|Emissaries help JCC campers ‘put a face’ to Israel|
|Written by Barbara Bayer, Editor|
|Wednesday, June 13 2012 09:51|
Every summer the Jewish Community Center brings an Israeli emissary here to teach campers at its Barney Goodman Camp. This year not one but two shlichot (female emissaries) will be on staff. Ma’ayan Osher-Levinger and Paz Riecher arrived here the last week in May and will remain through the last day of camp, which is Aug. 3.
Bridey Stangler, director of JCC camps, has worked with a lot of Israeli shlichot at camp over the years, but she was blown away by what they can offer when she recently traveled to Israel to attend a working seminar on the subject. She is more excited than ever before about having them at camp.
“They will be such a valuable resource for us and our campers this summer,” Stangler said. “We also hope to share them with the community. If other groups want to invite them to events to learn about them and a little more about Israel while they are here in June and July, we would love to help arrange that.”
Groups who wish to make arrangements to meet with the shlichot should contact Stangler or Danny Altshull at the JCC camp office, 913-327-8060.
“We just want to show them the good side of Israel,” Osher-Levinger said.
“We want to tell everyone that it’s safe to come and visit Israel,” Riecher added.
The shlichot are among more than 200 emissaries representing the Jewish Agency for Israel at Jewish summer camps all over the world. They have all completed their army or national service, speak conversational English and have experience working with children and teens in youth movements, community centers and/or the army.
The two young women met for the first time at a training seminar about a month before they came to Kansas City. In the army, Osher-Levinger was an intake officer. She decided who would enter the army as well as where and what they would do.
“It’s like a psychologist. We had a lot of training before we started,” said Osher-Levinger, who has previously spent time in the States as well as Europe.
Riecher trained soldiers to shoot mortars, weapons that fire explosive projectiles. This is her first visit to the United States. Both women will travel across the country for a month after camp before they return to Israel.
Each BG group will see the shlichot once a week for a Kol Yisrael lesson. During that time, Osher-Levinger explained, they will teach the children about life in Israel.
Emily Williams, BG’s programming director, explained that the shlichot have a dual mission this year.
“The most important thing is for our campers to really get to know our home culture in a lot of ways. We also want them to be able to put a face to the country and to our traditions and see how another Jewish community functions,” said Williams, who is a teacher who has earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She teaches religious school at The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah, where she is also a member, and has been involved in the camp world for the past 15 years.
The second part of their mission, Williams said, is to enhance the campers experience through some varied and unique programming opportunities. One of those ways is through the new teva (nature) program.
“With nature, the kids get to experience the outdoors in a new way. Instead of just being in the outdoors and playing all the time, they get to examine their surroundings and also compare what we have here in Kansas with Israel. Of course Israel’s arid desert-like existence is very different than our climate here in Kansas. Food and nature is so much a part of their culture. For example during the summer we talk a lot about the shuk in Israel, where here we get our groceries from (a grocery store). So it’s important for our mission as a larger Jewish community to interact and to share our knowledge and our experiences with each other,” Williams said.
In fact, Williams said the shlichot will help the campers compare “our world here in the Midwest to theirs in Israel.”
“Our vision and what we tend to know and internalize in our generation is not necessarily how Israel is now. We want to update the campers’ vocabulary and the kids’ imagery of Yisrael,” Williams said.
In addition to the planned interactions with Kol Yisrael and teva, the shlichot will be out and about among the campers whenever they have a free moment, including some splashing time at the pool, as well as the weekly Shabbat celebration.
Riecher, a 22-year-old from Ein Vered, a moshav (cooperative agricultural community) located in central Israel, became a shlichah because she really wanted to see how Jewish people live in the United States as well as how they connect to their religion and how they feel about Israel.
Osher-Levinger, 21, is from Or Yehuda, a part of the Tel Aviv region, and also wanted to learn more about American Jews.
“I felt it was very important to see another Jewish community because it’s so different in Israel because it’s Israel. I want to show the world that Israel is not a bad place, that you can do whatever you want. It’s not like you see on TV, it’s so different,” Osher-Levinger said.
While they are here, Riecher said they would especially “like to hang out with the youth.”
Williams said the shlichot will not work the entire time they are here. On evenings and weekends, they hope to show the young women the highlights of the metro area.
“We’ll take them to the Plaza and Lawrence. They haven’t had a chance to explore our own Jewish community, but we hope to show them all the good works we do here in Kansas City also,” Williams said.
When they return to Israel, both Riecher and Osher-Levinger plan to study for their college entrance exams.