Nurturing Youth in FSU Summer Camp

The summer of 2011 marks the 20th anniversary of the collapse of the Soviet Union. And, with it, came a rebirth of Russian-Jewish life with numerous organizations developing a multitude of programs in the region. Perhaps, overall, one of the more successful initiatives has been the creation of summer camp experiences – for individuals and families. Various programs are located across the countries of the FSU, and for Russian-speakers in both Israel and in North America.

In this post we’ll look at three of the many programs operated by Netzer, the youth branch of the World Union for Progressive Judaism.

One of the first programs this summer was the third annual integration family camp for regular families and those families that have children with special needs. 129 people participated in a program designed by the Moscow based professional staff. This year, a group of volunteers worked with the children to help build ties and understanding of one another.

The program theme was a legend in which families journeyed to a mystic world filled with children’s stories. Each day families learned through these stories about the Jewish world in general and the specific world in the camp. This world was described and written as a fairytale of the camp.

In the Crimea, a youth camp was held for 14-17 year olds. Here, the concept was the idea of a Netzer Tours travel agency. The agency was divided into 3 offices. Each day a different office received an order from a fictional client requesting a Jewish tour in a different country. The objective was to provide as much information as possible in interactive forms such as: songs, photography, video, interactive paper, etc. The goal of the participants was to collect these pieces of information and prepare a different itinerary for each client (i.e., the Golden Age in Spain, historical sites in Germany, etc.). At the conclusion of each day, a panel of judges evaluated the quality of the information provided by all groups. Each group then voted for the group they felt had the best presentation (they could not vote for themselves) and a winner was chosen.

At the end of the camp program, Netzer Tours finished their work in Israel and walked from Eilat to Metullah. During this walk they learned about the ancient and modern history of the places they visited.

Also taking place in Ukraine was a camp program called “Secrets of Mr. X” for youth ages 11-13.

Mr. X was a man who had lived in various countries worldwide, but had forgotten who he was. He needed help and wanted the campers to travel with him to these different countries and help him discover his identity.

Each day the camp was dedicated to a different country in which Mr. X had lived. Along with participants, he then traveled to these countries to learn local Jewish history, the development and social freedoms they had in certain periods, as well as their contribution to society.

At the conclusion of the camp Mr. X was able to piece together all the missing memories and found his identity in Israel along with participants as part of Am Israel.

images courtesy Netzer