Bishkek Jewish Summer Camp Provides Safe, Supportive Environment

Thirty Jewish children from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, took part in a special week-long keytana (Hebrew for day camp) from July 1st – 8th, 2010.

The keytana, organized by the Jewish Agency’s FSU Education Department Sunday School Unit, offered the children a respite from the violent political events that rocked Bishkek, the capital city of Kyrgyzstan, in 2009-10. Many children were traumatized by the internal fighting and ethnic violence in the South of the country in June 2010. The day camp offered them a sense of normalcy and an opportunity to learn and play in a safe, supportive environment.

The keytana program was packed with educational and entertaining components designed to help the children forget the recent traumas they had experienced on a daily basis on the streets of Bishkek. Divided into age groups, the children participated in classes on Jewish history and tradition, Hebrew language instruction, as well as general subjects such as English language, Music, Dance, and the Arts. There were outings to attractions like a water park, a fair, an amusement park, and the cinema. One of the most exciting activities was the Maccabiada day, where the children competed in different sporting events, games, and tournaments.

The keytana received positive feedback from the children and especially from the parents who felt that the time spent in the keytana helped their children overcome psychological traumas and provided them with a safe learning environment.

All the children who attended the keytana are active members of the Jewish Agency Sunday school program in Bishkek. Established in 2003, it is the only Jewish Sunday school in Bishkek. It continued to run the disturbances this past year, even when many public schools were closed.

The Bishkek Sunday school belongs to a network of 100 Sunday schools that are currently operating across the FSU. The Sunday school program in the FSU is one of the most far reaching programs, both in terms of the number of communities and the number of participants, and demonstrates the Jewish Agency’s strategic commitment to strengthen Jewish identity and a connection to Israel among young Jews in the FSU.

The grassroots community nature of the Sunday school program blends formal and informal education as children study the Hebrew language and learn about the modern State of Israel, Jewish holidays, Jewish history and tradition, and much more.

The keytana for Jewish children of Kyrgyzstan was made possible by ongoing support provided by the UJA-Federation of New York to the Jewish Agency Sunday school program and served as a vivid example of Jewish solidarity and mutual responsibility.

courtesy The Jewish Agency for Israel