What does it mean to Be the One? We strive to teach our campers the importance of standing up for others, doing the right thing, and making the world a better place. But how do we do that?
This past Friday, we set out to find the answer. After months of planning and anticipation, we finally held our first ever Make a Difference Day. Every camper and staff member at Eisner participated in different volunteer projects both on camp and in our surrounding communities, as we dedicated the day to living the value of Tikkun Olam, repairing our world.
“Our smallest campers made a BIG difference,” said Wendy Grinberg, Eisner’s Director of Jewish Education, “by beautifying camp’s gardens and library, making new challah covers, and an extreme cleaning of all our spaces. We also baked challahs, wrote to our senators, and made decorations that will be donated to the Jewish Federation. We ended the day with an amazing in-camp rally, led by the campers, about all the ways kids can make a difference!”
Our older campers, who traveled off camp for their projects, volunteered at: Hevreh of Southern Berkshires; Construct, a Great Barrington-based housing organization; Riverbrook Residence, a local organization that works with women with intellectual and developmental disabilities; the Claire Teague Senior Center; the Naumkeag estate, where campers helped with gardening; the Railroad Street Youth Project; and Albany, where Tzofim and Olim met with lay and political leaders and advocates.
From Albany to the Eisner garden, we are so proud of the commitment and heart our campers and staff demonstrated on Friday. We took the values of Hineini to a whole new level!
Below, you will find some reflections from our campers, both about their volunteer work, and about different issues facing our country today. Enjoy!
Sandy Tecotsky, Chaverim:
“Today, me and a handful of my friends in my unit took a bus to Naumkeag, an estate filled with beautiful gardens, to assist with the upkeep of the greenery. We uprooted weeds from various locations in the gardens, and did whatever work we could to help those working at the gardens. Working with my hands, and physically doing work I know made a difference, gave me a feeling of self-worth, and a sense that I was contributing to the beauty of the Berkshires. In the Eisner Bubble, we don’t often have the chance to do work locally. It’s important for all of us to give back to the community that gave us such an incredible camp. At camp, we talk about how Judaism can be factored into our everyday lives, and how we can connect with our Judaism through the work we do. A core value of Judaism is tzedakah, and giving back is an opportunity like no other.”
“Gun violence is a big problem in America, but is it a big problem in all countries? Not necessarily. I live in Japan, and gun violence is not a problem. First of all, having a gun is illegal in Japan. No one has a gun. Every day I go to school, feeling safe. I don’t have to worry about my school being attacked by a shooter. But now that I’m in America to be at Eisner Camp, hearing all those stories of gun shootings has been making me really worried. I want gun shootings to stop. What’s the point of killing an innocent person? Coming from a place where gun shootings are unlikely, I can see how big the problem is in America. If guns were prohibited, gun shootings will be unlikely. You can feel safe going to school, and most importantly, many lives would be saved. Gun violence needs to stop.”
Jacob Liss, Chalutzim:
“School shootings are a very sad, disappointing, and scary time for all people. The March For Our Lives was a day when millions of people in the USA marched for kids who were killed in school shootings all across the world. Someone who my grandma knew was killed in the Parkland Shooting. To help as kids, we can raise money and go to marches to help support the people affected.”
Sam Lewis and Tyler Levan, Chalutzim:
“People are not turtles, they should not be separated from their parents as children like so many are. They do not come to bring violence, they come because they are fleeing violence and are in search of a better life. They should not be classified as illegal migrants because they are just regular people who deserve a better life. But people in government are judging them based on the places they’re from. I think that the migrants’ voices should be heard and not ignored. I think families should not be separated at the borders.”
Rachel Sinaiko and Willa Dowling, Chalutzim:
“We think that gender equality is something that this world needs, but doesn’t have. We feel that everyone is pretty much the same. We also think that stereotypes are pretty stupid. Girls can like what boys like and boys can like what girls like. No one should laugh at a boy wearing pink or a girl playing with toy cars. Everything is for everyone, and the key to making the world a better place is treating everyone as an equal. Thank you for taking your time to read this and we hope that you and everyone you know treats everyone, whatever the gender, equally.”
Sarah Schnee, Olim:
“For Make A Difference Day, Tzofim and Olim went to Albany for the morning to discuss topics people care about. Some of the topics were voting rights, reproductive rights, bullying, criminal justice reform, LGBTQ+ rights, hunger, and clean energy, among others. We spoke to members of the Reform Jewish Voice of New York and representatives of the state of New York about how to make change, whether social, political, or otherwise, through organizing and advocacy in our communities and cities when we return home after camp. We also listened to speakers who showed us that change starts with us, and we sang songs like Stand Up by Alan Goodis with Crane Lake campers. It was an amazing experience to go as Olim, and I loved talking to the RJV members who attended. Personally, I was able to share why I care for the two topics I chose, bullying and LGBTQ+ rights since I’ve been bullied for my size all my life and one of my parents is transgender and she has faced discrimination before. I had fun talking about these topics I care deeply about, and how to make change.