Home Featured Stories A life-changing summer camp Shlichut experience

A life-changing summer camp Shlichut experience

Shahar at Camp Young Judea Sprout Lake in New York in July.

Editor’s Note: The following article and photos were featured in the July issue of “Currents,” published by the Jewish Agency for Israel. In September, Shahar will come to Richmond as our Community Shaliach with the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond. The Reflector will include more in future issues on Shahar and his activities in Richmond.

(Above) Shahar has some fun with campers. This year, in partnership with Jewish Federations across North America, The Jewish Agency sent 1,500 Shlichim to 158 camps across North America to create lasting bonds with campers and forge connections to Israel.

For the third summer, Shahar, a Jewish Agency Summer Camp Israeli emissary, has returned to Camp Young Judea Sprout Lake in upstate New York, his ‘home away from home.’

The first time Shahar came to Camp Young Judea Sprout Lake, a co-ed Jewish overnight camp, he had an amazing time as a Jewish Agency Summer Camp Shaliach (Israeli emissary). That incredible experience at Sprout Lake is why he arrived back at camp in mid-June for his third summer.

“That first summer was the best summer of my life by a long shot and I felt like I didn’t want it to end so I decided to keep coming back,” shared Shahar, 23, who was born and raised in Mishmar Ayalon, a small settlement located in the central district of Israel.

Shahar added, “I feel like camp became my home away from home and everyone in it is my second family. I knew I had more to give to camp so I decided to come back for a third summer.”

Each year, The Jewish Agency recruits charismatic and energetic young Israelis to travel abroad as Summer Camp Shlichim (Israeli emissaries) in North America, where they work in Jewish summer camps as counselors, specialists and educators.

They participate fully in camp life, sharing Jewish traditions, teaching Israeli and Jewish culture, and serving as role models for campers and staff. In 2023, 1,500 Shlichim are working at 158 camps across North America.

“Before coming to camp, I underwent training by The Jewish Agency, where we were taught how to connect with the local staff, how to bring our stories and our Israel into camp, some of the rules and regulations of summer camps, and practiced simulations of different scenarios we might face or find ourselves in throughout the summer,” Shahar explained. “And at the end of the training, they say ‘a successful Shlichut (emissary service) is one that you take with you back home’ and I truly believe in doing that.”

In his previous two summers, Shahar’s positions included being an in-bunk counselor, a nature specialist – in charge of the petting zoo and the garden – and a woodworking specialist.

This year, he is the head of all the nature programs and trips and a unit head of an age group at camp. In all his roles, his favorite part continues to be getting to interact with the campers, many of whom return year after year, which means Shahar has gotten to bond with them, creating special moments and inside jokes, deepening their relationships each summer.

“A lot of the kids at camp have never been to Israel before, so all their knowledge about the Jewish State comes from friends and family members, or if they’re lucky, then their Jewish day school. That’s why having Shlichim at camp is so important – because we can make those personal connections and bring our unique stories and perspectives firsthand, educating them about our beautiful country,” said Shahar.

“And that’s only one side of the coin,” Shahar added. “Throughout the summer, we Shlichim learn so much too: about the local culture (which varies from state to state), the history of North America, the different kinds of Judaism that most Israelis have never heard of or seen before and so much more!”

Shahar’s time at Sprout Lake has truly changed his life: not only did he meet his girlfriend at camp, but his experience has inspired him to take his Shlichut up a notch.

“Being a camp Shaliach made me want to be a longer-term Shaliach, where I’d serve a North American Jewish community for two or three years,” stated Shahar.

“So, I’m excited to be continuing my Shlichut journey in September, when I’ll be moving to Richmond, Virginia, to be a Jewish Agency emissary at their Jewish Federation!”

For more on JAFI and its summer Shlichut experiences, visit www.jewishagency.org/summer-camp-shlichim/.

Shaliach Programs are made possible by your support of the JCFR Annual Campaign and our partners at the Jewish Agency for Israel.