By Faygie Levy Holt - Chabad.org JewQ educates students who learn…
At CKids Gan Israel of Wisconsin, an immersive overnight experience of authentic Yiddishkeit has left the campers transformed.
Tamara C. is decidedly not a camp person. She doesn’t do sleepovers and has never been to Camp Gan Israel. But when her parents heard about the new CKids Gan Israel camp for girls opening in Wisconsin, they convinced her to sign up.
“I’m always the shyest in my class,” says the 12-year-old. “I was pretty nervous to be away from home for eleven days with a bunch of girls I didn’t know.” Tamara also confesses the Jewish aspect made her apprehensive as well. While she always had a warm relationship with her Chabad rebbetzin, she had never kept Shabbos before. “Judaism was something we did a few times a year,” she says.
When she arrived at the picturesque campgrounds of CKids Gan Israel, Wisconsin, the first thing that struck her was how “friendly everyone was. It was so different from school,” she says. “I was able to be completely myself—silly, serious, spiritual, whatever!”
Tamara is one of 32 campers who joined CKids Gan Israel of Wisconsin. The immersive overnight camp with the authentic Yiddishkeit, caring counselors, and high-energy fun that Camp Gan Israel day camps around the world have become famous for.
“We were thrilled to have some of our favorite day camp counselors come back for the overnight camp,” says director Rabbi Avremi Schapiro, who runs the camp with his wife, Shaindy. “Counselors from our community who are both caring and fun totally make the experience.”
The third camp to join the CKids Gan Israel family, Ckids Gan Israel of Wisconsin, is headquartered out of scenic Waupaca, Wisconsin, and serves the surrounding states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota and even Ontario.
With archery, canoeing, swimming, field trips, and up-to-date bunkhouses, the 11-day girls camp was followed by an 11-day boys camp, both a project of Lubavitch of Wisconsin, headed by Rabbi Yisroel Shmotkin.
As the end of camp looms, campers and counselors are holding onto every minute. “There’s been a lot of growth. A lot of children are finding themselves,” says Shaindy Schapiro.
The big picture plan is to open ten new overnight camps by 2030, a goal announced earlier this year by Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, executive director of Merkos 302. “More than any other CKids program, we’ve seen a huge impact when it comes to camps—and especially sleepaway camps,” explained Rabbi Zalmy Loewenthal, Director of CKids at Merkos 302.
This summer, CKids Gan Israel of South Florida opened for its third year with over 100 campers, while CKids Gan Israel of Europe launched in Denmark.
As Tamara packs up her suitcase, she hopes to take home not only the art projects she made or the prizes she won. “I’ve been a different person here in camp,” she says. “I’ve connected to friends like never before, and I want to try to bring that back with me.”
Sixty Jewish boys and girls from all across North America experienced their heritage in a fun and immersive way this summer, thanks to CKids Gan Israel Wisconsin. CGI Wisconsin has launched a campaign to help cover the tremendous costs. Click here to help give these kids a Jewish summer that will stay with them for the rest of their lives
To find out more about CKids Gan Israel, visit Ckids.org/camp.