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Local camp connects kids to their counterparts in Israel

 
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At Caddy Camp there's a lot of talk about wishes. The campers, 6 to 11 years old, are there to fulfill some of their own, learning circus tricks, art, dance, drama, and yoga in this weekly program at the Nesheemah Yoga Center in Bogota.

But another wish, less tangible, often expressed by the youngsters who are largely from observant homes in the area, is for world peace. Many make wishes for peace in Israel, said Nancy Siegel, founder and director of Caddy Camp and the yoga center.


The centerpiece of a mural created as a gesture of support for children in Nahariya, a city under attack.

Next week, to mark Tisha B'Av, which falls on Monday night and Tuesday, campers and their pre-teen mentors will have an opportunity to send those prayers directly to children in Sderot whose homes have been under rocket fire from Hamas terrorists across the border in Gaza. In an art project Siegel has organized, the children here will create a mural with messages of support framed by a heart, to be delivered along with their personal letters to a school in Sderot. During the height of the hostilities there, schools had to close, while classes were held in bomb shelters.


CADDY Camp campers and staff pose with the mural they made on Tisha B'Av 5766.

This is the second time Siegel has involved Caddy Camp in outreach to Israeli youth. Last summer, the campers created a mural and wrote letters to children in Nahariya in a project facilitated by UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey, which is twinned with Nahariya through Partnership '000. It proved so meaningful that Siegel decided to repeat the effort after learning about the threat to Sderot.

This summer, Nesheemah joins other local organizations that have hosted programs to provide respite to Israeli children and teens traumatized by terror. The Jewish Standard recently reported on Project Open Hearts, Open Homes, now in its sixth summer at the Bergen County YJCC in Washington Township. The YJCC has welcomed two groups, each of 16 teens and pre-teens, many from Sderot and Nahariya, a city heavily damaged by Kassam rockets that landed there during last summer's war with Hezbollah in Lebanon. On Sunday, the first group will depart and the second group will arrive, remaining in the community through Aug. 1', provided home hospitality by local families.

And a similar program, funded by the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, will begin Wednesday at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires, where many of the campers and staff are from this area, including camp director Rabbi Paul Resnick and assistant director Rabbi Amy Roth, both Teaneck residents.. Forty-five Israeli teens who lost a parent or sibling killed in war or a terrorist act will come with their counselors to the Wingdale, N.Y., campus to spend 10 days participating in regular camp activities and in a specially planned excursion to New York City.

The Caddy Camp handiwork will be hand-delivered by Odelia Shalom, a young woman visiting locally from her home in Israel. Several summers ago, Shalom and several girls lived with Siegel when they were in the United States to complete their Israeli government service (a program for religious girls in lieu of army service) and helped Siegel name her newly established yoga center. Now married with an infant, Shalom lives in Sderot where she is a schoolteacher.

"We wanted to tie in a meaningful experience for [campers] to think about their fellow Jews going through a rough time, and that the significance of Tisha B'Av, the destruction of the [First and Second] Temple, represents the [concept] that things were not so good for the Jewish people. We are creating an awareness of Tisha B'Av in a very practical way with this project," said Siegel.

Naty Gabbay, a '007 graduate of Stern College with a concentration in art therapy who lives in Teaneck, is one of those who will work with the Caddy Camp children on the mural. The three professional staff members, said Siegel, act "as facilitators, to try to facilitate experiences that allow [the campers] to find their voices. We believe each child has a voice, and our roles are to help each child to find it. In their personal letters we encourage them to write what they feel is in their hearts. That's the guiding philosophy of the camp."

Explaining the connection of her yoga center to Jewish thought, Siegel said, "I wanted to give the center a Hebrew name. Nesheemah means breath, and we talk with the children about the connection between breath and soul, neshama. God breathed into man's nostrils to create his soul, so our soul is the breath of God. In yoga, breath is a very crucial part."

Siegel has done postgraduate work in moral education at Harvard University and studied developmental psychology at Teachers College at Columbia University. She has a certificate from YogaKids, a teacher training program. In addition to the summer camp, Nesheemah offers year-round programs for children and adults in guided imagery and relaxation, family yoga and pilates.

 
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‘It’s valuable to hear both sides’

Ridgewood man discusses Israeli, Palestinian narratives

Jonathan Emont — a 2008 graduate of Ridgewood High School who celebrated his bar mitzvah at the town’s Temple Israel and Jewish Community Center — always has felt a deep attachment to the state of Israel.

Still, the 23-year-old said, he never expected that country to be at the center of his professional life.

Things changed, however, when the recent Swarthmore College graduate went to Israel on a tour the America-Israel Friendship League offered to young journalists.

“I did journalism in college,” he said, explaining that although he majored in history, he also was the editor of Swarthmore’s Daily Gazette.

 

Walling off, reaching out

Teaneck shul offers discussion of Women of the Wall

It is not an understatement to say that the saga of Women of the Wall is a metaphor for much of the struggle between tradition and change in Israel.

Founded 25 years ago by a group of Israeli and non-Israeli women whose religious affiliations ran from Orthodox to Reform, it has been a flashpoint for the fight for pluralism in Israel, as one side would define it, or the obligation to hold onto God-given mandates on the other.

As its members and supporters fought for the right to hold services in the women’s section, raising their voices in prayer, and later to wear tallitot and read from sifrei Torah, and as their opponents grew increasingly violent in response, it came to define questions of synagogue versus state and showcase both the strengths and the flaws of Israel’s extraordinary parliamentary system. It also highlighted rifts between American and Israeli Jews.

 

Yet more Pew

Local rabbis talk more about implications of look at American Jews

The Pew Research Center’s study of American Jews, released last October, really is the gift that keeps on giving.

As much as the Jewish community deplores the study’s findings, it seems to exert a magnetic pull over us, as if it were the moon and we the obedient tides. We can’t seem to stop talking about it. (Of course, part of that appeal is the license it gives us to talk, once again, about ourselves. We fascinate ourselves endlessly.)

That is why we found ourselves at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly last Wednesday night, with the next in the seemingly endless series of snow-and-ice storms just a few hours away, discussing the Pew study yet again.

 

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At JPost conference, senator reaffirms U.S. support for Israel

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Nor is it intuitive to think that if anything could help, it would be a line of rabbis getting their heads shaved.

But that is what 54 Reform rabbis did in Chicago on April 1. The so-called Shave for the Brave was in response to the December death of 8-year-old Samuel Sommers — Superman Sam, as he was called.

Sam’s short but joyous life was chronicled by his mother, Rabbi Phyllis Sommers, who blogged about his struggle; she and Sam’s father, Rabbi Michael Sommers, were the first to have their heads shaved onstage during the Central Conference of American Rabbis’ meeting last week.

 
 
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