Monthly Archives: February 2017

Around the Shabbat Table

Wondering how to talk to your kids about inclusion at Camp Judaea?  Our Inclusion Coordinator, Becky Borak, wrote a letter to her own children about being a good friend to others this summer at CJ.

Dear Haiden and Elissa,

I am so excited for you both to start another summer at our home away from home, Camp Judaea. I know you have already experienced so much of what CJ has to offer, but this summer, I’d like to see what you can offer CJ; use your knowledge and heart to help others around camp feel like they are part of the loving CJ community.

I know that you both have so much tenderness and understanding for your cabin mates and like to make sure everyone is having a great time. I realize that this will continue because you are both such wonderful friends.

This summer, I want it to be your goal to find one or two campers who really need a friend. Maybe they tend to sit out on the sidelines instead of participating in the peulot, maybe they have trouble during menucha or bedtime because they miss home, maybe they are new to camp and don’t know anyone yet, maybe they are overwhelmed by the noise or endless activity happening around them. When you notice these campers, reach out to them. Talk to them. Listen to them. Make them feel like part of the CJ family, too. Your love for CJ and your friends will shine through you when you reach out to others and spend time with those campers who need that extra little encouragement.

I am already so proud of the support you will emit to so many new and old campers that will help them have wonderful Camp Judaea experiences.

I can’t wait to hear about the things you do at camp this summer and see your smiling faces in pictures daily! I love you both very much and will be refreshing my picture page every chance I get.

Much love,


“The biggest barrier to creating an inclusive program is not the lack of resources, knowledge, or accessible facilities. The biggest barrier is actually one of attitude…we must understand that inclusion is first and foremost a philosophy. It is a mindset and a belief that everyone has value and something to contribute. It is a willingness to see the ability in everyone and match skill with challenge. It is an understanding that what our programs really provide at their heart is the opportunity to build relationships, learn who we are, and develop skills. It is being committed to the process of making our programs accessible — not only in the physical sense, but also by ensuring that each person’s participation is meaningful….Once we understand that inclusion is not a place, a program, or a time-limited opportunity, and that it is a state of being and a way of operating that says “all are welcome,” we can overcome the practical barriers of resources, knowledge, and accessible facilities.”
ACA (American Camping Association)

Attitude! What is an attitude? What is your attitude towards going to camp? What is your attitude towards your friends at camp? What is your attitude towards the counselors at camp?

What attitudes affect you at camp? How do these attitudes make you feel?

How can you use that feeling to change your attitude towards those or to include those who are differently abled so that they can experience camp like you?

Ask yourself these questions before you go to camp. Remember that everyone is different and we all have something that makes us unique. These qualities are what make the world go around. Use these questions to help others appreciate the special qualities in people who are not like you and how you can include everyone in some way or another.

How is awareness shown?
It is shown when people who have different abilities are treated as a whole person and not only in terms of their disability.
A way to do this is to welcome them and make them feel part of a particular setting. This can make a big difference in their everyday lives.

A key theme throughout the day should be the importance of people with disabilities being involved in all activities and in the camp as a whole.

It is vital to break down barriers and challenge negative attitudes. We need to promote a greater use of universal design principles to ensure that the built environment is accessible to all campers.

Positive things in a person’s life can change their life. Your attitudes of others can make that difference.Around the Shabbat Table

Young Judaea-South Florida, Keeping Camp Alive All Year Long…

My name is Sivan Raz, I’m 27 years old and this is my second year working as Young Judaea South Florida Shlicha (Israel Emissary). This past year we tried to build a strong group of teen leaders. We are so proud of this team of talented teens who spent hours coming up with programs for their peers and the younger children in the South Florida Young Judaea community.

This past year we organized monthly activities in focusing on different topics but with one thing in common: they all relate to Israel or Judaism.  We tried to share as much as we could from our knowledge with the younger kids so that they feel connected to Young Judaea, Camp Judaea, Judaism and Israel.

During my first year, we participated in volunteering programs at the Kosher Food bank, held a Chanukah Bikurim, celebrated Purim with an overnight at the office and more. This year, we opened with a pool party, gathered for Chanukah, had a terrific day bowling and are gearing up for the annual Bikurim this coming Sunday. In April, we will bring the 5th – 8th graders together for an overnight celebrating the idea of B’nai Mitzvah, and in May, we’ll close the year with a joyous family picnic.

We also take part in community events in Miami and Broward Counties such as Tu B’Shvat at TY park and the annual celebration of Israel Independence Day at the JCC’s and at the CB park.

One of our proudest moments was the return of the Southeast regional convention which was held this year in Ft. Lauderdale. We came together to learn and play, and we hope that next year, more teens will join us!

Our main goals are to bring the community together during the year so families can see each other, not just at camp, but also during the year and to empower our teenagers to plan and lead activities that reflect the values of CJ and Young Judaea.

We are now working on a Hadracha (leadership) course that will give our teens the opportunity to learn the skills of how to be a successful leader and counselor in the community; developing leaders who will ensure a lasting Young Judaea presence even after I return to Israel in the fall.

For me growing up in the Tzofim (Israeli scouts) movement, being involved in the community and leading activities in Israel was a life-changing experience that shaped me as who I am today.  That was my main reason for coming to the States and working in a youth movement. For me, this is an amazing opportunity to see a youth movement working abroad with the same values and passion that I had as I grew up. This past year and a half was so much fun, exciting, educational and meaningful, and I couldn’t do it without the great teens and their families that support Young Judaea with all their hearts.  Let’s have a great Spring and Summer together!

Homesickness & Adjustment Problems

We know that one of every parent’s greatest concerns is that their camper may experience some homesickness upon arriving at camp. Most of the time what children are actually experiencing when they feel “homesick” is anxiety over being in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people. What they are usually “yearning” for is the reassurance and confidence they feel when they are with you. It is normal to feel uneasy in these circumstances and it is our goal to help each camper adjust to their new surroundings and enjoy camp life.

In order to assist your camper in the process of moving past the potential homesickness, we have put together some “tips” that will help give your camper the assurance and encouragement they need from you as they set out on their Camp Judaea adventure.

  1. Please read all the materials and communications we send you and carefully follow the suggestions on arrival times, items to pack, etc. If you are well-oriented, chances are your camper will feel less stress about their adjustment to camp.
  2. Keep up their excitement and help them set personal goals for the summer.
  3. Encourage them to make new friends and try new things.
  4. Campers should know whom to go to with problems or questions: the Madrachim (counselors) and their Merekez/et (unit leader) will be in constant contact with campers. If further support or assistance is needed David Berlin our Assistant Director, Leah Zigmond our Associate Director are always available. It is very important that campers feel supported by the staff at camp and know that they can trust us to resolve any concerns they may have.
  5. If you will be away from home, campers should know how to write you; tell them you have given the camp your temporary address and phone number in case you need to be contacted.
  6. If you or your camper are having misgivings about camp or have had consistent difficulties with overnight stays in the past, please call us for advice on resolving these issues before camp starts.
  7. Be clear that coming home early is not an option. Trying to calm your children’s fears by inferring that coming home early if they do not like camp is an option will overwhelm your camper and severely hamper their ability to adjust to camp life.
  8. Avoid sending letters telling your camper what they are missing at home or expressing your own sadness concerning your child’s being away from home. Sharing these subjects will only make their adjustment to camp more difficult. Focus on the positive and ask questions about camp life. As a reminder, we do not allow parents to speak with campers on the telephone as this may intensify the feelings of homesickness.

In our experience, a camper’s feelings of homesickness will go away, especially with their parents’ encouragement. Your gift to your children, in addition to sending them to camp, is to give them the proper tools to have a successful summer.
Please remind your camper (and yourself) that camp is a “big time fun adventure.” Convey your confidence in the staff at camp to resolve any small issues and encourage your child to trust that Camp Judaea will be a safe and friendly place for them. As always we look forward to sharing a wonderful summer with you and your family!

Electronics at Camp

A 2010 study by the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation reports that children, ages 8-18, spend an average of 7.5 hours a day in front of a screen using entertainment media. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that excessive screen time is linked to: childhood obesity, irregular sleep, behavioral problems, less time for play, and violence.

Camp is an “unplugged experience.” PLEASE do not send any internet-connectable electronic toy or device (Kindle, Nooks, IPod Touch, I Pad, laptops, notebooks, tablets, Nintendo DS, PSP Go and similar devices) as it will be confiscated and returned at the end of the session. We strongly discourage parents from sending any electronic devices other than a small MP3 player that does not have a screen that only plays music, and is inexpensive, such as the iPod Shuffle.

Campers will only be permitted to use their MP3 player in their cabin during personal time and during specified personal fitness time (i.e. exercising/jogging). If you choose to send any electronic devices, please be aware that the camp will not be responsible for any loss of/or damage to such equipment.

Please do not send handheld electronic games or portable video equipment, such as travel DVD players, video iPods or iTouch devices. If it has a screen or connects to the Internet, please leave the device at home. If you have any questions, please call the office for clarification.

Summer is a time to be outside and interacting with other people and we find that campers become absorbed in these games or videos and oblivious to our magnificent natural environment. For quiet time, please send real paperback books instead of electronic books. If your child is an avid reader, consider visiting a used book store prior to camp and sending up a selection of books with your camper. We would be very grateful for any donations or used books to our camp sifriyah (library).

Around the Shabbat Table

Our summer Inclusion Team is growing!  Last summer, our Inclusion Coordinator, Becky Borak, was joined by a summer intern, Amanda Shames, to provide support throughout the summer to staff members and campers who needed it.  Becky and Amanda will both be back this summer and will be joined by Matthew Kaplan.  With Becky at the helm and Amanda and Matthew on board, we are confident that we will have a successful and inclusive summer.  We checked in with Amanda and Matthew and asked them each about their experiences and feelings towards Inclusion.

“Last year, I took on the intern role expecting to fully comprehend the connections and communication behind behaviors and to learn from our incredible inclusion coordinator. I am continuing on in this role because I am a believer of inclusion and I want to watch more campers, of varying ability levels, have successful summers– just like any of their friends can. I will be graduating from Syracuse University this May with a degree in social work. I’m excited to share that I’ll be moving to Miami, Florida after camp to continue working with young children with special needs. I’m so lucky that I chose a career path that continues leading me back to Camp Judaea, the place I call home.”      -Amanda Shames

“I am so excited to return for my fifth Camp Judaea summer; it really is awesome to have another opportunity to come back. In this role, I will be working hard to ensure that every single camper has the feeling of home and belonging throughout the course of their session. It is important to me that we also strive to make an inclusive environment for the staff members as well.  One of my biggest passions is equality, and I feel that being an inclusion specialist will allow me to ascertain that in the camping community. Working with Becky and Amanda will most definitely provide me with tools and experiences that will help me attain my goal for the future: to work as a special education teacher.”     -Matthew Kaplan

In Leviticus it says, “Do not curse a person who is deaf and do not place a stumbling rock in front of a person who is blind.”

What are your responsibilities as a camper towards those who are “different?”

How can you include and support your friends during different activities at camp?

We hope you’ll brainstorm and share your ideas with us! Submit them to Becky for a chance to have your inclusion idea featured in next week’s post!

Here’s an example to help get you started…

Fill in the blank:

When I am at (favorite peulah or activity at camp), I can help include my friends by (give a way to help include all friends).

When I am at T’filah, I can help include my friends by sitting next to them and helping them follow along in the Siddur.

Around the Shabbat Table

Around the Shabbat Table

Remember Hadley from last week’s post? Her letter caught the attention of Sarah Selcer, one of Hadley’s former counselors. Sarah loved being Hadley’s madricha and wants to help make sure Hadley and her friends are ready for another amazing CJ summer.

Hi Hadley!

Your friends and I can’t wait to have you at camp again this summer! It’s going to be the best summer ever! All the fun we have at camp can be tiring and waking up in the morning is sometimes hard but, I know that lots of counselors play some really good music in the morning that will get you up, moving, and ready for your busy day. Luckily, we have two periods of menucha (rest time) in the afternoon so you and all your friends can play lots of games together or take a quick nap if you need to rest. While walking in your group from peulah to peulah (activity), we will make sure to move at a nice pace for you to keep up. Some friends might walk quickly, but others won’t mind slowing it down so they can look around and see how beautiful camp is! You never know what you’re going to run into around camp; maybe you’ll spot some turtles, baby birds, pretty flowers, bunnies, and butterflies! I remember that you love to swim: well, the pool and lake are ready for you! I can’t wait to see you at Camp in just 5 months!

Love always,
Sarah (giggles)

At CJ, no two people are the same — some differences are just more noticeable. What is the difference between fair and equal? These are challenging concepts for children (and let’s face it, many adults) to fully wrap their brains around. Even when we understand the difference between these concepts, many of us find ourselves reverting back to the age-old whine, “It’s not fair.”

Fairness means that each person gets what he or she needs to be successful.

Equality is giving each person the exact same thing.

Children with disabilities can do many of the things other children do, but it might take them longer, need assistance, or adaptive equipment to help them.

A Family Activity:

• Place two high preferred items up on a shelf, so high that only the tallest participant can reach them (even if it takes some stretching or a little jumping).

• Say, “Anyone who can reach one can have it, no strings attached.” Choose the tallest person first.

• Ask for another person. Ignore the hands and select the shortest person. After a few unsuccessful attempts, they will often go for a chair or table. Say, “You may not use a chair; that would be unfair. So and so did it under her own steam. You must do the same.” Your family will likely complain: “That’s not fair! He can’t help that he’s small.”

• Ponder their argument and say, “Okay, give me your best reasons for allowing him to use a chair or any other kind of assistance in reaching the reward when so and so had no help. How can that be fair?!?”

• Discuss the issues and then let the shortest person use the chair. Discuss further how kids with disabilities don’t always do things the way you do things but it’s not because it is not fair,
but because it is equal. They will get it. Fair isn’t always equal


Celebrating Tu b’Shvat!

Written by: Leah Zigmond

Tu b’Shvat falls on February 11th this year, and will be celebrated by eating dried fruit, singing songs about flowering trees, and (after Shabbat) planting trees in communities all over the world. Tu b’shvat is a minor holiday, but a holiday deserving recognition. Tu b’Shvat perfectly embodies the spirit of Zionism at Camp Judaea. Here is my endorsement for making Tu b’shvat a part of your family’s Jewish practice this year:

Historically, the fifteenth of the Jewish month of Shvat became a special day because of a commandment in the Torah that instructed Jewish farmers to contribute 10% of the fruit from their orchards each year to the temple, to help support the priesthood. The problem was, the farmers had to be able to determine when the growth started and which fruit to count. They decided that the date that trees began to flower would be considered the new year. After some arguing among farmers of the plains and valleys of the small but geographically diverse land of Israel, it was decided that the 15th of Shvat would be accepted as the new year of the trees. The name Tu b’Shvat comes from the gematria which attributes numerical values to Hebrew letters, the acronym tet-vav (Tu) carries the value of 15.

Today many celebrate the holiday of Tu b’Shvat as a Jewish Earth Day, planting trees, eating fruits, and taking time to consider our connection to the land. Take a moment to consider these questions,

  • What is my relationship with the land and place that I live in? How do I affect it and how does it affect me?
  • What is my relationship with the Land of Israel?
  • How can I work to be a steward of the land for future generations, through the food I eat, the way I get from place to place, and the way I live?

A Prayer for Planting Trees
Deepen the roots of these saplings that we are planting today.
Help them to grow and beautify the land in its splendor, together with all the trees of the earth.
Help us too, to put down roots in the earth. Let us grow together with these trees we plant—with blessing and with intention.
Let us be blessed together with all the people of the earth.
As it is written, the fields will be lush and all that is in them; and all the trees of the forest will sing (Psalm 96:12).
(adapted from the siddur HaAvodah Sh’b’Lev, the Israeli Movement for Progressive Judaism Prayer book)

Around the Shabbat Table

February is Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month.  Below is a letter from one of our campers, Hadley. She is getting ready to join us for her third summer at Camp Judaea. Hadley is diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome. Some things are more difficult for her than for other campers, but she does not let them stop her from enjoying her summer. Her brother, cousins, friends, and counselors love seeing her at camp– she gives the best hugs, tells funny jokes, and, if you’re lucky, you can catch her singing Annie’s “Tomorrow” into the microphone for all to hear! She wrote this letter to her future bunkmates so that they will know how to make her feel included this summer.


My name is Hadley Brown. I am a girl and I have brown hair. I love to go swimming and play with my barbies. When I am at camp I also like to swim and play with my friends. The chicken fingers are yummy. It is very hard for me speak like everyone else and it is very hard for me to do work. I would like my friends at camp to help me with my work. They can also walk slowly with me so I am not alone. I walk slow a lot. I don’t like to wake up in the mornings so my friends can help me wake up at camp. I also think it would be fun if my friends sit with me at breakfast, lunch and dinner so they can help me make and get my food and make good choices. I do love to play lots of games and can not wait to go to camp. I hope I make lots of friends.


What is the difference between being INclusive and not being EXclusive? Many times the words are used interchangeably to convey that everyone gets to participate, but they don’t always function that way. Let’s look at specific occasions and examples so that we can better explain to campers the different levels of inclusion and how they can help.

Start by asking your child about a time when they felt excluded.

How did it make them feel?

What could have been done to make them feel better?

Then ask about what your child can do to prevent someone else from feeling excluded.

Once there is an understanding about exclusion, you can transition into inclusion.

Explain that children with disabilities are like all children in that they want friends, respect and to be included.

What does inclusion mean to you?

It is natural for people to gravitate to certain friends (or cabin-mates) more than others, but it is not okay to leave people out and make them feel excluded.