The Values of Camp: What it means to be a Zionist Camp

posted by on Oct 24, 2019

Zi·on·ist

/ˈzīənəst/
Noun

  1. a supporter of Zionism; a person who believes in the development and protection of a Jewish nation in what is now Israel.

 

It’s no secret that CYJ-Texas is a supporter of Israel, but did you know that we’re actually part of the oldest Zionist youth movement in America? Zionism is at the heart of everything we do at CYJ, just like Israel is at the heart of Jewish life! 

If you’ve never been to CYJ, you might be wondering how we nurture a deep connection with Israel for our campers, even though we’re all the way in Texas and many of our young campers have never been abroad. We foster that connection through our programs about Israeli culture, sessions with the Israeli scouts, and support of the Tzofim Friendship Caravan. Over the course of their time at CYJ, campers build a relationship with the Holy Land and come to recognize it as a home for all Jews.

The People

A large delegation of staff come from Israel every summer. We love that our campers have the opportunity to make personal contacts with Israelis of all types. Many of our campers will meet their Israeli staff again in later years when they have the opportunity to go overseas! Who knew that little old Wimberley could nurture such connections and create an international family?

The Language

When we use camp terms at CYJ—like counselors (madrichim), activities (peulot), dining hall (chadar ochel), or rest time (menucha)—we replace common English phrases with their Hebrew translations. This small habit brings the sounds and rhythm of the Jewish state to Camp, bringing the experience of Israeli life just that much closer to our hearts.

Our Pastimes

From the dodgeball-like Israeli game of Gaga to our Israeli dances to Israeli songs, day-to-day life at CYJ is saturated with cultural experiences from the Holy Land. One of our favorite nights at Camp is Erev Israel – a night of Israeli clothes, decorations, and cuisine, celebrating our Israel connection together as a camp!

Educational Peulot

Every aidah (age group) has unique educational programs that incorporate some element of Israeli learning. The Maginim campers (rising 6th graders) spend their summer studying Israeli culture and values, while the Tsofim campers (rising 5th graders) learn about the modern state of Israel, its geography, and the societies that live there. One of the most special days of the summer is the unforgettable Bogrim “Army Day,” where rising 8th graders learn about building a new society, as the Zionist pioneers did, and get a feel for what it takes to be part of the Israeli Army.  

Caravan Show

Every summer, CYJ is visited by a delegation of Israeli Scouts, a popular youth group in Israel. Several of these “Scout Caravan” delegations travel across America each summer, visiting Jewish youth to sing, dance, and teach about their lives in Israel. Our campers LOVE the Caravan show, and we’re so happy we can host the Scouts every season!

When our campers return home at the end of camp, their connection to the Holy Land is stronger than ever. They have interacted with members of our Jewish family from Israel, and they understand that Israel is there to be a safe home for them. For us at CYJ-Texas, that’s what it means to be a Zionist camp.