past summer, I was fortunate enough to be a counselor for Kefiada, which is an
English-immersion summer camp for children in Kiryat Gat, Israel. Kiryat Gat is
part of JUF’s Partnership region of Kiryat Gat-Lachish-Shafir, and Kefiada is
just one of the many programs that brings people from both regions together.
Through this experience, I’ve had an incredible time learning, immersing myself
in Israeli culture, meeting people, and reflecting on my own Jewish identity.
landed in Ben Gurion in late June and went on to meet my host family for the
summer. A special part about Kefiada is that the American counselors get to
stay with host families in Kiryat Gat. My host mom, Liah Erez, was a Kefiada camper
when she was a child. Her two children have been campers there as well. Living
with a host family is a unique experience, and one that I am forever grateful
for. Through this experience, I got to see what it was like to live with an
Israeli family, go on adventures with them, meet their extended family and
friends, and truly become a part of their family. The connections I created
were very special and will stay with me for a long time to come.
Kefiada, the counselors from Chicago all had Israeli co-counselors and our own
groups of campers. My campers were entering 4th grade. Each day had a different
theme, and we planned activities and went on field trips to engage them in a
stimulating environment and help teach them English. Kefiada campers are 4th-6th
graders, and Kefiada serves as a bridge over the summer to strengthen their
English. I have a heart for working with
kids, and this experience was incredible. Even though we had a language
barrier, learning to communicate with them through gestures, Google translate,
and my broken Hebrew made it exciting. It was even more exciting when they
gained English skills and I got to cheer them on. From the time that my campers
made their own costumes and had an impromptu fashion show, to the time that we
had a lip synch battle and performed for the whole camp, there was never a dull
moment. These kids will be in my heart for a very long time, and I miss them
special component of Kefiada were the connections we made with our Israeli
co-counselors. We had designated social evenings where we all got to come
together outside of camp to build our own bonds. We started with a weekend in
Tel Aviv, and continued the bonds built there for the rest of the summer when
we got to do a chocolate-making workshop, experience life on a Moshav,
volunteer at an immigration absorption center, take a theatre class together, and
so much more. By the end of a program, we really were a family. I loved hearing
about their lives and gaining a deeper understanding of the complexities of
living in Israel.
While I don’t have blood relatives in Israel, I
know that whenever I visit in the future, I will always have family in Kiryat
Gat. The Kefiada experience is so unique and like nothing I have done before. I
learned how to navigate Israeli public transportation, communicate with others
in a language I don’t speak, understand what life is like in an Israeli home,
form invaluable connections with other counselors, staff, and campers, learn
about myself and my connection to Judaism and Israel, and further establish a
love for our partner region. Kefiada was a fantastic experience, and I am now
proud to be a part of the large Kefada family!
Learn more about being a counselor on Kefiada this summer here!
About the Author: Abbey Finn is a current junior at the University of Illinois studying special education. She is from Arlington Heights and has been involved with JUF in different capacities since high school.