The Canteen is a tribute to all things Jewish sleepaway camp. Hosted by the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC), this blog is written by campers, alumni, parents, and camp professionals and is a place to talk about parenting, camp fun, projects, crafts, recipes, and more – all tied back to Jewish holidays, traditions and, of course, camp!
1. The carefree spirit they bring to camp.
Even the coolest among the shlichim (Israeli staff) are down for a good sing-along, are willing to get down to some traditional Israeli dances or rock out without abandon when their favorite song comes on. They don’t take themselves too seriously and fit right in when it’s time for wacky costumes. (When is it not?!)
2. We learn more than just the Hebrew words for things around camp.
We come home with some Israeli slang, too. Magniv!
3. Bissli and poprocks chocolate bars…
Handmade pita over a fire… Shakshuka and salatim… Without them, our summer diets would consist of boring old chips and bowls of lettuce with a lonely tomato or cucumber slice on top.
4. They bring us back to earth when we tell them about our problems.
They’ve been in the army. They’ve traveled overseas. They don’t care that your hair is frizzy because the abundance of straighteners and blow dryers in your bunk on Friday afternoon blew the fuse. It’s really not a big deal. And crazy hair makes for more fun photos anyway.
5. They inspire us to be more, do more.
Never discouraged by a challenge or something unknown, we can always count on our Israeli coworkers and staff to tackle it head on. They jump into an unknown community that doesn’t all speak their native language and embrace strange camp traditions with a shrug. Need a mid-activity bulb change in the amphitheater? Someone is bound to shimmy up that pole without question. Can’t figure out an awesome way to open Color War? They’ll come up with something you never thought of. (It will involve fire.) Need someone to stall a group of 12 year olds for 10 minutes? Ein Baya! (No problem!) Their initiative is empowering.
6. We learn what it’s really like to live in Israel.
Getting to know Israelis opens up a new way of seeing and understanding Israel. And for many, it’s what lights the fire that actually gets us there for a visit, and sometimes, to move there.
7. They finally get us to explore more in our own backyard.
After living in NYC for 6 years, I finally made it to the Statue of Liberty on a day off with friends from Israel. I still haven’t made it to Yellowstone or South America, where many of them traveled after the summer was over. We’re surrounded by so much beauty that we never experience!
8. Biglal HaMusica (Because of the music!)
If it weren’t for them, our Israeli music knowledge would consist of just the greatest hits and golden oldies. We’ll always have a lot of love for Arik Einstein, Kaveret, Dana International, and Shlomo Artzi, but the Israeli music scene is hopping, and we want in!
9. They aren’t afraid to engage us in some serious debates.
Camp is all about growth opportunities, but sometimes, to reach your full potential or understand where you actually stand on a topic, you need someone to tell it to you straight up. We love that we can always count on our Israeli coworkers to be outspoken. They challenge us and push us, and then always back it up with a smile. And while it sometimes drives us crazy, we know that life is better for it.
10. They are our home away from home when we go to Israel.
No family in Israel? Not anymore. In Israel, like camp, lines between friends and family blur. Once you’ve connected with a shaliach at camp, you’ll always have a home in Israel (and perhaps a house guest of your own after camp)!