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A Sense of Israel

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of serving on the faculty for The Goodman Camping Initiative for Modern Israel History. With generous support from The Lillian and Larry Goodman Foundations, the AVI CHAI Foundation, and The Marcus Foundation, this collaboration between the iCenter and Foundation for Jewish Camp is able to engage 24 independent Jewish camps in North America in the development of an Israel education curriculum.  The goal is to enhance and expand the commitment of North American camps to Modern Israel History, and to enable Jewish campers across the age spectrum to have a deeper connection with Israel outside of camp.

In the training I was able to ask the Goodman fellows a series of questions: What is the type of food that reminds you of Israel? How would you describe the taste of this food? What feelings, if any, does this evoke? What is a smell that makes you think of Israel? What is something you’ve seen in Israel that you would want to see again? What sounds remind you of Israel? If you were to reach out and imagine touching something from Israel, what would it feel like?

The process of looking at Israel through taste, smell, sight, sound and touch made Israel come alive. This line of questions also helped the staff prepare for their work with campers this summer. In answering the questions they discovered the foundations for the Israel stories they wanted to tell this season. I was not fully prepared for the fact that I would also have Israeli staff members as part of the camps’ Goodman cohort, but even more than their North American peers, this process helped them “thin slice” to capture an aspect of Israeli life to share with their campers. The Israelis shared with me that they were surprised by their answers, but looking at Israel through the limited perspective of single sensory experiences gave them a way to communicate the many textures of Israel without losing the nuance or overwhelming the camper with an avalanche of facts. Through the lens of the personal “touch” of Israel, they could see how the Jewish state might touch their campers.

I am excited to see how these Goodman Fellows will impact our campers this summer. I have a sense it will be wonderful.

–Rabbi Avi Katz Orlow is the Director of Jewish Education at the Foundation for Jewish Camp

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