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Camp TOV: Learning Jewish values through doing

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Avi Shapira

Last August, with only a few weeks left of summer, I was fortunate to participate in JUF’s Camp TOV, specifically for teens. I learned about the program through friends who had participated in prior years. Traveling around the Chicago area with a group of Jewish teens (and with fun counselors!) while learning about and the wide variety of social service organizations our JUF/Federation supports seemed like a fun opportunity.

Since I was very little, Jewish values of repairing the world (tikun olam) and acting with kindness (gemilut chasadim) have been woven throughout my studies at Chicago Jewish Day School and at home with my family.

Camp TOV gave me an up-close, hands-on opportunity to put those values to work by volunteering at a variety of non-profit organizations. Together we were able to make a meaningful difference for those in need, and I was surprised to learn that these organizations are there to help anyone in need, not just people in the Jewish community.

I also enjoyed Camp TOV because it was a unique opportunity for me to meet new teens from across Chicago and the suburbs, who I wouldn't have otherwise had the opportunity to meet. Together with a new group of friends, we stickered bags at The ARK, sorted books at Bernie's Book Bank, visited with the elderly at CJE SeniorLife, and prepared food packages at Feed My Starving Children.

My favorite parts were learning about philanthropy and making phone calls for a fundraising phonathon as well as visiting the Pushing the Envelope Farm where we learned about caring for our environment through a Jewish lens.

Camp TOV gave me a taste for what lies ahead as I consider which JUF programs I want to be involved in next as a high school student!


Registration for JUF’s Camp TOV and JUF’s Mini Camp TOV is open to entering 7th-12th graders from metropolitan Chicago. For more information and to register, visit

Avi Shapira is an eighth grader at Chicago Jewish Day School and a participant in JUF’s Camp TOV program.