By Yakir Havin This year’s CKids Retreat at the Bushkill…
To most people, it is inconceivable to open an overnight camp amid the worst pandemic the world has seen in a century, but to Chabad this was an opportunity to increase mega light during a period of increased darkness that could not be passed over.
Chabad has had the biggest Jewish day camp network in the world for decades, and the time to build a global Chabad overnight camping network was long overdue. Plans were underway at Merkos 302 for a pilot camp in South Florida when the coronavirus hit. As lockdowns were imposed and stay at home orders enthused, the fate of this initiative was left hanging in the air.
No one could tell you in April or May if camps were going to be safe to open, but here at headquarters, we were getting prepared if the opportunity presented. And with G-ds help it did.
Billed as ‘The Ultimate Jewish Camp Experience,’ the brand new CKids Gan Israel is launching a magnificent ten-day camp session for boys from grades four to seven that boasts a wide range of exciting summer activities in a Jewish atmosphere. With an incredible camp program in place and safety protocols in place from the Florida Health Department and applicable CDC guidelines, CKids Gan Israel is poised to deliver a magnificent summer for up to 50 campers. The energy was palpable as enrollment soared to near capacity in less than one week.
“We are witnessing the start of something extraordinary,” says Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Vice Chairman of Merkos and Chairman of Ckids International. “We are only starting in Florida, but we intend to build many camps throughout North America and beyond.”
Hosting the camp this year is Rabbi Yossi Biston of Camp Gan Israel Florida in his beautiful campsite in Lake Worth, Florida. “The boys have been cooped up indoors for so long”, says Rabbi Biston, “we just had to give them the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and connect with other Jewish children like them.”
The professional and experienced staff, led by directors Rabbi Levi and Chaya Plotkin and head counselors Mendy Plotkin and Yisroel Posner, come with years of CGI experience and are committed to the fun, safety, and care of the campers. “The Rebbe strongly encouraged shluchim to send their community children to camp,” says Rabbi Plotkin. “At one Farbrengen in 5747, the Rebbe urged every shliach and shlucha to forget meetings and committees and rather practically start working on sending the children to camp. The Rebbe said then, ‘You should be able to point with your finger and say: These are the children who have been brought to chinuch hakasher through my work in 5747.’ Our goal is to point out the children of 5780 the same way.”
“This overnight option is way overdue,” says Layah Kievman of Chabad of Highland Lakes, Florida. “We always felt terrible when we couldn’t offer more to a child who outgrew our camp and begged to continue one somehow. Now we have this amazing opportunity for them. And the community has embraced this camp with as much enthusiasm as we have!”
Kievman is part of the camp’s overseeing vaad comprised of Florida shluchim. Members also include her co-director Rabbi Moishe Kievman, Rabbi Yosef and Chani Konikov of Chabad South Orlando, Rabbi Mendy and Nechama Dina Tennenhaus of Chabad of North East Hollywood, Rabbi Yosef and Shainy Raichik of Chabad of Boynton Beach, and Rabbi Yossi and Baila Rochel Biston of Chabad of Parkland.
“We’re excited to elevate the day camp programming to an immersive Jewish experience,” says Rabbi Zalman Loewenthal of CKids. “And we’re looking forward to a truly fantastic and safe summer.”
Registration is near full and will be closing on Friday, June 12th so visit CKidsGanIsrael.com to learn more about the camp and to register.
To sponsor a child please contact firstname.lastname@example.org