Blog  Our Hearts are in the East

Our Hearts are in the East

Members of the mishlachat (Israeli Delegation) with a sign that hangs in our Dining Hall.

Members of the mishlachat (Israeli Delegation) with a sign that hangs in our Dining Hall.

by Alex Glass, Assistant Camp Director

URJ Camp Coleman has a deep and rich connection with Israel. Each summer we hire approximately 25 shlichim (emissaries from Israel) to Cleveland to bring a piece of Israel to Coleman. This summer has been particularly unique for these shlichim and our Israel education at Coleman due to the situation in Gaza.Though we as Americans cannot understand exactly what our Israeli staff are feeling, we know that it is our responsibility to support them in any way we can. We brought in a Hebrew speaking Israeli-American  social worker to camp to help the shlichim unpack their thoughts about the unique situation in which  they find themselves- filling their important roles as Israeli ambassadors at a Jewish camp in America while wrestling with the desire to be with family and friends in Israel during these trying times.

Members from the Coleman community before the rally in Atlanta.

Members from the Coleman community before the rally in Atlanta.

This past week we heard about the Atlanta Stands with Israel rally hosted by the Jewish Federation of Atlanta. We were delighted that one of our Israeli staff members, Barak, was asked to be a keynote speaker at the rally. Barak is currently still serving in the Israeli Defense Force and is taking two and a half months of his service time to serve as a shaliach at URJ Camp Coleman; before he left for Camp he was stationed in Gaza. The rally provided him with a perfect opportunity to share his story as well as the stories of the delegation. Through these experiences, Barak and the other shlichim have been able to find the exact purpose of their shlichut (mission). Our campers and staff appreciate everything they learn about Israel, its people, culture, history, and operations, and this event gave the shlichim an extra chance to bring meaning to their shlichut as they educated the entire camp community.

A group of our staff including Omer Gady (our Rosh Mishlachat or Head of the Israeli Delegation) and Danielle Steinhart (our Social Worker) accompanied Barak to the rally. We proudly shared a portion of Barak’s speech (seen in the video below) with all of the campers and staff at Coleman the next day, which truly lifted the spirits of the Israeli staff here at Camp. Barak and Omer shared that they didn’t realize how strongly the Atlanta community supports Israel, and they spread their enthusiasm to other members of the delegation.

We will continue to support our Israeli campers and staff and will continue to ask for shalom (peace) in Israel. Though Israel may seem far away, the country and its people remain close in our hearts, thoughts, and prayers. May the One who makes peace on high, bring peace unto us, to all of the inhabitants of the world, and to all of Israel.