For the past 24 summers, Gotta Sing! Gotta Dance! has attracted hundreds of enthusiastic and talented participants from throughout Canada, the United States and Israel, many of whom have gone on to successful careers in the performing arts. The deadline is April 1 to apply for this summer’s sessions, which take place at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver July 2-25 and Aug. 6-29.
The director and creator of Gotta Sing! Gotta Dance! is Perry Ehrlich, who received an Ovation Award and the Canadian Bar Association’s Community Service Award (acknowledging his dedication to working with children and musical theatre). A composer, pianist, teacher, arranger, producer, adjudicator, writer and talent coordinator, Ehrlich also directs ShowStoppers performance troupe (theimpresario.ca).
Gotta Sing! Gotta Dance! is taught by a faculty of professional instructors, each working in his or her respective field, including musical directors Wendy Bross Stuart and Diane Speirs; director Chris McGregor; choreographers Anna Kuman, Jason Franco, Keri Minty and Meghan Anderssen; acting coach Amanda Testini; and Mariana Munoz and Charlie Weaver, set construction and costume co-ordination.
Peter Birnie, former theatre critic for the Vancouver Sun, commented that the faculty members “are all teaching in a carefully choreographed nesting of studies that takes place all over the JCC and culminates in a big, brassy show. I try to attend every year, and always come away just as thrilled as the parents and families with the level of talent on display. It is about the joy that comes from singing your lungs out and dancing your hooves off.”
This year’s final production in each session – called Shamilton – will take place in the Rothstein Theatre and feature an original script and a broad repertoire of music from Broadway and movie musicals.
The Finishing School will again be offered for serious musical theatre students attending Gotta Sing! Gotta Dance! and it will feature approximately 10 sessions from 3:15 to 5:15 p.m., after the regular program, which will run 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Finishing School students will receive instruction in audition technique, presentation of songs and scene work, and will participate in intensive dance workshops and meet with well-known professionals in the theatre community.
The Boot Camp Dance – for those either new to dance or wanting to refine their skills – will also be offered.
The cost to attend Gotta Sing! Gotta Dance! is $750 for JCCGV members and $850 for non-members. Scholarships are available through the Babe Oreck Memorial Fund, the Phyliss and Irving Snider Foundation, and others for those with financial need.
A contingent from Richmond Chabad CTeen joined the 11th annual CTeen International Shabbaton that took place in New York last month. (photo from Chabad Richmond)
Teens from around the world celebrated Jewish unity, heritage and pride at the 11th annual CTeen (Chabad Teen Network) International Shabbaton. The convention, which took place Feb. 22-24, drew more than 2,600 participants. From world-class speakers to a closing ceremony with a surprise appearance by WeWork founder Adam Neumann, the Shabbaton left the teens exhilarated and ready to share their Jewish pride with others.
The weekend included a traditional Shabbat experience in the heart of Crown Heights, the Chassidic neighbourhood of Brooklyn, hands-on workshops and lectures about Judaism, and the Times Square takeover, featuring Jewish pop star Yaakov Shwekey.
The theme of the Shabbaton was I-Matter. The theme was meant to empower teens to recognize and use their inherent, true value, which is not dependent on achievements or status. It’s a message that has resonated with many teens, who have found their voices and personal missions through their involvement in CTeen.
“The highlight of the CTeen International Shabbaton was getting to know fellow Jewish teens from around the world, and learning about their Jewish communities and what it’s like to be a Jew in their area. It was an experience of a lifetime and I can’t wait until next year,” shared Richmond teen Sarah Aginsky, Grade 10.
“The most meaningful part of my experience at the Shabbaton would be when we spent Saturday night in Times Square,” said fellow Richmond teen Aidan Wessels, also in Grade 10. “It really makes you feel at home, being surrounded by Jewish people, and you don’t have to be ashamed or anything to be who you really are. It really touched my heart when we were introduced, via video, to Rabbi Yitzy Horowitz, who has been diagnosed with ALS and chose to live with such a disease and still try to look on the bright side of everything.”
“The CTeen International Shabbaton was so meaningful to me,” added Jordan Wessels, Grade 12. “This is because we all have such a great Jewish experience, and meeting Jewish teens from all over the world. The amount of energy of so many people like you is truly amazing.”
Over the weekend, 15 teen speakers shared personal stories of struggle, triumph and strength in the face of adversity. The stories ranged from students who fought for Jewish rights at school, to those who dealt with alopecia (spot baldness) and subsequent bullying, to teens who lost family members to drug addiction.
Priest-turned-rabbi Yaakov Parisi shared his inspiration for living a Jewish life with teens in an animated story during Shabbat dinner. Prof. Binyamin Abrams, who lectures on chemistry at Boston University, answered questions about Torah and science, and ecouraged teens to seek knowledge while living Jewishly.
“The secret of my life and success is keeping Shabbat,” declared Neumann during the closing. “Disconnecting from the world for 25 hours and connecting to something greater than myself makes me who I am. There has never been a more relevant time in history to celebrate being Jewish. If you come away with one thing today, I hope it’s that you disconnect to connect.”
“You may find yourself alone, the only Jew in your public school, or you may feel like a minority, but remember: there is no such thing as a small Jew,” said Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, chair of CTeen. “I hope you take the energy you gained this weekend and carry it into every aspect of your lives back at home.”
“Our intrinsic worth is not based on achievements,” said Chabad Richmond’s Rabbi Yechiel Baitelman. “Every individual can connect to G-d, no matter the circumstances. It is because of this connection that every individual, in any situation, can make a significant difference. That is what CTeen is all about.”
With more than 500 chapters in 23 countries, CTeen Network’s mission is to empower tomorrow’s generation of leaders through Jewish education and by providing a strong Jewish network across the globe. Teens develop awareness and confidence, while connecting with individuals who share similar experiences and beliefs. They become an integral part of a group that focuses on building core values and stresses positive character development. CTeen is open to Jewish teens regardless of affiliation.
Sarah Jacobsohn is the Ultimate Canada 2018 Junior Female Athlete of the Year. (photo from Sarah Jacobsohn)
Last month, Ultimate Canada named Sarah Jacobsohn the 2018 Junior Female Athlete of the Year.
“I was in the middle of biology class, looked at my phone, and saw that one of my teammates had texted me saying congratulations and a long paragraph,” recalled Jacobsohn about hearing of the award. “And I was like, what’s going on? I had no idea.
“Then, I saw the article that was written about me and I got the notification that they had selected me for the award … and I started crying in the middle of class and I called my mom. It was so surreal and just amazing.”
Jacobsohn was born in St. Louis, Mo., in 2000, and moved with her parents and older sister to Winnipeg in 2006. She has been attending Gray Academy of Jewish Education since then, and will be graduating this year.
Athleticism runs in the family. Both of Jacobsohn’s parents played sports into adulthood. She also gets her height from her parents: her mom is 5’11” and her dad is just over six feet.
Jacobsohn has played sports for as long as she can remember. “I played Timbits soccer since I was in Grade 1, then I continued playing competitive tennis and soccer. Once I found ultimate, I quit all those other sports to play ultimate,” she told the Independent. “For my high school, I still play volleyball, basketball and ultimate but, on a competitive level, I gave the others up for ultimate.” (That said, she remains a competitive player at the other sports. For example, on the school’s varsity basketball team, she has been averaging 37 points per game.)
Ultimate was designed to be played without referees. “The spirit of the game is heavily emphasized, which is something you don’t find a lot in competitive sports in this day and age,” said Jacobsohn. “Essentially, it’s about maintaining a level of sportsmanship and integrity while playing the sport. You have to make the calls yourself and communicate with other players on the other team. And, it’s always maintained, that sportsmanship and respect for other players. Even at the highest level, ultimate is still heavily dependent on player communication, which I think is amazing.”
At the higher levels, there are “observers,” who help the players regulate the game, but they only intervene when asked by the players to do so. And, even after having been asked for their opinion, it is still up to the players to accept or disregard an observer’s call.
“I think that’s what a lot of sports have lost in the past few decades,” said Jacobsohn. “That competitive atmosphere takes away from the sportsmanship, and it shouldn’t. There should be a balance.”
In ultimate, she said, “people understand that, to keep that respect of the game, they have to be honest. It’s really amazing to see that, even at the highest level.”
Jacobsohn started playing ultimate in Grade 6 and, at 14 years old, her coach convinced her to try out for the provincial junior team. She made the team, as one of the youngest in the group. It was there that a national coach spotted her and, at age 15, she traveled to Vancouver for the national tryouts and made the team.
Jacobsohn participated in her first world championship in Poland in 2016, and Canada took home the gold. Last summer, Jacobsohn, as captain, led the provincial team to a gold medal. She went on to captain Team Canada to a bronze medal at the world championship in Waterloo, Ont.
All of these feats, as well as her extensive involvement in the ultimate and broader communities, contributed to Jacobsohn being chosen for the athlete-of-the-year award.
“The award is strictly based on achievements from the past year,” said Jacobsohn. “So, last year, I was captain of my provincial team and we won gold at nationals for the first time ever. Then, as captain of Team Canada, we won bronze at the worlds. And, I’ve done a lot of community stuff locally.
“I’ve been involved in the Winnipeg ultimate community for six or seven years, which is a lot, when I’m only 18 years old. I’ve gotten to know essentially the entire ultimate community. I’ve literally grown up in this community – finding a lot of leadership opportunities in it and chances to voice my opinion. I fight a lot for gender equity and voice that opinion a lot in the Winnipeg ultimate community.”
Jacobsohn serves on the Manitoba Disk Sports board, offering suggestions, as a high school student, about tournament arrangements and how the province runs the sport. She also has been very involved in the Winnipeg Ultimate Women’s Competitive League, helping to get a lot of juniors involved.
“As a very competitive female athlete, I understand my responsibility growing up as a female athlete in today’s world,” she said. “I have an immense responsibility to stand up and role model for other female athletes, and I’m not scared to do that.
“And, going to school where I’m one of six girls in my grade, I’ve been able to gain respect from a lot of boys and change perspectives on what being a female athlete means.”
Now, Jacobsohn is busy training for the under-24 national team tryouts. And, while her main aspiration is to become a doctor, like her dad, she is hoping to continue playing ultimate competitively for many years to come.
Teen activists talk with Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart at a climate-strike action on Dec. 7. (photo from Rebecca Hamilton)
“It’s going to be our future, so it’s up to us to take it into our own hands and show that, even if we can’t vote, we can still make a difference in our communities and the world,” Malka Martz-Oberlander told the Jewish Independent when she and fellow activist and friend Rebecca Hamilton met with the paper to discuss recent – and future – efforts to draw awareness to the climate crisis.
The two high school students are part of the group Sustainabiliteens, which was inspired by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. Last year, Thunberg started monthly school strikes, stating that preparing for a future that won’t have a livable climate was pointless. The strikes, called “Fridays for Future,” have spread to at least 270 countries, including Canada.
Inspired by Thunberg, strike action took place at Vancouver City Hall on Jan. 16, the day that Vancouver city council unanimously passed a motion put forward by Councilor Christine Boyle (OneCity) to declare a climate emergency. Similar motions have been adopted in other cities, including London, Los Angeles and Oakland, but Vancouver is the first in Canada to do so.
“Climate change is already impacting the people of Vancouver and will continue to. We need to respond to this crisis urgently and compassionately with a path towards a more equitable society,” said Boyle in a release. “Adequately addressing the climate emergency won’t be easy, but we are a smart city, capable of doing difficult things.”
Hamilton was an organizer of the strike at City Hall, and the groups Force of Nature and Extinction Rebellion Vancouver also supported the action. There was a previous school walkout and strike for the climate on Dec. 7, said Martz-Oberlander. She and Hamilton are among a growing number of Metro Vancouver teens coming together in what Martz-Oberlander describes as a “shared passion for climate justice.”
“With some of my friends, it’s just doom and gloom,” said Martz-Oberlander. “There’s this sense of this is all going to happen and no one can do anything, so why do anything? It’s out of our hands, we’re just kids…. But there’s also a lot of people that I know who are hopeful and see the bigger picture.”
“When I ask kids about the climate crisis,” said Hamilton, “they say that they think it’s a real problem and they’re scared. But the world around us doesn’t recognize what’s happening with the same sense of urgency that we feel. We are living in a confusing and weird time. On the one hand, we understand the science, we’re being told the scientific facts that we’re in a crisis. We’re being told these very conflicting messages, and there’s this dissonance. So what am I supposed to believe? The world is just going as normal, but why are you telling me then that we’re in this crisis and everything needs to change? I think that’s really frustrating. Me, personally, every day I’m frustrated by that.”
Both Martz-Oberlander and Hamilton grew up in the Vancouver Jewish community and say their Jewish values inform their activism. Martz-Oberlander’s family has been involved with Congregation Or Shalom since before she was born, and Hamilton grew up going to Temple Sholom.
“In the Torah, it talks about needing to pass down this world better than we got it,” said Martz-Oberlander. “That’s the concept of l’dor v’dor, ‘from generation to generation.’ The Jewish teaching that really influenced me is the sense of responsibility towards future generations.”
“Camp Miriam was most important to me in cultivating my Jewish identity,” said Hamilton. “I think it played a huge role in what I’m doing and why I care about it. The focus on youth agency, being told we could create change. It’s tikkun olam – environmentalism and climate justice is the most important way to try and help other people and create a more just world.”
Both teens avoid the word “climate change,” preferring instead to talk of the “climate crisis” or “climate emergency” and the need for “climate justice.”
“Climate change doesn’t sound urgent enough,” said Martz-Oberlander. “It’s an emergency.”
“I prefer climate emergency or climate crisis,” said Hamilton, who cites Jewish writer and activist Naomi Klein as an important influence on her thinking. “It’s not about preventing this catastrophe but about healing the foundation of our world. The climate crisis is a manifestation of these unjust worldly systems which exploit nature, animals and people, so fixing that manifestation will also mean fixing those systems.”
Hamilton and Martz-Oberlander were inspired to join the climate-strike movement after it came to Canada with a strike in Sudbury, Ont., led by 11-year-old Sofia Mather.
“I feel like I have been concerned about climate change my whole life,” said Hamilton, “but I began to want to do something when I realized that nothing else really matters if we live on a dead planet.”
Hamilton and Martz-Oberlander are currently preparing for a Canada-wide school strike on May 3, and have a local action planned for Feb. 15.
Matthew Gindin is a freelance journalist, writer and lecturer. He is Pacific correspondent for the CJN, writes regularly for the Forward, Tricycle and the Wisdom Daily, and has been published in Sojourners, Religion Dispatches and elsewhere. He can be found on Medium and Twitter.
קנדה, ג’סטין טרודו, הודיע כי ימשיך להתנגד לארגון הבינלאומי הקורא להחרמת ישראל –
הדי.בי.אס. דבריו של טרודו נאמרו בשבוע שעבר במסגרת כנס בחירות פתוח לכל שהתקיים
בעיר סנט קטרינס שבמחוז אונטריו. ראש הממשלה השיב לאחד מהשואלים שביקש לבדוק האם
הוא מתכוון להתנצל על כך, שגינה בעבר את ארגון הדי.בי.אס. טרודו אמר בתגובה לשאלה:
“כשיש ארגונים כמו הדי.בי.אס שמחפשים להציג דמוניזציה ודה-לגיטימציה למדינת
ישראל, וכשיש סטודנטים שמפחדים להגיע לאוניברסיטאות ולמכללות בקנדה בגלל דתם, חייבים להכיר בכך שיש
דברים שלא מקובלים כלל. אסור לאף אחד להפלות אם לגרום לאנשים להרגיש שלא בטוח בגלל
הדת שלהם. וזה בדיוק מה שארגון הדי.בי.אס עושה. אנטישמיות הייתה קיימת ומוכרת
בעבר. וגם היום המתקפות נגד העם היהודי מהוות אחוז גבוה בקרב פשעי השנאה בקנדה
ובעולם כולו. עלינו להבין שחלק מהאנטישמיות כיום מנוהלת לא רק נגד יחידים, אלא גם
נגד מדינת ישראל בכלל. עלינו להיזהר לכן שלא לתמוך באנטשימיות החדשה הזו – שמבקרת
וקוראת לעשות חרם על ישראל”.
תסריט שעוסק בגזענות נגד יהודים עלה לגמר פסטיבל סרטי נעורים
שעלו עם משפחתם מקנדה לישראל וגרים כיום באשקלון, זאת לאחר שהם ומשפחתם סבלו
לטענתם מגל אנטישמיות. האחים החליטו לעשות על זה סרט. התסריט שהוא בעצם מתאר את
סיפור חייהם המעניין, עלה לשלב גמר תחרות של פסטיבל סרטי נעורים ארצי בישראל. כעת
הם ממתינים לתוצאות הגמר שיפורסמו קרוב לוודאי במהלך החודש הקרוב.
(בן השמונה עשרה) ומנחם (בן השבעה עשרה) לבית סמיערק, לומדים כיום במגמת תקשורת
בישיבת צביה אשר באשקלון. התסריט שלהם משתתף בגמר התחרות הארצית של התסריט הטוב
ביותר בפסטיבל סרטי נעורים, לזכרו של התלמיד מתן בד”ט שנפטר לפני שש עשרה
שנים (שתיים עשרה שנים שנים לאחר שמוחו נפגע בצורה קשה מהלך תאונת צלילה באילת,
כאשר היה זה בזמן טיול שנתי בכיתה י”ב). בגמר התחרות משתתפים בנוסף עוד ארבעה
תסריטים נבחרים. זאת מתוך שבעים תסריטים שהגיעו לשלב הראשון בתחרות מכל רחבי הארץ.
כתבו כאמור שני האחים עוסק בנושא גזענות כלפי יהודים בקנדה בכלל, וכלפי המשפחה
שלהם בפרט. הגזענות לדבריהם היא זו שגרמה למשפחה לעזוב את קנדה ולעלות לישראל לפני
סמיערק נחשבים עדיין בישראל על תקן של עולים חדשים, לומדים כיום בישיבת צביה
באשקלון. המשפחה כולה המונה שבע נפשות עלתה לישראל: שני ההורים, שני האחים ושלוש
אחיות. הם בחרו לגור באשקלון.
בקנדה שני האחים למדו במגמת תקשורת ועתה הם ממשכים את לימודיהם באותה מגמה
בישיבה באשקלון. אל הפרוייקט הקולנועי שלהם מצטרפים שני בוגרי מגמת
התקשורת בישיבה (אביב סיאני ומאור מיכאלי) אשר יפיקו את סרט, עם יזכה במקום הראשון
בתחרות. השופטים בגמר התחרות (בהם: נציגי עיריית רעננה, נציגי בנק מזרחי-טפחות
ונציגי משרד החינוך) וכן גם נציגי המשפחות התרשמו מאוד מהתסריט והסיפור האישי של
חיים סמיערק אומר על הפרוייקט שלו ושל אחיו הצעיר מנחם: “אני חושב שזה תסריט ממש טוב. מדובר בסיפור האישי שלנו שחווינו בקנדה.
חשוב לנו לספר זאת לכולם. נפלה בידינו ההזדמנות לעלות לגמר תחרות הסרטים. במידה
ונזכה בתחרות וכך גם יתאפשר להקהל נרחב לצפות בסרט שלנו – תהיה זאת ממש גאווה
בשבילנו”. במהלך החודש הקרוב יקבלו האחים תשובה אם התסריט שלהם זכה במקום
הראשון בתחרות החשובה.
Three years ago, Rabbi Audrey Pollack of SolelCongregation in Mississauga, Ont., decided to follow the lead of Rabbi DebraDressler of Temple Israel in London, Ont., and create an interfaith peace campin Mississauga.
Pollack, who hails from the United States,
moved to Canada in 2015. The Reform congregation Solel “had a tremendous
reputation in the movement in terms of the education,” said Pollack, as did
“the rabbi of the congregation at the time, Rabbi Lawrence Englander, who
retired after 40 years here.”
As for the idea of the camp, Pollack told the Independent,
“When I spoke with Rabbi Dressler, it sounded like a great opportunity to bring
together interfaith dialogue and cooperation. And so, I went out there that
summer for the day to see what they were doing. I thought it was a great
experience for kids, adults and the teen volunteers that we have.”
As the chair of the Interfaith Council of Peel,
Pollack was well-positioned to start the interfaith camp, and Solel does a lot
of outreach in the Mississauga community in general.
The suburb of Toronto “has about 700,000 people
and we have about 250 families in our congregation, so we’re relatively small
in terms of Jewish community here,” said Pollack. “We do a lot of dialogue and
conversation with the community, because we are a diverse community. It’s
important for people to know who Jews are and what we are about, to make
friends and to really to support each other.”
Pollack wanted to find an Islamic partner who
did a lot of English-language programs, as opposed to Arabic. They found Sheikh
Jaffer H. Jaffer from the Masumeen Islamic Centre in Brampton, who was excited
to join, said Pollack.
“The church – Canon Jennifer Reid from Saint
Peter’s Anglican Erindale – we had already been partnering with for awhile,”
she said. “I knew the minister there. They run a day camp program, like a
vacation Bible study program. So, that was helpful our first year, just in
terms of setting up and running a day camp. They already had a few people in
place that had some background.”
At first, the interfaith camp’s content was a
bit of mishmash, said Pollack, but it is continually being developed and
updated to meet the needs of the community. One of the bigger challenges has
been to maintain a balance from each denomination; the mosque membership is
much larger than that of the church and synagogue.
“The first day, we always try to do something
that everyone can do together, like a get-to-know-you day,” said Pollack. “Kids
need to get to know each other as kids. We do a training beforehand for our
adult and teen volunteers, and, I should mention that each faith centre makes a
commitment to bring a certain number of volunteers.
“The first summer we did something on tzedakah, or charity, and this summer we
did something on building friendship and peace.”
Each day of camp, they go to visit a different
faith centre. The campers learn a little bit more about what each group
believes and how they practise their beliefs. Everyone has an opportunity to
visit, have a tour and ask questions.
“We really expect the youth from each of the
faith centres to do some of that explanation,” said Pollack. “It’s an
opportunity for them as well.
“I remember the first time we came here [to the
synagogue] with the kids for summer. Our kids were so excited, because they’d
been to the mosque the day before, and they wanted to give the tour and to
explain what a Torah is, why we wear kippot and things like that. So, it’s an
opportunity – not only for them to learn about other faiths, but for the home
faith group to be proud of who they are … and to really make the connection
that there are things we share in common, and that we need to get along with
each other. Basically, we need to know our neighbours.”
Most of the participating kids go to public
schools around the city and may sit next to each other in class, but they
rarely get to share anything about their faith in class. They may have some
misconceptions or stereotypes about what someone else’s faith or culture is,
said Pollack, because they don’t really discuss it.
The camp is a great opportunity to share some
truth and dispel such misconceptions, she said.
The kids who have had this camp experience are
already looking forward to next summer, asking when registration will be open,
said the rabbi. Their parents, too, are interested in what is going on.
“On the last night of camp – we’ve been running
this as a four-day camp, maybe five next summer – we get together at one of the centres for a potluck meal,”
said Pollack. “It is all-vegetarian, so everybody can eat. There’s a
presentation and a slideshow. After the first dinner, all the parents said they
wanted to go to camp and learn, so we started doing an adult session, too.
“We did a progressive dinner,” she said. “We
started with appetizers at one centre, and then moved on to the next centre and
had dinner. By the time they got here, at the synagogue, I could barely talk,
because they were all chatting away with each other. And, it was great, because
many of them, before this, didn’t know each other well.
“It was a really great day and we’re looking at
doing some other programming this year. During the camp off-season, we’ll have
an opportunity for dialogue and discussion, and some activities.”
With budget and space limitations, the camp is
capped at 12 kids from each faith centre. While the campers pay to attend, the
camp makes sure cost is not a prohibitive factor. “We want anyone who wants to,
to be able to come, so we try to keep our costs low,” said Pollack.
The congregations are looking to create a
couple more opportunities this coming year for people to meet, she said, “and
they would like to do something for the older kids as well … to do an evening
or afternoon activity where they could do a craft or cooking or something like
that, and the adults could have a discussion on something that we have in common
with each other.”
Because the Jewish community in Mississauga is
small, said Pollack, “for our kids, when they come together at synagogue, it’s
really important for them to connect with Jewish kids. For them, the
opportunity to talk to their new friends from different religions and cultural
backgrounds, with pride and support of each other, is important. It’s also
really important for them to see that there are ideas and values and ethics
that we hold in common. Often, we talk about what divides us.
“For younger kids, they just like hanging out
with their new friends. They’ll talk about the activities they did together,
while, for the older kids, they’ll articulate and express what they’ve learned
or didn’t know before. Each time they go back, they gain something a little
“A very valuable part about this camp
experience,” she continued, “is building relationships through intentional
dialogue and intentional conversation, and the opportunity to do that in a camp
setting means that people are doing it in different modalities. They are
connecting with each other through play and through giving back to the
“One of the other things we’ve made part of our
program each day, in addition to the activities we are doing, is giving back.
We’ve invited representatives from the hospital to come and the kids have made
cards for people in the hospital. We’ve invited people from our greening and
planting area of the city to come also. So, they understand that, no matter
what community you come from, there’s a value in supporting community.”
Today’s world requires camp to adapt to an unprecedented
pace of change. Through innovation and building “adaptive capacity,” the
Foundation for Jewish Camp, which works with more than 180 Jewish summer camps,
will be better suited to help Jewish camps evolve and ensure long-term,
Adaptive capacity, as defined by Ronald Heifetz
– co-founder of Cambridge Leadership Associates and author of numerous books –
is “the practice of mobilizing people to tackle tough challenges and thrive.”
It requires the ability to be reflective; to be open and curious to changes in
the environment; to use data and evaluation to determine the best path forward;
to innovate where new approaches are required; to work collaboratively and
leverage diverse experiences and perspectives; and to successfully lead
FJC is challenging what it means to be a Jewish
camp. This evolution has resulted in significant shifts in how FJC thinks about
the field and its work. “Camp” is now framed as a year-round continuum of
immersive, meaningful experiences beginning at the earliest ages and continuing
through the teen years, college, and into adulthood and family life, delivered
through day camps, overnight camps, family camps and year-round offerings.
Looking ahead, FJC has identified three
strategic priorities for the field that include investments in new initiatives
and in existing areas of proven impact: develop adaptive talent, deepen
immersive learning and drive field growth. These priorities are designed to
amplify one another, and the success in any one area is co-dependent on success
in the others.
1. Adaptive talent
Talent development is critical to grow and
enhance the field of Jewish camp. FJC has long invested in field professionals.
As Jewish camp evolves, FJC must now take an adaptive approach to leadership
development, both professional and lay, that meets the needs of current and
future Jewish leaders.
Counselors are the linchpin of the Jewish camp
experience. These Jewish role models inspire campers to return year after year.
Additionally, when a camper returns as a counselor, the impact of the camping
experience is amplified, as staff internalize the lessons of their own
experience to create similar (or better) ones for their campers. At the same
time, it has become more challenging to recruit and retain counselors due to
competition from internships and parental pressures.
FJC will uncover and create new staffing and
supervision structures that create a learning framework for these future
leaders as well as recognition of the purpose-driven nature of their work. The
new models will seek flexibility in camp schedules and create new modalities of
training staff to enhance college, career and life-readiness skills.
Jewish camps are experiencing ever-increasing
turnover of executive leadership, which is expected to continue over the next
five years. FJC seeks to increase investment in the leadership and talent
pipeline of camps, cultivating new and refreshed opportunities to engage with
and propel Jewish camp and lay leaders at every stage of their development.
These initiatives represent opportunities to retain and accelerate the careers
of outstanding young talent, build crucial networks among the field and provide
high-level, skill-building professional development opportunities. Rather than
focus on one single cohort program or development workshop, FJC will ensure
attention to the entire talent pipeline.
• Increase retention rates by 25% or more over
current benchmark; easier recruitment of seasonal staff.
• Improve quality of leadership that will drive
retention rates and satisfaction scores for campers and staff.
2. Immersive learning
Jewish camps must adapt, expand and evolve in
response to societal changes and the manner in which families belong and engage
Jewishly. FJC is prioritizing initiatives that will bring the “magic” of camp
further into the community by helping camps articulate their Jewish missions,
develop programs and ensure the entire camp community is safe and secure for
both campers and staff.
As participation in traditional Jewish
activities has declined, camp has become a primary immersive and educational
experience for many children. Camp is often the preferred Jewish brand for
these families, where their children feel a profound sense of belonging. With
summer participation in experiential, immersive learning as the anchor, Jewish
camps can and should play a greater role in the community, supplementing the
summer with year-round experiences that ensure campers have opportunities to
connect with peers through Jewish activities and educational experiences. FJC
will invest in year-round programs to maximize the impact of the camp
From FJC’s inception, ensuring that summers at
Jewish camp translate into a robust Jewish future has been central to the
mission. To do so effectively, FJC takes a holistic approach – working closely
with camps and their various stakeholders, giving them a framework to help them
enrich and refresh how they articulate and realize their unique Jewish vision.
Investing in the enrichment of senior camp professionals, as well as attracting
and recruiting talented Jewish educators, will bring this vision to life, and
are critical to a strong Jewish educational program.
• 30% of camps have increased their year-round
• Higher-quality Jewish and Israel learning
opportunities for campers and staff have been put into action.
3. Field growth
Over the past 10 years, camp enrolment has
grown 22% in an era of overall declining participation in the traditional
Jewish institutions. To accelerate this growth, FJC is prioritizing initiatives
that will both increase the pipeline of Jewish campers and ensure accessibility
for campers from all backgrounds. To this end, FJC’s initiatives will focus on
how to attract families with young children by engaging them at an earlier and
highly formative time; continue the work of increasing competitiveness of Jewish
camps through the development of specialty programs; expand access through
financial incentives; and promote full physical, social, educational and
spiritual access for all campers and staff, irrespective of their abilities.
Families are seeking meaningful connection and
community in new ways. Building an earlier entry point to the Jewish camp
experience will increase the number of campers and families making Jewish
summer choices. The focus will include incubating, expanding and strengthening
intentional Jewish day camps and family camps in order to engage children at
the earliest ages along with their families.
FJC’s core growth programs, including One Happy
Camper and new specialty camps and tracks, have driven growth in the field.
Diversity and inclusion, as well as community care, must endure and evolve so
that the Jewish camp field continues to increase enrolment and improve both
retention and camper satisfaction. Continual investment in physical facilities
will also increase overall enrolment and ensure that camp is a welcoming and
safe environment for all.
• Grow the field by 20%, reaching 215,000
annual camp participants.
• Year-over-year increases in family
participation in camp experiences.
• Increase training, application and family
visibility for diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
The Centre for Judaism of the Lower Fraser Valley is looking for nominations for its annual Lamplighter Award, which honours a child who has performed an outstanding act of community service. Candidates must be between the ages of 6 and 18 and submission of potential recipients must include two references describing the child’s community service.
The chosen Lamplighter will receive the award, as well as a monetary gift, on Dec. 9, 7 p.m., at Semiahmoo Shopping Centre in a ceremony led by Rabbi Falik and Simie Schtroks, directors of the Centre for
Judaism, with various official representatives of the cities of Surrey, White Rock, Langley and Delta in attendance.
Last year, twins Emily and Jessie Miller received the award for spearheading the Live2Give program in their NCSY chapter. They also managed to get many other teenagers to get involved in projects focused on helping others.
To nominate a candidate for the award or to sponsor the gift or event, contact Simie Schtroks as soon as possible at [email protected].
Left to right: The Bayit president Michael Sachs, Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie and Marc’s Mensches winner Taya Benson. (photo from the Bayit)
Marc’s Mensches winner Taya Benson fundraised more than $7,500 for the Richmond SPCA, where she also volunteers every week. She was awarded the cash prize on Sept. 26 at the Pizza in the Hut event for Sukkot, which was co-sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver and Marc’s Mensches. The event brought out a diverse crowd of more than 200 people, including many local officials and civic election candidates.
While the Marc’s Mensches initiative continues, the program is in the process of switching objectives: instead of being a contest, it will be focused on working as a group to do acts of chesed (loving kindness) around the city and community. “People can still nominate [youth] for the monthly gift card draw,” Bayit president Michael Sachs told the Independent, “but the main focus in Year 2 is harnessing the power of these mensches and doing good all over.”
The Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver has partnered with BBYO to provide expanded opportunities for teens around the Lower Mainland. The partnership will enhance the connections of Greater Vancouver Jewish teens and link the local community to BBYO hubs across Canada – in Montreal, Toronto and Winnipeg – and in more than 30 countries around the world.
The JCC-BBYO connections were forged earlier this year at the JCC Festival Ha’Rikud closing party hosted by BBYO. With more than 80 teens from Vancouver, Miami and Israel, the JCC set the stage for fun and teen involvement. Since the party, a group of teens from Vancouver, White Rock and Richmond formed a leadership team and the JCC is looking for a professional to support them.
In partnership with BBYO, the JCC is currently seeking to fill the role of BBYO city director and JCC teen coordinator. The role will focus on programs that foster engagement and create meaningful connections among high school teens in the community. The professional will liaise with Jewish and secular community organizations working with youth, and will build BBYO chapters throughout the Greater Vancouver area.
“Each year, I get to see teens around the Jewish community grow and connect,” said Shirly Berelowitz, director of children, youth and camps at the JCC. “The JCC teen department looks forward to expanding these opportunities in our new partnership with BBYO. Our goal is to become a hub for Jewish teens to connect with each other in Vancouver and around the world. I couldn’t be more excited for the JCC to take on this role!”
This year, the JCC celebrates 90 years in Vancouver as BBYO celebrates 90 years in Canada – it is only fitting that the organizations celebrate together.
For more information on the coordinator position, contact Berelowitz at 604-257-5111 or [email protected].