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By Nathan Abraham, A Third year architecture student and President of the University of Greenwich Jewish Society.
If you asked me this time last year whether I would spend 9 weeks of my summer working at a children’s summer camp in a small town called Hendersonville, North Carolina and then travelling around America for 30 days, my answer would be a definite NO.
But, now I can safely say that it was the best summer I have ever experienced and would recommend every young Jewish person to experience it also – it’s a must!
The first time I had heard about summer camp was from friends who had been before.
It all sounded pretty positive and exciting. I wanted to know more. I began researching the different companies offering the experience, and I looked at a few, deciding to go with CCUSA (Camp Counselors USA.)
I am happy I made that decision, as not only are CCUSA a lot cheaper than other companies, but they also offer a very personal and engaging summer experience. They specialise in Jewish camps (working with over 250 different camps all over America including Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, B’nai B’rith, Young Judea, JCC Camps and others).
It is so personal, that it reminds me of the day mid-way through camp when we were sitting at our cabin table eating dinner, when I hear my camp director shout my name: “Two men from CCUSA have come to see if you are alright?!” This was a pleasant surprise and it really made me feel reassured that there was a CCUSA family supporting me along the way.
Forwarding through my year at University and after going through the easy online application, the American embassy and gaining my visa – the time had arrived. I was going to Camp Judaea and I had no idea what to expect.
I’m in Hendersonville, North Carolina. My camp experience had officially begun.
The beauty of Camp Judaea is that it is a small, Israel-centred summer camp for boys and girls aged 7-15. The surroundings are one of a kind. Nothing compares to what I have come across in England (including the weather).
Although it did rain non-stop for two straight days during second session! The camp is based right in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains and offers beautiful scenery.
The perfect place to spend the summer doing what I love with campers and fellow counsellors from around the world, in a community that challenges and nurtures individual and community based growth, and Jewish identity in a safe, positive and diverse environment with exceptional professional leadership.
Each summer camp is unique.
Camp Judaea offers two sessions, each lasting around three weeks. For my first session I was placed with ‘Sayarim’ (10-11 year olds). Our cabin consisted of three counsellors, including myself, and fourteen campers. We became known as the ‘Suave Sayarim’. Our cabin campers had it all – a ninja kid, card magician, future basketball players and comedians. It was very inspiring to see, and be part of.
In the second session I was placed with a younger age group: the Offies! (8-9 year olds). Despite the small difference in age, it was a whole different challenge. This is something we were taught during counsellor training and which challenged me as a person. This time around we were in a different cabin and there were four counsellors, including myself, and eleven campers.
Aside from being with my cabin and age group for the group activities, my main contribution at camp was my involvement on the art team. I worked with two art directors and two other art counsellors. Importantly the projects we taught for each age group consisted of a link to Judaism and Israel.
This is the great thing about camp. It allows children to find ways of expressing themselves in a way they most enjoy. In this case, it allowed the campers to build a greater connection to Jewish values and Israel through art, and this was brilliant to be part of.
I even had the opportunity to teach a concept of print making I developed myself a few years ago during my fine art A level. It was a great feeling that I had the opportunity to share this with the campers and I could pass this on to my American friends.
Even though I specialised in teaching art, I was able to participate in all the activities if I wanted to, and these are the areas where camps love to hire young Jewish people from the UK.
If you are unsure about what to do this summer, and want to experience a truly amazing experience you have just found it. Not only do you get to work in America; it will look great on your CV and you get up to 30 days to travel around America. A job and a holiday in one!
Until you do it yourself you won’t understand the fulfillment and buzz you get from working at camp. I look back at the memories and friends I made in America. It has shaped a chapter in my life I will never forget.
It was an unforgettable, challenging and very rewarding experience. You know you have made a difference to a camper’s life when they ask “will you be back next summer?”
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If you have just read this article and are thinking this is something I would definitely want to experience this summer, then click here: CCUSA competition – Jewish summer camp – to enter to go for FREE.