Reflections on the Summer Shlichim Seminar at Kibbutz Shefayimby Adina Allen, Assistant Director
The four days I spent in early April with our mishlachat (Israeli staff) at Kibbutz Shefayim in Israel proved to be a highlight of the year. Our conversations were filled with reflections on American Jewry, camp culture, policies and daily schedules, our individual connections to Israel, an introduction to the philosophy of the Ramah movement and opportunities to connect individually as human beings.
Some highlights include:
- The Ramah Camping Movement was joined by shlichim and representatives from the Union of Reform Judaism and Young Judaea Camping movements. There were over 700 participants – and each one was excited, curious, and ready for summer 2016. On the first morning as our shlichim arrived from all corners of Israel, music was blasting, people were dancing and the energy and excitement felt at Shefayim was palpable.
- Watching in amazement as a group of complete strangers become friends and a team excited to contribute to the success of the 2016 season at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin. Our group of shlichim is made up of secular and religious Israelis, kibbutzniks, those who have not yet enlisted in the IDF, and some who have already finished their army service. The clear unifying factor within this group was a desire to be a shaliach (lit.: emissary) and bring “their Israel” to Conover.
- We began Shabbat with the 250 Camp Ramah shlichim and representatives davening Kabbalat Shabbat together. As we began, there were relatively few voices participating in the melodies that we are so familiar with from camp. As we continued through the service though, more and more voices filled the space. It was evident to me that many of the shlichim were having an eye-opening experience. Davening for many was unfamiliar and the tunes were new. Some coming from religious backgrounds were sitting next to the opposite gender for the first time. The wide range of backgrounds and practices were evident at the start, but as we came together in a circle for havdallah on Saturday evening, the Shabbat atmosphere had clearly impacted this group and there was a strong desire and openness to partake in our Ramah community. How quickly the Ramah magic works!
- This year I’ve gained insight into the process and desire of our shlichim to be a part of our camp community. As I participated in the interviews in January, I learned for the first time the investment our shlichim make just to get to the interview part of the process. The days at Shefayim provide initial training and an introduction to American summer camp and our Jewish community. I was fortunate to work closely with our treasured Israeli staff members Daniella Elyashar and Gal Atia. They were both able to recount their successes as shlichim and how being a part of the Camp Ramah in Wisconsin community has had a profound impact on their lives, professional aspirations, Jewish identities, and understanding of American Jewish culture. Through their stories alone, our shlichim felt empowered and energized to have a similar impact and experience this summer. I am looking forward to continuing to work with this group over the summer and see how they continue to bring their own stories, talents, and experiences to our community.