Rabbi Yuval Kerem
One early winter morning we drove our two little treasures to their first youth movement camp. We were typical anxious Jewish parents. Will they eat and sleep enough? Will
they be lonely? We made them promise to call us as soon as they could. Three days later they called. “Mum, Dad, we’re OK, gotta go now, bye!”
Our children learned to care a little better for themselves, and for others, make better life choices and be more informed about Judaism. Yet youth movements and their camps give our children much more than that.
The camps are run by adult leaders (madrichim) a little older than the children they care for – who are considered much cooler than the parents. A young, enthusiastic guitar-playing teen will give your child a new perspective on Hebrew, Judaism and the world. This enthusiasm is passed on through prayer, Torah study and other educational sessions they experience while having fun.
Youth movements also provide a safe environment in to learn about Israel from madrichim who have spent time there and are familiar with current affairs. Youth movements help them develop an understanding of the movement’s approach towards Israel and Zionism, while forming their own critical evaluation of the political situation.
Children have hands-on experience of these issues on Israel Tour. Four weeks ago, we sent three of my community’s youth on tour at a time of great anxiety in Israel. They came back with memories to last a lifetime.
This experience and a leaders course marks the transition from chanich (student) to madrich. It’s wonderful to see youth rise to the challenge and in turn become inspirational role models for the younger children under their care.
The circle is closed with a gap year in Israel where they learn more about the country, gain more leadership experience, make lifelong friendships and become involved in social action.
My children are now at the LJY-Netzer-run Machaneh Kadimah summer camp. I’m as anxious as when they went on the first camp, but I suspect they’re just as glad for the opportunity to make new friends and make the tables shudder as they recite Birkat Hamazon at the end of a meal.