[by Jacob Efman]
Three fun-loving, enthusiastic, creative Israeli teens and their chaperone arrived in Louisville on June 28, eager and ready to share their love, culture, and language. This year’s Kefiada participants, Liat Kazir, Yuval Monka, Danielle Elbaz and their chaperone Yael Ben Yaakov, will be spending most of July working with summer camp at the Jewish Community Center and also learning about and enjoying activities with their host families and fellow camp counselors.
Last week, the group got a feel for Independence Day by going to Musical Theater Louisville’s performance of 1776 at the Kentucky Center for the Arts. They have already visited the Louisville Zoo, Louisville Slugger Museum and attended a Louisville Bats game, too. Many more trips are planned to local sites, and even a fun day at Kings Island. “We want to see as much as we possibly can,” said Yael.
Most of the group has already been to the United States, but all are new to Louisville. They compared Louisville to the villages they live at back home, saying it has a “nice village nature.”
“Everyone here is very kind, nice, warm and filled with lots of love,” said Yuval. They were really impressed by how the campers came right up and hugged them, even on the first day. “They are like our little brothers and sisters,” said Liat.
The Kefiada group has dozens of activities planned for the campers. They will teach Israeli songs, cheers, dances and even explore Israeli cuisine. They are also planning an activity that will teach what it means to be an Israeli and to serve in the army. They will share their feelings and experiences during times of war, crisis and the abduction of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who has been under Hamas captivity since June 2006.
During whole camp ruach, the morning spirit circle where all campers and staff sing songs and cheer to start each camp day, the Kefiada group performs a skit that teaches the campers a Hebrew word. Liat puts on a cape that reads “Mar Milon, Mr. Dictionary” while holding up a poster with the Hebrew word for the day.
The Kefiada group also have put together a classroom which they decorated with Israeli flags, learning posters, pictures and a bulletin board telling a little bit about themselves. During the first half of the camp day they teach campers about Israel through group activities and arts and crafts in the classroom.
Danielle lives in Bustan HaGalil, a small village next to Akko, a city in the Western Galilee region of northern Israel. Danielle is 17 and has worked as a camp counselor in her hometown during the summer. She is very involved in volunteer organizations in Israel and has done community service work before with organizations such as the Orange Rock Corps.
Danielle’s hobbies include gardening, hanging out with friends and shopping. She came across Kefiada through school, wanting to get a chance to see the United States for the first time. Danielle chose to do Kefiada as an opportunity to educate others about Judaism and to guide others about what Israel is really like.
Liat is the youngest of the group and the most outspoken. She lives in Akko where she works for a teen magazine called Maariv Lanoar, taking pictures and writing stories about fashion, music, news and programs teens. She enjoys photography and writing and aspires to be a journalist. She celebrated her 16th birthday on June 30, and was delighted to hear campers singing happy birthday to her in English and Hebrew and having her host family throw a party for her.
Liat has previous counseling experience with young teenagers as part of a youth movement in Israel. She hopes to bring her pride in Israel to others and to learn about American pride as well.
“It is very important for me to bring my love for Israel and to share it with others, I want to encourage people to come to Israel someday,” said Liat. She is also working on a diary about her experience abroad which she plans to publish.
Yuval, 17, is from Akko. She has a passion for theater, where she enjoys singing, dancing and acting. During the summer, she works full time and watches her two younger brothers. She has been a member of Hashomer Hatzair, a youth movement in Israel that strives for personal pioneering and fulfillment.
In her free-time she enjoys hanging out with friends, volleyball and shopping. Yuval chose to do Kefiada in order to experience a different place with a completely different culture. She has been to big cities before like Miami, but wanted to get a chance to see a town similar to her own.
Yael Ben Yaakov
Yael, the group’s chaperone, lives in Ben Ami, a village outside Akko. At 24, she has already finished her service in the Israeli Army. She is a student specializing in family and special education and learning about psychodrama and art therapy. She also volunteers at a club for children with special needs.
This is her third time in the United States. She has been to Camp Ramah in Pennsylvania and Toledo, OH. Yael was excited to join the Kefiada program after being contacted by the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) over the phone and asked if she would chaperone for the group. She joined the Kefiada program as a chance to meet Jews from all around the United States and to work with children of different backgrounds. Yael also wants to educate campers about Jewish and Israeli identity.
The Kefiada participants would like to thank their host families for their love and kindness during their stay in Louisville. The host families this year are Kim and Bill Hales, Jim and Julie Ensign, Lisa and Jeffery Landez, Eric and Sharon Goodman, Karen and Steven Bloom.
Kefiada is part of Partnership with Israel, a JAFI program designed to foster individual relationships between Israelis and American Jews. The Jewish Community of Louisville (JCL) has been an active participant in the program since its inception in 1997.
Louisville is part of the Central Area Consortium of Midwestern Federations that is partnered with the Western Galilee region of Israel, located along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and extending to its northern border with Lebanon.
The Midwestern Consortium includes Akron, Canton, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown, OH; Indianapolis, Northwest Indiana, and South Bend, IN; Louisville; Des Moines, IA; Omaha, NE; and Austin, Dallas, Ft. Worth and Tarrant County, San Antonio and Waco, TX. The Western Galilee includes Akko, Western Galilee Hospital and the Matte Asher region.
Through Partnership programs, Louisville has benefited from numerous exchanges in medicine, art, music, education and business as well as the Kefiada program.
Partnership with Israel receives support from the Jewish Community of Louisville’s Annual Campaign.
If you are interested in learning more, please contact Louisville’s Partnership Chair Kathy Karr, or Alan Engel at the Jewish Community of Louisville, 451-8840 or firstname.lastname@example.org.