web analytics
November 23, 2014 / 1 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
IDC Herzliya Campus A Day on Campus

To mark IDC Herzliya’s 20th anniversary, we spent a day following Prof. Uriel Reichman, IDC’s founder and president, and Jonathan Davis, VP for External Relations, around its delightful campus.



Lighting A Fire In The Snow


      Seventy years of oppression and indoctrination can wipe out a lot of memories. For some kids of parents who left the former Soviet Union for America, even words like “Jewish” and “Torah” and Shabbos may be shrouded in mystery.

 

      But during a week in the Catskills last month, a group of boys aged 9-14 created their own Jewish memories even as they enjoyed a dream winter vacation filled with skiing, snow-tubing, and other winter sports at Camp FREE-Gan Israel’s winter camp.

 

      Nine-year-old Matthew Solovey was fired up about attending winter camp even before he arrived. Matthew’s older brother Leonard, 11, was not so sure about all this religious stuff but he found that Camp F.R.E.E. didn’t conform to any stereotypes he may have had.

 

      The Soloveys emigrated from Odessa in 1991. Irene Solovey, the boys’ mother, says the family keeps kosher and is gradually adding Jewish practices to their lives – while competing with public school, video games and American culture. Camp F.R.E.E., she said, gives her kids the chance to be “very gently introduced [to Judaism] so that they can consciously comprehend it and make a conscious decision.”

 

      A project of Friends of Refugees of Eastern Europe, the winter camp is one of several year-round activities for public school children like shabbatons and summer day camp as well as a full high school yeshiva program. Rabbi Benzion Chanowitz, a Chabad shaliach in Monticello, provided camp’s home base in upstate New York.

 

 


Winter Camp 2008

 

      “They have a good time and the main thing is they’re learning to be proud Jews,” said camp administrator Rabbi Dan Dashevsky. “We want them to feel comfortable in a Jewish environment, make Jewish friends and be part of the Jewish community.”

 

      Tzvi Altein, 22, took some time off from his semicha studies to be a counselor at Camp F.R.E.E. winter camp. He says that a highlight of camp came each evening after formal learning when the boys and the staff got to hang out together and schmooze. “We’d farbreng with the boys, play games, talk and answer questions,” he said.

 

       Some of the boys came from the release time program – which permits public school children to leave school early once a week for religious instruction – and so had some Jewish education; others knew nothing at all about Judaism, and they had plenty of questions.

 

      Questions like, “What is Torah?” “What is G-d?”

 

      One boy wanted to know if Jews believe in Jesus.

 

 


Older division campers help make daily and Shabbat minyan

 

      “They came not knowing what to expect,” said head counselor Rabbi Zalman Shuchat, 24 – known to campers simply as “Zalman” – “but at the end of the week they had a real varemkeit, warmth, toward Yiddishkeit, they saw that Judaism is not something strange and weird but is fun and something they have a connection to.”

 

      Commenting on this winter’s session, director Rabbi Mendel Okunov said, “It’s the many successful experiences like this that encourage us to continue this rewarding work.”

 

      “We don’t force anything on them,” said Altein. “For example, yarmulkes were not required, only during davening and learning, but when they saw that the staff always wore a head covering, the boys started to do it too.”

 

      Several of the boys have brought changes back at home as well: teaching a parent aleph bais asking if food is kosher even, for one of the campers, deciding from now on to observe Shabbos.

 

 


Matthew Solovey with camp director Zalman Shuchat

 

      Matthew Solovey and fellow camper Sam Kopit, 11, were among those who were already involved in Jewish activities, singing in the popular M Generation Boys Choir, a project of F.R.E.E. in Brighton Beach. The choir is one of FREE’s ongoing programs that support the Russian Jewish community; its stated goal is to help Jewish kids feel the joy of Jewish music and, like camp, is a way to belong.

 

      Irene Solovey said she was just happy to see that her kids at camp were safe, happy, cared for, and spiritually nurtured. “For a mother, if someone cares for her children, this is the best thing she can wish for,” she said.

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Lighting A Fire In The Snow”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Islamic State flag displayed from Arab residence
IDF Arrests Terrorist Linked with ISIS
Latest Sections Stories
Kupfer-112114

Divorce from a vindictive, cruel spouse can be a lifelong nightmare when there are offspring.

Astaire-112114-Horse

There were many French Jews who jumped at the chance to shed their ancient identity and assimilate.

L to R: Sheldon Adelson, Shawn Evenhaim, Haim Saban

As Rabbi Shemtov stood on the stage and looked out at the attendees, he told them that “Rather than take photos with your cellphones, take a mental photo and keep this Shabbat in your mind and take it with you throughout your life.”

South-Florida-logo

Yeshiva v’Kollel Bais Moshe Chaim will be holding a grand celebration on the occasion of the institution’s 40th anniversary on Sunday evening, December 7. Alumni, students, friends and faculty of the yeshiva, also known as Talmudic University of Florida, will celebrate the achievement and vision of its founders and the spiritual guidance of its educational […]

The yeshiva night accommodates all levels of Jewish education.

Recently, Fort Lauderdale has been the focus of international news, and it has not been about the wonderful weather.

Rabbi Sacks held the position of chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth for 22 years until September 2013.

The event included a dvar Torah by student Pesach Bixon, an overview of courses, information about student life and a student panel that answered frequently asked questions from a student perspective.

It is difficult to write about such a holy person, for I fear I will not accurately portray his greatness…

“Grandpa,” I wondered, as the swing began to slow down, “why are there numbers on your arm?”

So the real question is, “How can we, as hosts, make sure our guest beds are comfortable?” Because your guests will never say anything.

It was a land of opportunity, a place where someone who wasn’t afraid of a little hard work, or the challenges of adapting to a different climate and culture, could prosper.

Rule #1: A wife should never accompany her husband to hang out with his buddies at a fantasy football draft. Unless beer and cigars are her thing, that is.

There are many people today with very little training who put out shingles and proclaim themselves to be marital coaches, shalom bayis helpers, advisers etc.

The two World Series combatants, the Kansas City Royals and the San Francisco Giants, were Wild Card teams (meaning they didn’t win their respective divisions) that got hot at the right time.

More Articles from Tzivia Emmer

The Chanukah story as we know it describes a wicked tyrant, Jewish resistance, and the miracle of oil that burned for eight days instead of one.

Judaism The Gentle Way At Winter Camp F.R.E.E.

When a convention of kosher supervisors steps out to dine, you can be sure the restaurant of choice will meet their highest standards of kashrut as well as cuisine.
Le Marais, a French steakhouse that has been under the supervision of OK Laboratories since its opening in 1995, provided the setting for dinner and lively conversation following the OK?s 2nd Annual International Mashgichim Conference in November.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/community/lighting-a-fire-in-the-snow/2008/01/16/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: