Monthly Archives: מנחם אב / אלול תשעא - August 2011
The theme of Camp Gan Israel Parksville this summer was a new song titled “You Are My Home,” sung by Zalmy Schreiber, Avremy Kievman, Aron Kogen, and Mendel Kaplen.”You Are My Home”
Music & Arranged: Sholom Lieberman
Lyics: Zalmy Schreiber
Vocals: Zalmy Schreiber, Avremy Kievman, Aron Kogen, Mendel Kaplen
Music video by Mendy Soffer
One fine Thursday morning, the campers awoke to find a few changes in staff. It seems there was a
mass camper revolution, and key positions like head-counselor and even EMT were commandeered by
campers. Such a revolution is referred to as topsy turvey day, when campers get to be staff members
(or at least think they are). All throughout the day, the announcements on the PA were given by a not so
familiar camper voice. The ECADs GMs, counselors, and even head staff were “replaced” by campers.
The campers had a blast running the show, while the staff cringed in fear at incurring their wrath
and receiving punishment, for truly, nothing is more embarrassing than getting yelled at by someone a
quarter of your size.
For a few days the campers had been noticing some strange activities going on in the soccer
field. The staff seemed to be building and painting for something. All claims of “a new shed for the
camps bus” did nothing to satisfy their curiosity, and besides, who really would believe such a
preposterous story? There had to be something bigger and better going on. And it had to be soon
because all of the staff seemed to be more and more tired by the day. On Thursday night the questions
were answered (as if they didn’t already know), with the announcement of the grand staff play. The
play, which was about the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, opened up with a scene of the Simchas
Beis Hashoeiva in the Beis Hamikdash, a scene of great dancing and celebration with real fire juggling
and acrobatics, all performed by our talented staff. The following scenes showed the infamous story of
Kamtza and Bar Kamtza, in which ECAD Eli Lipsker through HC Rafi Steiner into a cake. This was followed with the story of Bar-Kamtza’s appearance before the roman emperor – a
hilariously entertaining character portrayed by HW Simcha Raskin – to propose that the Jews wish to
rebel. He is then sent with a Korban from the Emperor to see if the Jews will bring it. The korban is given
a blemish by Bar Kamtza and is rendered unfit for a korban. Then Abba Sikra – a Jewish zealot played by
HC Moshe Shemtov – threatens to kill Bar Kamtza, and Bar Kamtza pleads for his life and tells Abba Sikra
when the Romans are attacking. They watch, from a guard tower (a fire escape covered with a
backdrop), as torches flare up from all sides, and the entire Roman Army surrounds the
wall that the staff built. The Roman attack scene was led by Vespasian, played by LT Mordy Touger. He
rallied them with war cries and prepared to attack Yerushalayim, but the battering ram (yes, they
actually built a functioning battering ram!) is no use. The walls are too strong and they are forced to
make a siege and wait. Fortunately for the Jews there are rich men in Yerushalayim with enough
supplies to last for tens of years. Unfortunately, we once again saw how our destruction always comes
from within, when some zealots burnt down the storehouses, in an attempt to force the Jews into a
fight with the Romans. Then came the story of Rabbi Yochanan’s escape from Yerushalayim to see the
General/Emperor, and the famous request to leave the yeshiva of Yavneh alive. Then came an epic battle and, sadly, the destruction of Yerushalayim. But the play ended of on a happy note as in the final scene
Rabbi Akiva and the Chachamim seeing the aftermath of the destruction of Yerushalayim and the fox coming out of the Beis Hamikdash, may we all see it rebuilt, may it be speedily in our days. AMEN!
The Global Yarchei Kallah in Camp Gan Israel in Parksville, NY, concluded Sunday after an inspiring Shabbos and a festive Melava Malka attended by frum Jews from around the Catskills.
Photos by Baruch Ezagui
Rabbis and Torah scholars have been gathering in the Catskills every summer for the last 34 years. COLlive presents an exclusive overview of how “Yarchei Kallah” came about and who sponsors it.
By Rabbi Eli Touger
Photos by Baruch Ezagui
Anyone who witnessed the scene could not help but be overcome with a brimming sense of optimism for the future of Torah Jewry.
In the beautiful pastoral setting of Camp Gan Israel of Parksville, NY, amid hundreds of campers in their formative years, was held the 34th annual Yarchei Kallah, the largest, ongoing gathering of Torah scholars of this generation.
Young campers coming back from a baseball game gaze reverently as esteemed sages delivered learned addresses of Torah scholarship.
As they emerged from putting the finishing their arts and crafts projects, they watch as Rabbi Yechiel Kalmenson, the Rosh Yeshiva of Burnoy-France, concluded the resolution of a Talmudic difficulty.
Here – in fact, not merely in theory – was proof of the continuity of our Jewish heritage. The campers with their youthful enthusiasm and energy and the sages with their knowledge and rapt absorption in Torah study, functioned, not as two separate groups located on the same setting, but as rather one integrated whole.
A Throwback to an Earlier Era
The name Yarchei Kallah dates back to an institution established by Rav, the leading Sage in the Talmudic academy of Sura, in Babylonia, approximately 1800 years ago.
Rav was originally from Babylonia, but had studied for many years in Eretz Yisrael under the tutelage of the great Sage, Rav Yehudah HaNasi, the author of the Mishnah. When Rav returned to Babylonia, he saw a polarized community.
Yes, there were Torah scholars, but there were also a large proportion of the Jewish people who were very involved in earning their livelihoods and were therefore growing apart from the study of the Torah.
He ordained that for two months a year – the month between Purim and Pesach and during the month of Elul – the Jews gather together for collective Torah study.
There the average people and the venerated Sages would meet and immerse themselves together in the study of our timeless Torah heritage.
These convocations were called Yarchei Kallah. Yarchei is the plural of the Hebrew word for “month.” Kallah means “bride.” Thus the name means “the months of the bride.”
What is the source of this name? One of the explanations given is that the Giving of the Torah is referred to as the wedding between G-d and the Jewish people.
At the biannual convocations of Yarchei Kallah, the Divine presence was manifest in a pillar of fire just like at the time of the Giving of the Torah. And the bride, the Jewish people, was present in their myriads, as people from all walks of life took time off to participate in this endeavor to connect to our Torah roots.
Not Past History
Camp Gan Yisrael shares a unique bond with the Rebbe, as evidenced by the three visits he paid to it. With the exception of his visits to the resting place of his father-in-law, the Rebbe Rayatz, these were almost the only times the Rebbe left Crown Heights.
34 years ago, on the occasion of the 30th yahrzeit of the Rebbe’s father, the gaon and kabbalist, Rav Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, of blessed memory, consideration was given to highlight his contributions to our spiritual heritage and to honor him as the father pf the Rebbe, the foremost Jewish leader of our generation.
Our Sages emphasize that the greatest honor it is possible to pay to a person’s memory is to dedicate Torah study to his memory.
Spurred by that purpose, Rabbi Abraham Shemtov, head of Gan Israel who today chairs the umbrella Agudas Chassidei Chabad International, suggested to renew the age-old custom of Yarchei Kallah by gathering sages and scholars for a convention of study and inspiration overlapping the date of 20 Av, Rav Levi Yitzchak’s yahrzeit.
The plan was accepted and approved by the Rebbe and the Rebbe himself identified with this initiative. Once, in the midst of a farbengen held on the same Shabbos as Yarchei Kallah, he referred to the gathering and said: “This is my project.”
And when Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Hirschberg, the chief Rabbi of Mexico, told the Rebbe that he had participated in Yarchei Kallah, the Rebbe highlighted the connection to his father, explaining that the mitzvah of honoring one’s parents continues after their passing and that the most consummate honor that can be paid is the study of the Torah.
An International Dimension
Another one of the definitions of the term kallah is that it derives from the term כל, “all,” i.e., it is an assembly attended by the totality of the Jewish people. In microcosm, this characterizes the Yarchei Kallah of Gan Yisroel.
Not only scholars from the surrounding area, but also Torah leaders from Jewish communities all over the world join in this communal Torah enterprise. Of course, Eretz Yisrael is well represented, but also scholars from England, France, Russia, South Africa, South America regularly take time off from their own busy schedules to make the trip so that they could share Torah insights and learn from their colleagues.
The gather serves as a meeting of minds, an opportunity for the scholars – some of whom living far from the centers of Torah erudition – to bounce ideas of each other and sharpen their understanding through interaction with their peers.
Moreover, while the public sessions are dedicated solely to scholarship, in private, these leaders have an opportunity to discuss and develop a Torah perspective on contemporary issues facing the Jewish people as a whole.
Not Only for Scholars
Though the focus was on the Torah leaders who attended, they were not the sole participants. Aside from the campers who avidly watch and listened, many vacationers from the surrounding area attended and took part in the discussions. In that way, they connected this Yarchei Kallah gathering with the historic roots of the tradition.
Several of the Yarchei Kallah conventions have been immortalized by recording the addressed in print in the volumes entitled Mimeged Yerachim, edited by Rabbi Mendel Kaplan of Oak Park, Michigan.
This enables the positive impact of the experience to endure as the scholars would refer back to the text to sharpen their recollection of the teachings they had heard. Moreover, others who are unable to attend physically and even students in the future benefit from having these works of scholarship available.
The importance of these published work was underscored by the Rebbe who edited one of his scholarly treatises for inclusion in the first collection of the Yarchei Kallah studies in 5741 (1981). In the past, Torah giants and heads of yeshivos including Rabbi Moshe Feinstein OBM contributed to the publications.
This year, the sixth published edition of these works was printed, including the studies delivered at the Yarchei Kallah gather of 5769 (2009).
It includes works from Torah leaders like Rabbi Leibel Schapiro of Miami, Rabbi Eliyahu Landau of Kfar Chabad, Rabbi Dov Brisman of Philadelphia, and Rabbi Gavriel Zinner of Boro Park, among others.
Behind the Yarchei Kallah
Yarchei Kallah is sponsored by Mr. Ronald Perelman, a person whose efforts to preserve, perpetuate, and enhance our Jewish heritage led to the Lubavitcher Rebbe recognizing to him as “my partner.”
“Like a true partner, he has dedicated himself to advancing the Rebbe’s purposes, including the sponsorship of these Yarchei Kallah conventions,” Rabbi Shemtov notes.
The summit is coordinated by Rabbi Yehuda Ceitlin, a Chabad Shliach and Associate Rabbi of Congregation Young Israel of Tucson, AZ.
Helping with the organization are Mendy Ceitlin and Baruch Schneur Ceitlin of Montreal, Bentzi Avtzon of Hong Kong, Shmulik Goodman of Ashdod, Yisroel Neparstak of Kfar Chabad and the very dedicated staff of Gan Israel, directed by Rabbi Yossi Futerfas. The meals are catered by the camp’s chef Rabbi Shlomo Futerfas.
Pictured in the first row, from left to right:
Rabbi Mendel Lipskar, Head Shliach of South Africa
Rabbi Chananya Yosef Aizenbach, known author in Yerushalayim
Rabbi Leibel Schapiro, Rov and Rosh Yeshiva of Chabad in Miami Beach
Rabbi Yisroel Friedman, Rosh Yeshiva Oholei Torah in Crown Heights
Rabbi Moshe Havlin, Chief Rabbi and Rosh Yeshiva in Kiryat Gat, Israel
Rabbi Mordechai Shmuel Ashkenazi, Rov of Kfar Chabad, Israel
Rabbi Avrohom Shemtov, Chairman of Agudas Chassidei Chabad, Camp Gan Israel and Yarchei Kallah
Rabbi Yoel Kahn, Chief Chozer of the Rebbe
Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Hertz, Rosh Yeshiva of Lubavitch in London, UK
Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Segal, Rosh Kollel Tzemach Tzedek in Jerusalem
Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky, member of Vaad Rabbonei Lubavitch
Rabbi Yekusiel Farkash, halachic authority in Jerusalem
Rabbi Elimelach Zweibel, Mashpia of Yeshiva Tomchei Tmimim in Morristown, NJ
Rabbi Berel Shemtov, Head Shliach to Michigan
Rabbi Yisroel Shmotkin, Head Shliach to Wisconsin
Second row, from left to right:
Aharon Dov Halperin, editor of the Kfar Chabad magazine
Rabbi Avrohom Baruch Pewsner, Rov of the Chabad community in Paris, France
Rabbi Yechiel Kalmenson, Rosh Yeshiva Chabad in Burnoy, France
Rabbi Yaakov Goldshmid, Mashgiach of Yeshiva Tomchei Tmimim in Kfar Chabad, Israel
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Kalmenson, Rosh Yeshiva Chabad in New Haven, CT
Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Wolberg, of the Lubavitch Yehsiva in Manchester, UK
Rabbi Yitzchak Kenig, Rosh Yeshiva Ketana of Chabad in Lod, Israel
Rabbi Zalman Wileschansky, Rosh Yeshiva of Tomchei Tmimim in Morristown, NJ
Rabbi Mendel Groner, Mashgiach of Yeshiva Chabad in Kiryat Gat, Israel
Third, from left to right:
Rabbi Yisroel Shimon Kalmenson, member of Lahak
Rabbi Mendel Kaplan, editor of Mimeged Yerachim – book of pilpulim said at the Yarchei Kallah
Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Kuperman, a Rosh Yeshiva in Kiryat Gat
Rabbi Efraim Demichovsky, Mahspia of Yeshiva Tomchei Tmimim in Kfar Chabad, Israel
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Cohen, Mashpia of the Chabad Mesivta in Chicago
Rabbi Baruch Hertz, Rov of Cong. Bnei Reuven in Chicago
Rabbi Levi Raskin, Lubavitch Dayan in London, England
Rabbi Zalman Yeruslavsky, Rabbi of Chabad in Elad and Rosh Smicha in Kiryat Gat
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Gourarie, Mashpia of Yeshivas Menachem Mendel of Detroit
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Ashkenazi, Mashpia in Toras Emes in Jerusalem
Photo by Baruch Ezagui
CGI presents a preview of a Sefer that will soon be coming out from Kehos called PENINAI LEVI YITZCHOK AL HATORAH. The Sefer is a compilation of peirushim from the Rebbe’s fathers writings. It is compiled according to the Parshios of the Torah.
In connection with Chof Menachem Av, the yohrtzeit – Hilulo of Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Schneersohn, the Rebbe’s beloved and revered father, Yagdil Torah compiled a kuntres with Sichos Kodesh, excerpts from Rabbi Levi Yitzchok’s Torah and Mishnayos to be learned on the yohrtzeit.
In the preface to their kuntres, the Yagdil Torah editors write: In connection with Chof Menachem Av, the Hilulah of the Rebbe’s father, R’ Levi Yitzchak Schneerson OB”M, we present this collection of short teachings from his works.
On this day, all of his works shine down from above. It is our duty to learn from his ways. Therefore, we have printed a few sichos from the Rebbe about his father’s devotion to studying and spreading Torah.
May it be Hashem’s will that this will have the intended effect and will strengthen us to keep our set times for Torah study and to increase them.”
As part of Yagdil Torah’s goal to make Torah learning easily accessible to all segments
of the community, we are publishing a unique learning guide in honor of Chof Av,
the Yom Hilula of R’ Levi Yitzchok. Specially selected portions of Likutei Levi
Yitzchok have been translated into English.These will accompany the original Hebrew
text, mishnayos corresponding to his name and other interesting material in a beautiful
booklet that pays tribute to the life and teachings of R’ Levi Yitzchok.
We have these teachings thanks to the incredible mesirus nefesh of his wife, Rebbetzin
Chana. Learning these novel insights into Torah will not only be a zechus for his
neshomo, but will surely bring tremendous nachas to the Rebbe.
Additionally, Chabad of the Ukraine has translated our publication for the use of
the local Russian- reading population.
All three versions of the Chof Av publications will be available in shuls, at the
Heichal Halimmud, and on our website.
For those needing only the mishnayos corresponding to R’ Levi Yitzchok’s entire
name, we have that too!
The first group of “the best and brightest” began arriving in Parksville, NY, Wednesday night for the Global Yarchei Kallah.
By COLlive reporter
Photos by Baruch Ezagui
Leading Torah scholars began arriving Wednesday for the Global Yarchei Kallah in Parksville, NY, an annual summit begun in 1974 to honor Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, the father of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
It combines sunshine and mountain breezes with intense Torah learning and in-depth discussions on contemporary issues in Jewish law.
Rabbi Avraham Shemtov, the organizer and chairman of Agudas Chassidei Chabad, the umbrella group representing the worldwide Lubavitch, calls the annual retreat “a gathering of the best and brightest.”
Aside from the timely discussions, Rabbi Shemtov said “the mere fact that they got together here is a reason for celebration.”
The first group of rabbis, Roshei Yeshiva and Mashpiim came to Camp Gan Israel, where the conference in held, late Wednesday night, after davening at the Rebbe’s Ohel.
As they begin a full schedule on Thursday, they will be joined by additional guests who are coming in from around the U.S., Israel, France and England.
ה”קעמפערס” וה”סטעף” ד”גן ישראל”
חיילים ב”צבאות ה'”
פארקסוויל, ניו יארק, ה’תשע”א
יהי רצון שהצלחת הקיץ יפעול על השנה כולה לגרום נחת רוח רב
להמייסד דמחנה גן ישראל כ”ק אדמו”ר נשיא דורנו
Gan Israel Parksville campers line the front gate eagerly waiting for their visitors today – visiting day.
Wow! What an amazing Hiskashrus War that was! Directly after Tisha B’Av was over, the Head Lifeguard broke out the news and the camp split into two teams; Maaseh and Talmud. Maaseh focused on the actions that a Yid and a Chossid have to do, while Talmud focused on the great mitzva of learning Torah, and how it leads to performing mitzvos in the best way. Both teams worked really hard to win, by putting on skits and plays, running relay races, doing Mishnayos and Tanya baal peh, and having amazing chayus during davening and bentching.
After two smashing days of excitement, it came time for the finale: the Grand Sing. Each team picked a theme that would represent their team’s idea. The entire Shul was transformed as bleachers were installed, a double decker bus and a time machine sprung up, and a huge gate and a pyramid appeared. All the kids dressed up in the costumes that were hand made by the staff. Maaseh dressed up as British soldiers, to represent their theme of “doing”. Talmud’s campers dressed up as Levi’im from the times of Mitzrayim, to represent their theme of “learning”. There were funny introductory skits, beautiful original songs, grammen, and speeches. There was even a special achdus comedy song that both teams worked together on; it spoke about the need for achdus amid all the competitiveness of Hiskashrus War.
All in all, it was an amazingly fun experience and everyone had a blast!
In the spring of 1956, faculty of the central Chabad-Lubavitch grade-school yeshiva in New York, including its dean, Rabbi Chaim Meir Bukiet, sought a solution to the distinctly modern problem of summer vacation: They had no place to send their students to continue their studies during the summer months.
A Lubavitch overnight boys’ camp had been established in the 1940s in Montreal, and since 1953, Camp Emunah in upstate New York provided a Lubavitch summer camp option for Jewish girls.
Bukiet’s New York students had nowhere to go and he picked Rabbi Moshe Lazar, one of his most energetic students, to lead such an initiative. Lazar, who was 22 years old at the time, approached the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, for guidance. To the yeshiva’s faculty, the issue was simple: The modern educational calendar had created a block of time in which kids were frequently without structure.
But as so often happened when the Rebbe addressed a “problem,” he advised that this particular challenge actually offered a unique opportunity.
Yes, there should be boys’ camp, the Rebbe responded. But it would be different: It would leverage the beauty of rural surroundings to provide a Jewish atmosphere, coupled with the warmth of Chasidic life, in a manner not possible in a year-round school environment. It would serve youngsters from both Jewish day schools and public schools and would allow each of them to partake of their favorite summer activities on the one hand, while simultaneously nurturing their spiritual identities on the other.
Unlike other camps of the era, which served to protect religious students from wandering aimlessly through the summer, this camp would offer an open door to attract new students to the beauty of Jewish life.
“There were a few Jewish camps in existence, but they were not doing much in the way of reaching out to children that were not already exposed to their Jewish backgrounds,” explains Lazar, now 76 years old and a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary in Milan. “The Rebbe was very enthusiastic and with his blessing and constant involvement, we were able to successfully turn our camp idea into a reality.”
In April that year, with nary a few months to get things in order, Lazar rented a property in Ellenville, N.Y. The Rebbe named the camp Gan Israel, literally “Garden of Israel” in honor of Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, the 17th-century founder of Chasidism known as the Baal Shem Tov.
“The Rebbe said that all children should be shown the greatest love and from this love, they become closer to G‑d,” says Lazar. “The idea behind Camp Gan Israel was to create a combination of the spiritual and the material and show that there is no conflict between the two. In this way children can lead full and enriched lives.”
Rabbi Abraham Shemtov, who first signed on as the camp’s learning director and today serves as its executive director, recalls the Rebbe’s directives as revolutionary. Far from merely comprising the two identifies of a camp and a yeshiva, the uniqueness of Camp Gan Israel lies in its ability to make each opposing strain inform and strengthen the other. In short, Camp Gan Israel is “a camp on the outside and a yeshiva within,” the Rebbe would later emphasize.
“Nobody had thought that this was possible to do,” explains Shemtov, who also serves as chairman of Agudas Chasidei Chabad, the worldwide umbrella organization of Chabad-Lubavitch. “Summer camp was always either a place devoid of the protections offered by a yeshiva environment, or was solely concerned on essentially relocating the yeshiva to the countryside.”
The Rebbe offered a third way, continues Shemtov. “Camp could be a new opportunity to do what the yeshiva couldn’t do. It could be an island; it could provide an overall 24-hour experience.”
(Educators today, backed by several recent studies, similarly point to the immersive nature of camp as providing a unique opportunity to instill and nurture Jewish values.)
Of the three times the Rebbe travelled outside of New York City after ascending to the leadership of Chabad-Lubavitch, all three were to the original Camp Gan Israel and Camp Emunah.
Offshoots of that first Gan Israel reflect the central importance the Rebbe placed on the summer camp experience, says Shemtov. “Each place may look different, but when you begin to pull at the strings, you’ll find they each have the same foundation.”
Engaging Children, Inspiring Parents
The first summer brought together 92 boys. Today, 55 years later, Camp Gan Israel, headquartered in Parksville, N.Y., represents the largest network of Jewish camps in the world. Run by Chabad Houses and affiliated institutions in more than 40 countries, including Canada, Australia and Chile, its day and overnight programs serve both boys and girls and cater to Jewish children of all backgrounds.
“I had the time of my life,” Jeffrey Klein fondly recalls of the 10 years he spent as a child at Camp Gan Israel in Fenton, Mich., eight as a camper, one as a waiter, and one as a certified lifeguard.
“The way they took religion and intertwined it with fun activities such as sports, baseball, soccer and swimming was a very positive experience for me,” he adds, “and, as a result, my religious observance grew.”
Klein was so inspired by his camping experience – he celebrated his Bar Mitzvah at camp in 1974, the summer he turned 13 – he convinced his parents to keep a kosher home and enroll him in a local Detroit-area yeshiva. Today, the prominent podiatrist has three grown children, two of whom also attended Camp Gan Israel.
“The friends that I made at camp – the children of friends that I met at camp – are worldwide,” says Klein, who, decades later, still sings songs that he learned at camp as a seven-year-old, including the Camp Gan Israel anthem. “A lot of people who went to this camp are amazing” Jewish leaders.
Camp Gan Israel’s alumni include Rabbis Shmuel Lew, director of the Lubavitch House School in London, and Rabbi Moshe Feller, director of the Upper Midwest regional headquarters of Chabad-Lubavitch.
“The camp experience is attractive to all kinds of parents,” explains Shemtov. “The Rebbe turned camp into a tremendous instrument in attracting youth with little in the way of Jewish involvement, who then were able to strengthen Judaism in their own families.”
Daniella Uminer, program director of the Chabad Jewish Center of Martin and S. Lucie County, Fla., says that she and her husband founded the local Camp Gan Israel before they established a Hebrew school.
Their area has a small, assimilated Jewish population, she says. “We started out with 15 kids and now we have at least 60. We’ve grown over the years, and it’s been a great journey.”
What distinguishes Camp Gan Israel from a typical summer camp is the one-on-one attention devoted to each child, proffers Chanie Pinson, director of Camp Gan Israel in Pasadena, Calif.
“We recognize that each child is unique in his or her abilities and interests, and therefore offer a variety of choices for the child during his or her camp experience,” says Pinson. “This flexibility ensures that each child thrives in the camp environment and leaves at the end of the day with the greatest of smiles, looking forward to the next day’s surprises and fun activities.”
[simage=2177,160,c,left,]On Thursday night, the entire camp, plus some visitors from the area, assembled in the camp soccer field for the Grand Staff Play!
Most plays in Gan Israel are held in the Shul, but due to the epic proportions of this one, it had to be held outdoors. The theme of the play was the story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza, and the destruction of Yerushalayim. Despite the theme being rather a sad one, the amazing writers of the play were able to turn the story around and end off inspiring us to bring Moshiach with our mitzvos. Our hardworking staff spent many a sleepless night painting backdrops, building props, and stapling costumes (seriously!).
[simage=2147,160,c,right,]Among the amazing things that were made, there were two catapults, a battering ram(!), two 25 x 20 foot backdrops of Yerushalayim, a 74 x 15 foot wall of Yerushalayim, two warehouses, tents for the Roman Soldiers, a raised balcony for the host in the Bar Kamtza scene, a huge throne for Caesar, a sukkah for Simchas Beis Hashoeivah, hundreds of costumes, a huge Mizbeach, and one really long run-on sentence.
[simage=2141,160,c,left,]The props weren’t the only amazing thing in the play, the scenes and stunts were also stupendous. From Bar Kamtza being thrown off of an 8 foot balcony into a cake (no dummies or stunt doubles!), to the burning of Yerushalayim’s warehouses of food by the Biryonim, to the sheep that Caeser sent to the Beis Hamikdash, to one of the defenders of Yerushalayim trying to climb back up the wall and the rope being cut, everything was done to make the experience feel like history was replaying itself.
[simage=2146,160,c,right]As the campers watched, spellbound,the staff acted out the story of the Churban, from Simchas Beis Hashoeiva to Bar Kamtza being accidentally invited to a party, to the silence of the Chachamim and Bar Kamtza’s tattling to Caesar. From the Roman seige to the destruction, and ending off with the story of Rabbi Akiva, Rabban Gamliel, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah and Rabbi Yehoshua seeing a fox come out of the Kodesh Hakedoshim, the staff brought out the responsibility of our generation to bring Moshiach, and that we have a koach, like Rabbi Akiva, because out of darkness, comes a greater light.
Head Counselors at Gan Israel in Parksville, NY, are walking around camp grounds with photos that have campers at their best.
The head staff at Camp Gan Israel in Parksville, NY, came up with an incentive that has campers davening beautifully and strengthening their chassidishkeit.
A uniquely designed calendar for the coming Hebrew year of 5772 has the campers eagerly collecting photos of the Rebbe to fill it.
On each page of the calendar, there are spaces for pictures of the Rebbe which correspond to that day.
Each month has photos of the Rebbe corresponding to the special dates that appear in them – Jewish Yomim Tovim and special chassidic dates.
Davening, learning, and playing in a good manner earn the campers the chance to be awarded the photos with stickers which they apply to the calendar.
At the end of the summer, campers will be taking their calendar home for year-round inspiration.