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5 Things We Are Looking Forward To In 2015

2014 was a big year for Jewish camping and 2015 will be even better! Check out this list of 5 great things we are looking forward to this year:

1. BunkConnect

friendsThis year, FJC launched BunkConnect, an affordability initiative designed to help more middle and lower income families attend Jewish camp for the first time. With special rates as much as 40-60% off, BunkConnect helps first time camp families find the best summer experience for their children at an affordable cost.

2. Disability Initiatives

Traditionally, attending overnight camp is difficult for many children with disabilities due to limitations on staff, accessibility, and programming. This year, Lisa Tobin joined the ranks of FJC as the Director of Disability Initiatives. Lisa has been working with camps to help them reach out to and provide camp experiences to children with a range of disabilities. Through webinars, training, and the creation of a database of camps, FJC is actively working to turn the dream of Jewish overnight camp into a reality for disabled children.

3. Specialty Day Camp Incubator

The benefits of FJC’s Incubator are not just limited to overnight camps! This year, four day camps were chosen to participate in FJC’s Specialty Day Camp Incubator. Through mentor meetings and monthly workshops, the leaders at these day camps are learning to enhance their skills and programming to provide specialty day camp opportunities to new campers.

Camp_03544. World Jewry Joint Initiative

Earlier this year, the government of Israel hosted a meeting on the relationship between Israel and the global Jewish population to create the World Jewry Joint Initiative. Our own CEO, Jeremy Fingerman, was invited to Israel to attend and contribute to this endeavor. With a mission of enabling Jewish youth and young adults as active participants in Jewish life with a strong engagement with Israel, the World Jewry Joint Initiative is a revolutionary leap forward in inspiring Jewish citizens around the world.

The Initiative has released a list of areas to explore in terms of content, programming, and advocacy. Where did Jewish camp fall on this list? It came in at #2, signifying the vital role that Jewish summer camps play in the promotion of Jewish engagement and identity!

5. The Magic of Jewish Camp

In 2014, more than 76,000 campers and 11,000 staff members had magical and unforgettable summer at Jewish camp! They ran, climbed, sang, cheered, prayed, laughed, danced, and swam their way through every Shabbat, color war, song session and evening program. They reconnected with old friends and made even more new ones. They learned a lot and gained important new skils. Their lives were changed in one short camp session. We can’t wait to top all of that in 2015!

Posted on January 5, 2015

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Complete Jewish Camp Gift Guide

When the weather is cold and damp, the camp season seems incredibly far away.  That’s why Hanukkah is the perfect time for summer camp inspired gifts.

1. For your camper whose favorite activity is Arts & Crafts

colored pencils blog

Branch and Twig Colored Pencils ($3.99 on Amazon)

 

2. For your camper who always masters the challenge course

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Custom Camp Map Puzzle ($17.99 from Create Jigsaw Puzzles)

 

3. For your camper who LOVES song session

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A Ukulele Starter Pack ($39.99 from Guitar Center)

 

4. For your camper who can’t get enough s’mores

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S’mores maker ($14.00 on Amazon)

 

5. For your tech savvy camper

ipad cover blogiphone cover blog

Wood Cabin style tech accessories ($10.00 on Amazon and $22.00 on Amazon)

 

6. For your camper who comes home with even their socks tie dyed

tie dye duvet blog

Tie Dyed duvet cover ($99.00 – $139.00 from PBTeen)

 

7. For your social butterfly camper

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Custom photo playing cards ($19.99 from Shutterfly)

 

8. For your camper who takes full advantage of rest hour

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S’more Pillow Warmer ($39.99 from Smoko)

 

9. For your youngest camper

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Felt Campfire Set ($85.00 on Etsy)

 

10. For your camper going off to college

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A Camp T-Shirt Quilt (starting at $59.99 from Project Repat)

Posted on December 24, 2014

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

A Light in the Dark

As I write this, there is a lot of negative energy in the world. There seems a force asking people to draw lines, point out differences, and make more divisions in the world. In this Holiday season I prefer to see through it all and look for the things that connect us.  To this end I find myself looking for what the story of Hanukkah and the story of Christmas have in common.

In the book of Matthew they read:

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him. (Matthew 2:1-2)

Having seem the sign of the star the Magi came from the east looking for baby Jesus. They came because this gave them hope for the future. It is interesting to compare this discovery to the Rabbinic story of Hanukkah. There we read:

What is Chanukah? As the Rabbis taught: The twenty-fifth of Kislev begins the eight days of Chanukah. When the Greeks entered the Holy Temple they defiled all the oil that was in the Temple. And when the rulers of the House of Hashmonean succeeded in gaining the upper hand and vanquished them, the Holy Temple was searched and but one flask of oil was found with the seal of the high priest still intact. There was only enough oil to last but one day. A miracle occurred and it lasted for eight days. The following year these days were established and made into festive days of Hallel and thanksgiving. (Shabbat 21b)

Looking for holiness in the rubble of the reclaimed Temple, the rebels found one small jar of oil with the seal intact. They took the fact that this oil lasted for eight days as a sign of the holiness of their reclamation of Temple. Like the Magi they saw in this oil hope for the future.

PWP Studio photographers specialize in corporate event photography, decor, details, incentive travel, conventions, and on-location photography in Atlanta, GeorgiaI think about this in the still of the night in the darkest time of the year. It might be hard to relate to this in our modern lives which are filled with light, but can you imagine trying to find something in the dark in a time before electric lights or even before gas lights? It must have really been a needle in a hay stack.

The adage goes, “If you do not know where you going you will never be lost”. It follows from this idea that if you do not know what you are looking for you will never find it. It is tempting in the dark times to grow complacent, but now, more than ever, we need to do the hard work of discovering and rediscovering hope. In the case of the Magi as in the case of Hashmoneans they both knew what they were looking for even if it was needle in a hay stack. We should all be blessed to know for what we are looking. In these dark times we need to be looking for a sign and we need to be looking out for each other. We all just need to find a light in the dark.

Posted on December 24, 2014

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Jewish Camp Gift Guide: Bonus!

9. For your youngest camper

Let your little camper practice roasting marshmallows all year round with their very own plush campfire set.

campfire blog

Felt Campfire Set ($85.00 on Etsy)

 

10. For your camper going off to college

What better way for your college aged camper to hold on to all of their hard earned camp shirt than as a blanket for their dorm room?

tshirt quilt blog

A Camp T-Shirt Quilt (starting at $59.99 from Project Repat)

Posted on December 23, 2014

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Jewish Camp Gift Guide: Day 8

8. For your camper who takes full advantage of rest hour

If your camper takes every opportunity to sneak in a quick nap or some quiet reading time, why not make them more comfortable with this adorable s’mores pillow. This will definitely lead them to some sweet dreams.

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S’more Pillow Warmer ($39.99 from Smoko)

Check out day 7.

Posted on December 22, 2014

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Jewish Camp Gift Guide: Day 7

7. For your social butterfly camper

If your camper misses their bunk mates, a custom set of playing cards with their favorite camp photos could be the perfect gift! Let them show off their camp memories while playing all the classic card games at camp and at home.

playing cards blog

Custom photo playing cards ($19.99 from Shutterfly)

Take a look at Day 6.

Posted on December 22, 2014

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Jewish Camp Gift Guide: Day 6

6. For your camper who comes home with even their socks tie dyed

There is always one camper who tie dyes EVERYTHING they bring to camp. They simply cannot get enough. If that is your child, this duvet cover is perfect for them! Let them dream about tie dye all year long so they are ready when summer arrives.

tie dye duvet blog

Tie Dyed duvet cover ($99.00 – $139.00 from PBTeen)

Check out Day 5

Posted on December 19, 2014

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Jewish Camp Gift Guide: Day 5

5. For your tech savvy camper

Your tech savvy camper may go the whole camp session without their electronics, but when during the year they are inseparable. Let them show their love of camp with these great “cabin wall” tech accessories.

ipad cover blogiphone cover blog

Wood Cabin style tech accessories ($10.00 on Amazon and $22.00 on Amazon)

Take a look back at Day 4.

Posted on December 19, 2014

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Jewish Camp Gift Guide: Day 4

4. For your camper who can’t get enough s’mores

Is there anything out there more camp-y than s’mores? Probably not! That’s why the entire family will love making them all year round with this amazing s’mores maker.

smores maker blog

S’mores maker ($14.00 on Amazon)

Check out Day 3

Posted on December 18, 2014

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Viewing the Win of the Macabees in a Different Light

As a Nutritionist, Hanukkahis not always my favorite holiday.  It’s all about the oil.  While I don’t believe in super low fat diets, I also don’t believe in 8 days of deep fried potatoes smothered in sour cream and sweet, sticky, doughy donuts.  I’m constantly asked for healthy latke and donut recipes, or just how many latkes is reasonable to eat with brisket (10, right?), or if its okay to down a whole bag of gelt.  (For the record- non-fried latkes and healthy donuts just don’t taste great, so just have 1 or 2 small latkes with a tablespoon of sour cream).

Now, I know you are expecting some sort of magical latke recipe that doesn’t use a lot of oil and is still incredible, but that’s just not possible.  And although greasy latkes and sufganiyot can be delicious, food on Hanukkah doesn’t have to be just about the oil.  So, in the spirit of the holiday, I want to offer you some food ideas that have nothing to do with oil (GASP!)

While one miracle of Hanukkah is the oil, another is the unexplainable and unpredictable victory of the Macabees over the Greeks.  There are so many texts in the Jewish tradition that speak of celebrating victory by being a poor winner (For example, when the Israelites danced after crossing the Red Sea and witnessing the deaths of all of Pharoah’s soldiers).  One of the many ways that we can respect our tradition is to challenge it, and this is a concept that I think deserves a challenge.

Both at camp and at home, we should be teaching our kids to be respectful of the other side when they win to avoid hurt feelings and shaming.  Now, I’m not suggesting that the Macabees should have invited the Greeks into the Temple for a festive meal following their victory, but when we look at the story in hindsight it is important to remember the value of the lives that were lost and all that was destroyed in the battle.  We must teach our children that the world is not a black and white place filled with winners and losers, but that best way to be a mensch is to respectfully shake your opponent’s hand and wish them well.  With that in mind, have your latkes one night, but why not also have a Greek themed meal to honor those whom we defeated to teach our children what it means to be a gracious winner.  Below you will find a delicious Greek white bean stew that will help your family honor all who fought in the story of Channukah.

Rachel BlogGreek white bean stew

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 4 medium sprigs of fresh oregano
  • 2 14 ounce cans white beans
  • 2 14 ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped dill
  • 4 ounces crumbled feta cheese

Instructions

  1. Dice onion
  2. Heat olive oil in a large saucepot over high heat.  Add onion and saute about 5 minutes, until translucent and starting to brown.
  3. Meanwhile, mince the garlic.
  4. Add the garlic and the oregano to the pan and continue to cook 1-2 minutes, until the garlic is lightly browned and fragrant but not burnt.
  5. Meanwhile, drain and rinse the beans well.
  6. Add the beans and tomatoes to the pan and season with salt and pepper (lightly because the feta is salty).
  7. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce the heat to a simmer.  Cook 20 minutes.
  8. Mix in dill and top with feta and enjoy!

Posted on December 18, 2014

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy