Yeshiva University’s 'Counterpoint Israel' Program Changes Lives Beyond the Classroom
The month-long program connects young Diaspora Jews with Israeli campers
(Counterpoint Israel Campers)
While some youth are biding their summer stint at the cottage or toiling through a dull summer job, New York City’s Yeshiva University has deployed its student volunteers to five student-run camps in Israel’s Dimona, Arad, Beer Sheva, Kiryat Gat and Kiryat Malachi to build a relationship with the next generation of Israelis in a unique summer camp experience.
From July 2-23, the Jewish values-driven camp will leave both its campers and counsellors with an experience of lasting consequence.
The month-long educational program goes beyond pitching tents and crooning campfire melodies. Its mandate is threefold: to inspire the younger Jewish generation, to teach English and other invaluable life lessons, and to culturally connect with 300 Israeli-campers from various social and economic groundings.
But the 60 handpicked undergraduate students from North America (two hailing from Toronto), the United Kingdom, and Panama who traverse the distance to lend a humanitarian hand and instruct English tutorials, find the experience indelibly transformative. The campers unwittingly help the counsellors nurture their Jewish identity and instigate a sense of civic responsibility.
“As counselors, we came to Israel with a goal, to teach Israeli campers English and provide them with a summer camp experience. Yet, we have learnt just as much from our campers, about leadership, dealing with day to day challenges, and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of hardships” remarks Naomi Gofine, a counsellor at Counterpoint’s campsite in Be'er Sheva.
(Naomi Gofine with a Be'er Sheva camper)
To prove its efficacy, a recent study conducted by the Center for the Jewish Future (CJF) saluted Counterpoint and its classes administered in English and workshops in arts, fashion, music, dance and sports as a foolproof blueprint for building Jewish identity and communities.
“Following last summer's successful program, we employed surveys, interviews and focus groups with Counterpoint campers and counselors, as well as municipal and regional professionals, in order to collect data that would conclusively prove that which we always thought to be the true, namely that Counterpoint changes lives,” commented Kiva Rabinsky, co-Director of Counterpoint Israel.
Chalked up as a success overseas, Counterpoint’s legacy is also felt back home in North America well after the camp comes to a close, raising up Jewish leaders of a certain caliber.
“So many leaders of Jewish communities throughout North America and in Israel are products of Counterpoint. As this innovative program marches on, it is exciting to think that the counselors and campers of today will be among the Jewish leaders of tomorrow,” says Rabbi Brander, the David Mitzner Dean of Yeshiva University's Center for the Jewish Future.