Shlicha Brings Israel to JCC Summer Camp

JCC Summer Camp can be a transformative experience for children as they learn to swim, make new friends and learn how they can be superheroes by making a difference for others. This summer, they are also getting a taste of Israel from Shlicha Dafna Chen.

Chen, who likes to go by the nickname Dafi, wants to give the campers something good to think about when they hear the word, Israel.

“I teach them a lot of songs and games,” she said, “things that are fun, but also give a taste of what it’s like to be a child in Israel. Many of the games are games they know with a twist that makes them Israeli.”

For example, Chen likes to play color tag with the children. “It’s like regular tag,” Chen explained, “but the tagger calls out a color and everyone has to find something of that color to tag or they are tagged.” Other games are variations of duck, duck, goose and red light green light.

“I just want the kids to understand what it means to be a child in Israel,” Chen said. “It’s a lot like in the U.S. – the same games, songs, dances and stickers.” She recently played some songs from the movie Frozen in Hebrew and the children loved it.

Chen is fom Kibbutz Tel Katzir near the Sea of Galilee. She describes it as “a very small and Zionist community.” Her grandparents helped build the Kibbutz, and her grandmother, Barbara, who will turn 80 early next month, still lives there.

She comes from a single-parent family. Her mother, Tamar, raised her and her 15-year-old sister, Inbal, by herself. Inbal is autistic and was recently moved to a facility, “where she can be more independent.”

During the year, Chen works at the kibbutz’ children’s house. It’s like being a camp counselor all year long. Every afternoon, she leads activities and helps with homework.

She also likes to read, cook and bake.

She served as an Armor Corps instructor in the IDF. “I taught people how to use tanks,” she explained, “and later I was an instruction developer, teaching officers how to teach others.” Service in the Armor Corps runs in her family, she added. “My uncle was an officer in the Armor Corps and my mother was in communications.”

Louisville is not like what she expected to find. “In Israel, when we talk about the States,” she said, “places like New York City or Las Vegas come to mind – big cities. Louisville is all green and beautiful and welcoming.”

In addition to working with the children at camp, Chen looks forward to meeting many other community members. This week, she attended a YAD event and was excited to meet people her own age who grew up with a different culture and have a different way of life.

She is appreciative of the families who are hosting her during her two-month stay in Louisville, Dafna Schurr and Eddie Cohen, and Greg, Laura, Joel and Josh Gitter; and for the hospitality of the Jewish Community of Louisville.


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