeeded in completing all the activities that were planned,” said Yael; and they had a tremendous number to choose from, ranging from singing to shopping at an Israeli “shuk” or marketplace.

The teens also added a lot to whole camp ruach, starting each day with a skit.  Campers enjoyed and cheered on Mar Milon (Mr. Dictionary), played by Liat, who taught them a Hebrew word each day.

The Kefiada participants also had many opportunities to explore the area, and really enjoyed their time here. “This is my best trip to the United States,” said Yuval.

In their free time, they were able to visit museums and out-of-town amusement parks. They toured downtown Louisville, attended a concert on Fourth Street Live and more.

Wherever they went, the teens introduced themselves to the public, many of whom were receptive and amazed that they were from Israel. “The people are so friendly here,” said Liat. “We were afraid at first to meet people outside of the Jewish community. We kept a low-profile and were hesitant to say that we were Israeli, though on the contrary, we were very welcomed by others and a lot of people were interested to talk with us,” said Yael.

“We were glad that we were able to teach others more about Israel,” said Yuval, fulfilling one of their primary goals. In addition to the campers, they were happy they had the chance to educate others about Israel and to share their point-of-view.
“Many people came to us with a lot of questions and wanted to get to know more about Israel and about us. It was a really important thing for us to share our stories, feelings, and knowledge accurately,” said Liat.

The Israelis also learned a lot about the Louisville Jewish community. “It is very warm and consolidated, and people here have love for Israel and [they believe] it is very important for them to educate their children about Israel,” said Liat.

“We also learned what it is like to be Jewish in the U.S. It is very different from being Jewish in Israel, because in the U.S., you need to struggle for your Judaism and to work hard to make it true, like paying to a JCC or a temple. In Israel, your Judaism is obvious,” she added.

The Israelis also noticed similarities between themselves and their American counterparts. “We did not see many differences among people our age. Teenagers are the same all over the world. They all enjoy music, fashion and having a good time,” said Liat.

They did, however, notice some striking differences between 18 year olds in Israel and here. “There is a big change after an individual’s first year in the Israeli army. They become a lot more independent and conscious of themselves, others and matters,” she continued.

Another big difference, Yuval noted, was the food. “The food here is very different, a lot more greasy and a lot of things are fried. We missed our food back at home but there are many new foods that we like here now as well.”

There were some challenges. The group agreed that the experience was very different from anything they had done before; saying that it was an accomplishment to step outside their comfort zone. “I haven’t been away so far, for so long. It really showed me the importance of speaking about Israel,” said Danielle.

As they adjusted to Louisville, the teens also learned more about themselves and how to take on more responsibility. “It was difficult at first adjusting to a new atmosphere; speaking English all the time, and meeting a lot of new people, but now I will greatly miss my time here,” said Yuval.

“ This trip was my first experience as a chaperone, I believe it was one of my biggest responsibilities and greatest achievements,” said Yael. “It was an accomplishment for me to keep the girls safe, to see that we completed all our activities planned out for the camp and that we achieved our expectations,” she added.

“I was really impressed with the maturity of this group of young women. They were so polite and bonded very well with each other and their host families. The contribution they’ve made to our community is immense, and what they will bring back to our Partnership region about our community is equally impressive,” said Louisville’s Partnership with Israel Chair Kathy Karr.

“They loved Louisville,” she continued, “and equally exciting to me is they will bring back to the Western Galilee so much positive energy. This is indeed the mission of the Partnership – building people to people connections,”

Everyone made strong connections with the community. “I am glad I developed relationships with so many people. I hope they will all last,” said Yuval.  The teens thank their host families: Kim and Bill Hales, Jim and Julie Ensign, Lisa and Jeffery Landez, Eric and Sharon Goodman, Steven and Karen Bloom, and those who invited them to their homes.

In addition, both Liat and Yael celebrated their birthdays here and are very thankful for everything their host families did to celebrate. They also thank Justin Sadle, Julie Hollander Andrea Melendez and all the other camp staff who helped with their programming, and the Jewish Community of Louisville for making it possible for them to visit.

The Kefiada participants this year would like to wish the next group good luck, and say they have a lot to look forward to. “We will miss our time here and everyone, it will be a very strong memory for us,” said Yael.

Kefiada is a program through Partnership with Israel, a program of the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), is designed to foster individual relationships between Israelis and American Jews. The Louisville Jewish Community has been an active participant in the program since its inception in 1997.

Louisville is part of the Central area Consortium that is partnered with the Western Galilee region of Israel. The Western Galilee is located along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and extends to Israel’s northern border with Lebanon. Through Partnership programs, Louisville has benefited from numerous exchanges in medicine, art, music, education and business. The program is flexible, so if anyone from Louisville has a specific interest he/ she would like to pursue with counter parts in the Western Galilee, it is often possible to develop a suitable program.

Partnership with Israel receives support from the Jewish Community of Louisville’s Annual Campaign. If you are interested in learning more, please contact Alan Engel at the Jewish Community of Louisville, 451-8840 or aengel@jewishlouisville.org.

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