North American Undergrads Running Educational Camps for Israeli At-Risk Youth

Daniella Azose of West Hempstead, NY helps students with an art project in Counterpoint’s summer camp in Kiryat Malachi.

Highlighting its crucial role in the lives of Israeli youth at risk, Yeshiva University’s Counterpoint Israel Program kicked off its 12th consecutive year with a communal Bar Mitzvah ceremony in the Old City of Jerusalem for 13 grade school students from the development town of Kiryat Malachi.

Currently in process, the immersive service-learning initiative aims to empower Israeli youth, helping them tackle self-esteem issues while enhancing their levels of English competency and computer literacy to ensure their success in school and beyond.

“Counterpoint Israel services teens who come from impoverished homes, and the program has become an educational lifeline for the campers and their families. While many of the young women in the program had celebrated a Bat Mitzvah over the last year, many of the incoming male campers had skipped over this very important milestone in their lives,” said Gabi Sackett, Director of the Counterpoint Israel Program.

“We saw this as an opportunity to connect the campers with their Jewish roots and lay the groundwork for responsible and motivated Jewish adulthood. It was really the perfect way to start the summer, because it put an emphasis on Jewish identity and education.”

Together with partner Afikim, an Israeli organization that works to enrich the lives of families in need in Kiryat Malachi, and Rabbi Moshe Scheiner from Palm Beach Orthodox Synagogue, whose daughter was celebrating her Bat Mitzvah together with the Kiryat Malachi students, the YU Counterpoint Israel staff hosted an unforgettable celebration of Jewish heritage and values. During morning tefillah, all of the Kiryat Malachi students were presented with their very own pairs of tefillin.

Staffed by 30 Yeshiva University students from the United States, Canada and Chile, three student-run Counterpoint Israel camps in the cities of Arad, Dimona, and Kiryat Malachi provide 200 Israeli campers with crucial opportunities for identity building and personal enrichment. As in past years, the program includes classes given in English and workshops in arts, fashion, music, dance and sports.

A Counterpoint Israel camper from Kiryat Malachi is overcome with emotion during his first trip to the Western Wall.

For the first time in Counterpoint’s history, all of the campers will receive educational credit for their participation in the program, as the Israeli Ministry of Education recently approved the framework as an official continuing education program.

Counterpoint Israel 2017 is run with support from The Jewish Agency, Partnership2gether, Neal’s Fund, in memory of Neal Dublinsky, Sharon and Avram Blumenthal, The Gamson Family, in memory of Dr. Bernard W. Gamson, and the Municipalities of Arad, Dimona, and Kiryat Malachi.