Making Mensches

I PWP Studio photographers specialize in corporate event photography, decor, details, incentive travel, conventions, and on-location photography in Atlanta, Georgiaam certain that I am not the only parent who wrestles with the question of how to guide my children to become mensches and individuals who are relevant in the 21st century.

Educators and leaders of Fortune 500 corporations identified critical skills that are necessary to navigate in, compete in, and contribute to our complex and global society in the 21st century. They have found skills like creativity, innovation, critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration, flexibility, adaptability, initiative, self-direction, leadership, and responsibility missing from young hires.

Research shows that these skills are not necessarily taught in schools. We know there is a significant gap between the knowledge and skills most students learn in school and the knowledge and skills that they need to be successful as adults. As parents work to ensure their children acquire all the skills to succeed, many have begun relying on summer experiences to compensate for this gap and view camp as a critical extension of their child’s education.

Camp is a great place where children are able to practice and perfect these 21st century skills. Through challenging activities with their bunkmates, campers practice teamwork, communication, and leadership skills. The fun games they play encourage humor, creativity, and collaboration. By overcoming obstacles, they build resilience and reinforce life lessons individually and as a community. The power of Jewish camp is that kids develop these skills all within a Jewish context, with Jewish values and joy-filled experiences.

Jewish camps hope to inspire young people today to be able to be decent, mature, and responsible contributing members of our Jewish community. Jewish camps have been in the business of “making mensches” for generations and they continue to do so by providing an environment for our children that models personal behavior, ethics, and responsibility for the future of our Jewish community.

Six months from now, our bunks, chapels, and lakes will be filled with mensches in the making. We must continue to provide our campers with Jewish literacy with the aim of creating visible Jewish pride and curiosity as well as equip them with critical 21st century skills.

Camp’s immersive environment delivers a powerful answer to why Jewish camp remains to this day such a vital tool for our community.

Posted on January 22, 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

Such a Spectacle

Davis academy 8th graders prepare for the volunteering day, holding a fraction of the 9000 pairs of glasses in my office.

Davis academy 8th graders prepare for the volunteering day, holding a fraction of the 9,000 pairs of glasses in my office.

My professor asked for students with bad vision to raise their hands.  Out of a sea of 200, maybe 100 raised their hands.  He called on me, and I explained that I didn’t know my number, but my contact prescription was something like negative 6 or 7.  Hamevin yevin – those who know, know – and everybody else dropped their hands, with their mouths wide open in disbelief.  Wow.  She can barely see!  Professor asked me a follow-up question based on the response, “So, can you not drive without your glasses?”

“Drive?!”  I laughed.  “Without my glasses, I cannot walk.”

My prescription is worse now – negative 8 – making me super-nearsighted, and I rarely find someone whose vision is worse than my own.  I’m grateful every day for the advances in technology that allow me to have all-day contacts.  Technology that allows me to have relatively thin glasses, when years ago, I would’ve been forced into a pair of nerdtastic Diet Coke-bottle glasses.

We talk a lot about how to teach empathy in our students at school and at camp.  We show videos of the farmers who bring chocolate into our lives, tasting chocolate for the first time.  We discuss the Jewish Partisans and how they saved so many people during the time of the Holocaust.  We learn about children who were raised to be terrorists, but chose peace instead.

In planning this year’s Interfaith Social Action & Social Justice Day, I have been up to my eyeballs (I can’t help the puns sometimes) in all of the ways to do good around Atlanta.  We have kids going to Books for Africa, to pack class packs of books to be shipped across the Atlantic.  We have kids going to MedShare, to package sterile and usable medical supplies to be used in clinics and hospitals in the developing world.  We’re also doing some new things this year – a pancake brunch at Safe House Outreach in Atlanta, where they will cook for and hang out with clients – and an eyeglass recovery program.

For the weeks leading up to this program, my office is buzzing with activity.  I’m on the phone, I’m typing furiously on my desktop, laptop, and iPhone, sometimes all in the span of a minute or two.  The room fills with supplies as the program starts to come together.

This year, there are 9,000 glasses, in brightly-colored bins, making a spectacle (zing!) of my office, as part of our on-site mitzvah project with the Lions Lighthouse Foundation.  Many students have stopped by since they were delivered (2 weeks in advance), as my office is overflowing with glasses of every shape, size and color.

Teachers who, like me, have visited Poland, stopped by to mention that they were disturbed by the glasses, as it reminded them of lessons from the Holocaust.  I felt these things, too.  It’s interesting.  It’s disturbing.  It MUST mean something.

I don’t have a hard time sympathizing with people who are hungry, truly hungry.  I’m pretty cranky if I don’t eat every few hours, and I know that I cannot fully fathom actual hunger.

I don’t have a hard time empathizing with people who need medical supplies. I don’t have a hard time empathizing with people who need medical supplies.  I’m incredibly lucky to have had the care I’ve had for my relatively minor medical annoyances over the years.  I carry an EpiPen gratefully. I don’t have a hard time empathizing with people who need books to read.  I’m a voracious reader.  I need books and other online content to survive.

But the glasses.  Oh, the glasses.  I look at them and tears well up in my troubled eyes. I think of all of the people who had their glasses taken away by heartless torturers.  And then, I think of the 9,000 people who sent those glasses to Lions Lighthouse, so that they could be cleaned, sorted, and sent out to people who need their vision corrected and either had no access to or couldn’t afford to do so beforehand.  All of a sudden, I’m struck in a way I haven’t been in a while.

I hope our kids, with all of their options, are as moved as I am by the opportunities they’ll have on our volunteering day.

Until then, I’ll be here, working hard, pausing only occasionally to put in some eyedrops.

Posted on January 21, 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

21st Century Skills and Jewish Camp

Jewish Camp delivers value to campers in so many ways. Most people know that it solidifies Jewish identity, it creates life long friendships, it teaches skills and allows kids to have experiences that they wouldn’t have in their home communities. What most people don’t realize, is that Jewish camp is also one of the best environments to teach campers newly identified skills that they will need to be successful in the emerging 21st century workforce. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills is an organization that is dedicated to addressing the gap between the knowledge and skills most students learn in school and the knowledge and skills that they need in typical 21st century  communities and workplaces. P21 (created by Apple, PBS, Dell and the US Dept. of Education to name a few of the founders) has identified a comprehensive set of skills that our children will need to learn in order to bridge this gap successfully. These include:

  • jca_C130629-0133Creativity and Innovation
  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  • Communication and collaboration
  • Flexibility and Adaptability
  • Initiative and Self-Direction
  • Social and Cross-Cultural Skills
  • Productivity and Accountability
  • Leadership and Responsibility

It is an understatement to say that Jewish Camp is the perfect environment to communicate, practice and perfect these skills. Our campers and staff have these opportunities every day and the amazing thing is that we have been doing it for decades as part of our mission. At Beber Camp and Perlman Camp, we are also excited to say that we have also been intentionally and explicitly integrating the Partnership for 21st Century Skills ideas into our curriculum for a few summers. We have seen amazing results in our teen leadership training programs, in our overall staff training and in the programs that we run for our younger campers.

We want our campers and parents to know that these skills are important to learn now. We want our campers and parents to know why these skills are important for a successful future. Finally, we want to make sure everyone knows exactly how these skills are communicated, learned and mastered in the Jewish Camp setting.

Beber and Perlman are thrilled to be writing a series of blogs about 21st century skills for the Foundation for Jewish Camp in the coming weeks. We have reached out to our entire community to participate in this project and get ready to hear examples of these skills in action from campers, parents, alumni, professional staff and board members! In the meantime, I encourage you to do a few things – check out www.p21.org for more information, reach out to the FJC for updates on camp-style P21 learning and encourage any camp staff that know to re-think leaving summer camp for that internship!

Posted on January 7, 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

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

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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

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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

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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.

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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