Camp Gan Yisroel is joined by Rabbi Shemtov and Rabbi Lazar in a visit to the original camp grounds on the very day the Rebbe visited them 59 years ago.
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Nestled on a small road near rural Ellenville, NY, lies a few acres of land. At a glance, this
parcel of land hardly seems unique, but to Gan Yisroel – NY, it most certainly is. This is the site
of the very first Machane Gan Yisroel, in 5716. These are the grounds that the Rebbe himself
took time off his busy schedule to visit, days before camp began. Each of the more than 400
Camp Gan Israels worldwide can trace their roots back to these unassuming fields and forests.
On Friday, tes zayin Tammuz, the very day that the Rebbe visited camp 59 years ago, the entire
Camp Gan Yisroel – campers as well as staff – visited these grounds. In advance of their visit,
the grounds were landscaped and prepared, and though precious few signs of the camp that
was still remain, the visit was suffused with an atmosphere of both nostalgia and the here and
now. This was largely due to Rabbi Shemtov and Rabbi Lazar, who accompanied camp on this
historic visit. Both shared memories of their time in these grounds as well as words of chizuk
that apply to this day as they did all those years ago.
Lined up on the playing fields, the campers and staff joined in pesukim and camp songs, once
again making the sound of Torah heard in the place that started it all.