2016-07-06 / Columns

Your support of JFund shapes future Jewish leaders throughout the world

FEDERATION PRESIDENT’S CORNER
VICKI ZELL
Federation President

It seems the school year is barely over before we’re packing our kids up for a wonderful Jewish summer camp experience. For some of us, we’re just packing lunches and swimsuits for the day. For others, we’re bending the laws of physics to fit a summer’s worth of clothes, shoes, sunscreen, and insect repellent into a duffle bag that doesn’t look like it can possibly hold it all. Whatever summer camp experience you choose for your child—day or overnight— it is connecting them to their Jewish identity in ways that will last a lifetime.

Through the support of Federations like ours, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) is bringing similar transformative Jewish experiences to thousands of young Jews each year. Their summer camp experiences offer an incredible chance for youngsters from small Jewish communities to connect powerfully to the global Jewish people.

JDC summer camps have been bringing Jews together for over 20 years, and often serve as a powerful entrée into Jewish life and a welcome reprieve for those with challenging personal situations. This year, nearly 15,000 children (and adults!) will participate in JDC’s camp programs, with over 130 camps in 20 countries across Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

In rural Hungary, Camp Szarvas is leading the way by creating one international Jewish home. For some 1,300 children and teens, this pioneering international camp is a chance to connect to Judaism and make friends from around the world every summer. Just like for our children, JDC Jewish camps become a second home for participants, and a dynamic and vital part of the global Jewish revival and continuity.

The Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey is proud to count JDC among its overseas partners. A portion of our Israel and Overseas allocation goes directly to funding JDC programming each year—programming like the JDC’s summer camps.

A few years ago, I visited one of these summer camps in Odessa. My impression? These were children just like my own— singing and dancing to Israeli music— smiling, hugging and just building memories that will last a lifetime. At the end of my visit, a young man picked up a guitar and started to play Hineh Ma Tov—“Behold how good and pleasant it is for brothers and sisters to live together in unity.” What more can we wish for our own children and for all children around the world?

We’re often focused on the needs of our own South Jersey community, but JDC’s summer camp programs remind us of the needs of the global Jewish community.

As you send your children off to camp this summer, take a moment to embrace the larger picture. Know that you’re strengthening their Jewish identity— and the Jewish community as a whole. JDC camps are doing the same and so much more: Revitalizing Jewish life in communities where it has all but disappeared, developing tomorrow’s leaders, and offering a reprieve for the world’s poorest Jews.

Remember, when you give to JFund, you are not only helping to meet the needs of our own South Jersey Jewish community. Every gift helps to strengthen our global Jewish community as well. With $.90 cents out of every dollar raised going to programming, the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey is committed to building a better tomorrow for children around the world and right here at home. Together, we are building our future. Jfedpres@jfedsnj.org

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