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August 09, 2002 - Image 89

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-08-09

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said Federation CEO Robert Aronson,
who said no other community in the
United States offered so many Israeli
teens this opportunity.
Of the $7 million raised by
Federation for its Israel Emergency
Fund — a special fund-raising effort
to raise money for Israel's social servic-
es and non-defense needs, and for
families victimized by terror — $1
million was spent to transport and
host the 300 Israeli youths.
Every three Israeli teens were placed
with seven American teens to form
bunks at camp.
The Israelis came in two waves dur-
ing the summer and were selected by
Israeli social workers and teachers
because of their language skills and
their well-adjusted demeanor. The first
wave was nearly 100 Israeli Scouts; the
second were youths mostly from the
Central Galilee.
The recruiting process was very
important, said David Bitan, Israel
group leader. "We wanted to pick the
kids who we thought would adjust the
best. We don't want to bring a kid
here who won't have a good time."
"Right away, they got together," said
Harvey Finkelberg, executive director
of the Fresh Air Society-Tamarack
Camps. "It's worked out quite well.
When they're here now, they're just
kids — they run around just like
everybody else."

The Campers

Reut Zinman, 13, of Tel Aviv, and
Vered Fridman, 13'/2, of Migdal
HaEmek, sat on a picnic table in
Camp Maas' Berman Village, taking a
break with three American bunkmates
from practicing a dance routine the
five would perform later that day.
The group of girls chattered excited-

"They were a little homesick at first, but
after a week, you couldn't tell who was
Israeli and who was American."

— Sam Leonard, bunk supervisor at camp

ly, as if they were lifelong friends. In
fact, they had only met a few days
before when the Israelis arrived.
At first, it was hard for the
Americans to get along with the
Israelis, said Madyson Light, 12, of
Akron, Ohio. "When they start
speaking Hebrew, you think they're
talking about you, but they're just
talking," she said. "After three or four
days, it's just fine."
"We speak Hebrew because we
need to find the words," said Vered.
Although she had her whole day
planned with horseback riding and
swimming, Vered worried about her
family back home. "I worry that
something bad might happen to them
and I'll be too far away from home to
help them," she said.
Reut agreed, and said fear grips
almost everyone back home.
When the terrorism flared in 2000,
"I didn't leave my home. My mother
won't let me go to the market or the
mall or a soccer game," she said.
It took a while at camp for her to
become less suspicious. "In Israel, we
search everything," she said. "If we
see anyone with a big coat, things like
that, we get worried. It took us a few
days to calm down."
Of the 140 seventh- and eighth-
grade girls who populated Berman

Village this session, 60 are Israeli.
Sam-Leonard, the supervisor of
Berman Bunk Seven, said, "It's a hard
thing at first, but after the first cou-
ple of days at camp, the kids started
to relax and feel better."
Leonard, of Sydney, Australia, had
said goodbye to another group of
Israelis who left for home earlier that
day after three weeks in camp. "They
were also a little bit homesick at first,
but after about a week they integrat-
ed, and you couldn't tell who was
Israeli and who was American," she
Bitan, the Israeli group leader, did-
n't have much to do,.and he's happy.
"When we're not too busy, it means
that the kids are fine," he said.
The Israeli Scouts had left earlier
that day; the 221 Israeli teens who
had arrived a week earlier were
beginning to adjust.
"What we've been doing is taking
care of minor problems in the past
week, from things missing in their
luggage to being homesick," Bitan
said. "They were tired, they had to
adjust to the rules, the language.
The fun part started a few days ago."
An Israeli social worker came
along to provide any professional
advice needed.
The Israeli campers faxed their

parents twice a week, but some of
the youths in the first group were
having too much fun to bother,
Bitan said.
"We had parents contact us, wor-
ried because theit kid didn't fax
them. So we made the kids fax the
parents while we watched," he said.
"The parents were worried, and I
can understand that. But the kids
are safe here." .
Einat Temanlis, 20, of Jerusalem is
one of 30 Israeli counselors who
accompanied the campers. "The kids
don't have to worry about anything,"
she said. "But they still worry about
their family back home."
Debbie Webster and Marni Zeltzer
are both first-year counselors at
Camp Maas. During a break at the
horse barn, ther said the Israelis
seem to be adjusting.
"They don't talk about their situa-
tion in Israel, in English anyway,"
said Webster, 21, of North Island,
New Zealand: "Living in New
Zealand, the war in Israel isn't in .
your face. Coming here and meeting
them is different. It doesn't look like
they've been affected by it. They're
just kids."
Zeltzer, 18, of Montreal said the
Israeli Scouts talked about their
experiences back home at a special
program during their last week at
"They want people to know that
it's not just war over there," she said.
"They have to be more attentive to
things, but it's not their whole life.
They're just like we are."
Israeli camper Marina Gofman
agreed. "[The Middle East unrest] is
kind of difficult, but it's still fun in
Israel, and it's not that big of a
deal," she said. "Americans only get







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