JCC’s Israeli camp counselor
By Alisa Thomas, Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton
Children in grades K to six saw a new face this summer at the DJCC’s Camp Shalom and learned more about life in the Jewish state along the way.
Shahaf Zur joined the camp staff as a shaliach (the Hebrew word for emissary), thanks in part to funding through a Jewish Federation Innovation Grant.
The summer shlichim program was made possible by a partnership between the JCC Association and the Jewish Agency for Israel; its aim is to infuse Israeli and Judaic programming into all facets of JCC camps.
The Jewish Agency is a major beneficiary of Dayton’s United Jewish Campaign.
Shahaf is the first Jewish Agency shaliach to work with the DJCC’s camp since 2006.
According to JCCA, the shlichim are drawn from Israelis between 21 and 30 who have military experience. They are sent to Jewish communities around the world.
A resident of Modi’in-Maccabim-Re’ut — situated between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem — Shahaf is 22. Though he visited the United States in 2007, this summer marked his first trip to Ohio.
“I grew up in a Zionist, military home, where I was taught to focus my energies on giving back to my country,” Shahaf said. “One of the ways that I found I could influence people most was to come to the U.S. and work with children at summer camp and give them a true sense of what is going on, what is happening in the real Israel — not just what they see on TV.”
Yale Glinter, the camp’s director, said that along with his knowledge of Israel, Shahaf brought his passion.
“He became involved in all facets of camp and really got to know the campers,” Yale said. “Both Camp Shalom and Shahaf developed a connection that will last beyond the summer.”
Camp Shalom was held during seven weeks in June and July on the campus of the Boonshoft CJCE in Centerville.
“I love it,” Shahaf said of camp. “When I leave at the end of the day, I can’t wait to come back. I am able to work with all age groups, and because of the size of Camp Shalom, instead of giving 100 percent of myself to each camper, I am able to give 200 percent to each camper. I am able to have more of an influence on them.”
In his free time, Shahaf visited the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, attended Dragons and Reds games, and took a weekend trip to Chicago.
What are Shahaf’s plans after Camp Shalom?
“I will be spending a few weeks in New Jersey, NYC and Boston before heading back to Israel, where I will take my SATs,” he said. “Then I will attend university, where I plan on studying economics and business management.”
He also plans to continue volunteering for the Jewish Agency.
“I love the U.S.,” he added. “Everyone has been so kind to me. I love the children and they have shown me love in return. Also, I want to thank my host families, who have been great. I really appreciate everyone and this experience.”