metro >> on the cover
After 11 years, Federation's Israeli
camper program reaps benefits for all.
Vivian Henoch I Special to the Jewish News
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1
"We never finish our reading;' he says.
"From the last word, we jump right back
to the first word. Our story is never-
From the rabbinic teaching moment,
there's a "family moment" immediately
following the service, as Camp Maas
Director Lee Trepeck gathers Tamarack's
48 Israeli campers for their weekly update
on news from home. "Mishpachah! That's
who we are. A family:' Lee affirms.
Just Like Home
Now in its 11th season, Federation's
Israeli Camper Program is a partnership
of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan
Detroit, Tamarack Camps and the Detroit
Partnership 2GETHER Region of the
Central Galilee in Israel. Its goals are to
build Jewish identity and create connec-
tions that foster lasting friendships in the
The program started as a "mission in
reverse" in 2002, the year of the Second
Intifada. With normal family activity in
Israel severely restricted, security impos-
sible to guarantee, and Israeli camps and
school programs closed, Detroit commu-
nity leaders had no choice but to cancel
the Teen Mission set to leave in June.
Instead, they devised a plan to bring Israel
home to Michigan by providing 320 Israeli
teens a camping experience at Tamarack.
What happened that summer was a
defining moment that demonstrated to
what measures the Jewish community
would go to support summer camping
experiences and cultural exchange for its
To date, more than 1,000 Israeli camp-
ers have come to Tamarack to share a
transforming Jewish experience with
their Michigan brothers and sisters and
their host families.
What started as a community outreach
initiative has blossomed into a full-
8 August 2 • 2012
fledged leadership training program for
youth, supported by a growing circle of
family and friends from Jewish Detroit
and the Israeli partnership region in the
The key to the program is the learning
curve from year to year. Israeli camp-
ers now compete for the opportunity to
come to Tamarack and are selected based
on their social, language and leader-
ship skills. For instance, the 84 campers
attending the two sessions this summer
were recruited from a pool of nearly 400
students; the 12 elite 16-year-olds who
comprise the Israeli "TSS" Teen Service
Staff were selected from a pool of 40.
Upon their return to the region, these
young people continue on their journey
to enroll in community service projects
in preparation to serve on the Israeli staff
of Federation's Teen Missions or to return
to Tamarack as "TSS" counselors.
Or Klein, from Nazareth Illit in the
Central Galilee, and Naama Beeri, from
the Jezreel Valley, are two TSS who
returned to camp this year under the
supervision of TSS Director Tomer
Moked. Tomer can be strict, they say, but
the relationship they share with him is
built on trust and confidence.
Poised and outgoing, speaking English
with only a hint of their Israeli accents, Or
and Naama observe how life has changed
for them since entering the program.
"Spending a month away from home
has helped me become more mature,
independent, responsible and able to
cope with problems:' Or says.
Naama agrees. "I knew about the pro-
gram from my sister, Noga, and just knew
I had to be part of it as well. This summer
I am working with Avodah campers — a
program for adults with special needs.
The lessons I have learned will not fade
away. They have inspired me to do more."
Family To Family
Through the program, parents of camp-
ers also step up to become active leaders
in the Israeli region and Detroit. The
Findling family is an example: Darren
and Alyson Findling, Darren's brother,
Daniel, and wife, Lisa, all of Huntington
Woods, and Darren's parents, Fred and
Luba Findling of Farmington Hills,
together have hosted more than 30 Israeli
campers and Scouts over five summers
of the program.
Recently, in celebration of their daugh-
ter Emily's bat mitzvah, Darren and
Alyson took their family to Israel where
they were able to reunite with their
extended Israeli campers' family for a
Seder supper. Like so many families here
in Jewish Detroit, the Findings continue
to open their homes to welcome Israeli
campers and staff members as family.
In visits to Israel, the connections
between hosting families and Israelis
can manifest themselves in surprising
and touching ways. Darren recalls a mis-
sion to Israel several years ago when,
by coincidence, he ran into a group of
Israeli officers on Ammunition Hill in
Jerusalem, the site of a fierce battle dur-
ing the Six-Day War in 1967. He heard a
Top: Camp Maas Director Lee
Trepeck with Israeli campers
Bottom: Israeli Teen Service Staff
members Or Klein and Naama Beeri
young woman call out to him, "Darren?"
He turned to find a former camper his
parents had hosted standing before him,
a grown woman, now a soldier and offi-
cer in training.
"I will never forget my experience at
Tamarack," she told him. "In fact, that
experience made me an officer and the
leader I am today."
"It was just amazing;' Darren recalls.
"When I first met her she was a kid away
from home for the first time. To see her
in Israel, transformed to a confident
young adult, was so gratifying, and more
thanks than I could ever ask for." ❑
Vivian Henoch is editor and writer for
MyJewishDetroit.org , powered by the Jewish
Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, where this
story first appeared. Follow on Twitter