Counselors from Camps Louise and Airy and Capital Camps were treated to a 10-day trip to Israel, thanks to a collaboration between Birthright Israel and The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore’s Center for Jewish Camping. The 14 counselors spent 10 days together visiting Jerusalem, the Galilei, the Golan Heights and Tel Aviv and taking in iconic Israeli landmarks such as the Western Wall, Masada, the Dead Sea and Yad Vashem. They hiked, swam, ate, rode camels and participated in a volunteer project in Ashkelon, Baltimore’s sister city.
According to Barbara Schlaff, co-chair of the Center for Jewish Camping, the trip’s mission went beyond sightseeing.
“We have focused a lot of our attention on Jewish day schools and Israel trips as ways of strengthening Jewish identity for young people. We know that Jewish camping is the third leg of the stool. The theory behind the trip is that combining an Israel experience with a camping experience will compound the impact on these young people. The combination of Israel travel and Jewish camping is very powerful,” said Schlaff.
The brainchild of Camp Airy director, Jonathan Gerstl and Capital Camps director, Jonah Geller, the trip sought to create bonds between the counselors and the three camps which are situated within a half-hour of one another and created counselors better equipped and more passionate about sharing the camps’ Israel curricula with their campers.
This is the first time that Birthright Israel, the Associated and the three camps have come together to provide a trip such as this. Schlaff is hopeful that funding for the trip will be available again next year.