Ninety teenagers from Russian-speaking Jewish families in the Toronto area spent last week at Camp Gesher, located on Skootamata Lake, Ontario, attending J.Academy Camp.
Operating for the second summer, J. Academy is the only sleepover camp program in Canada that is specifically geared to teens from Russian-speaking background families. Through a variety of informal educational and recreational experiences, the program encourages participants to explore their roots and to discover their place in Jewish civilization through the artistic prism. J. Academy offers its participants five areas of specialization: theater, dance, journalism, design and marketing. For the majority of the participants, J. Academy is their first experience with the culture of North American Jewish camps and with Jewish educational programs.
Russian-speaking madrichim, recruited from Canada, Israel and the FSU, are trained to conduct informal educational programming at the camp and to create similar programs in the future. Additionally, the madrichim develop a camp curriculum and a specific program evaluation mechanism for participants and work with a parents committee on recruitment and programming.
Following camp, a follow-up program throughout the year allows campers to keep in touch with each other and the staff, as well as to continue participating in activities according to the interests they developed in camp. For example, following the 2010 camp season, camp alumni worked on a magazine called J.Wave, created for children from the RSJ community of Toronto.
J. Academy is a joint project of the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, Genesis Philanthropy Group, Jewish Agency for Israel and the Foundation for Jewish Camp.