Camp PembrokeIn recognition of its success infusing Israel into a greater part of camp culture and overall experience, Camp Pembroke in Pembroke, MA, was awarded the inaugural “Goodman Prize for Excellence in Israel Education at Camp.” Along with nine other camp semi-finalists for the $1,800 cash prize award, Camp Pembroke – an all-girls pluralist Jewish summer camp – is part of the Goodman Camping Initiative for Modern Israel History. The ongoing initiative enhances and expands the commitment of Jewish overnight camps to modern Israel history and dynamic Israel education within all parts of camp, and is designed to help campers build deep and meaningful connections with Israel.

Compared to just a few years ago, Camp Pembroke today offers campers many more opportunities for Israel engagement, with twice-a-week “Jewish life and learning” classes and dynamic, fun experiences. Among numerous activities, Goodman Fellows decorate a golf cart as an “Israeli Cash Cab” at the beginning of each summer for counselors to drive around, stopping anywhere at camp to ask Israel trivia questions. Another activity involves campers dramatizing Israeli-related inventions like the pill-cam, special irrigation techniques, cell phone technology, and more, while other campers guess the invention. And campers have designed picnic tables and benches to showcase Israeli history, heroines, and culture.

“Everything we do at Camp Pembroke now builds to a 5 and a half week trip to Israel during the campers’ ‘Counselor-in-training’ summer,” says camp director Ellen Felcher. “We showcase Israel as modern state, living and breathing with excitement. The girls develop their own personal and meaningful connection to the country and the people.”

Now in its third year, the Goodman Camping Initiative is a partnership between the iCenter and Foundation for Jewish Camp with generous support from the Lillian and Larry Goodman Foundations, with contributions from the Marcus Foundation and the AVI CHAI Foundation. The Initiative has engaged 36 camps at workshops, at seminars for shlichim, and with online tools that offer strategies and resources to help camps infuse modern Israel history into their camp’s educational program. Beyond specific programs, the Goodman Camping Initiative helps camps incorporate Israeli themes, images, or Hebrew language into their entire camp surroundings, including their gardens, their climbing walls, and their bunks.

As part of the prize selection, camps had to detail how they’ve utilized the resources and training provided by the Goodman Camping Initiative to offer new Israel experiences to both campers and staff, and how their participation in the initiative has an ongoing impact at camp.

This summer, Susan Rifkin, Executive Director of the Goodman Foundations, and Hailey Cole, granddaughter of Mr. Goodman and the family representative on this project, will deliver the prize to Camp Pembroke.

“The Goodman Modern Israel History program is designed to create a bond between campers and Israel, while empowering them with education and facts,” adds Rifkin. “As future Israel advocates on campus and beyond, these young people serve as the next generation of Israel ambassadors. We are incredibly proud of Camp Pembroke as their dedication and ingenuity makes Israel come alive at camp.”