by Ilana Axel, cantorial leader at Beth Tikvah Congregation in Hoffman Estates, IL, and Chalutzim segel.
A lot of excitement is in the air as week 4 began with a wonderful Mesibah – “Minion-sibah” – organized by Tiferet. Chalutzim was extremely well represented by 6 of our own amazingly talented chanichim – campers – chanichim. Chalutzim always has a lot of talent living in our cabins. This summer we also have a particularly large and gifted group of chanichim who not only play many different instruments, sing, dance, act, and draw – but are also quite skilled Torah readers. It is particularly exciting to see how much they take responsibility for preparing their Torah portions for Monday, Thursday, and Shabbat readings. Because, in Chalutzim, it is all about Hebrew, but, really, it is all about leadership. This group is a uniquely strong transitional unit from childhood to adulthood, and onward into the future leadership of the URJ in in particular and the Jewish people in general. To that end they spend 7 weeks in almost total Hebrew immersion. Sounds fun? Of course, but it can also start with challenges and is a bit intimidating. Even so, they are achieving their goals in leaps and bounds. The Hebrew learning continues to be a delight for me. My class of Chalutzim really want to learn how the language works and how to speak as much Hebrew as possible. They get down to the business of study and trial very quickly, even though it is summer vacation. It sometimes feels like working within a miracle incubator.
I also find Chalutzim to be very supportive of each other in small group discussions. I am able to discern many community building values being absorbed and integrated into these emerging young adults. In support of this amazing enterprise, besides camp specialists and faculty, are our caring a creative madrichim – counselors – madrichim from both Israel and the U.S. So much energy is invested in finding ways to help our youth speak Hebrew, learn about Israeli culture and history, take leadership roles in leading t’filot – prayers – t’filot and other programming, have fun, and simply enjoy a good summer camp experience – and all packed into a single day. T’filot at times are quite heartfelt and inspiring. This is no small feat, considering they are all in Hebrew and most are only beginning to pick up some richer vocabulary and customs for matters of the heart and spirit. All are working hard now to prepare for our Yom Horim – Parents Day – Yom Horim visit this coming Sunday. It looks like it will be a wonderful day.
One moment that really brought me joy was when, at the end of a Hebrew lesson, one of my students said joyously, “I really love Hebrew!” Her enthusiasm is pretty representative of the Chalutzim experience here. The excitement is building as we continue to prepare for the visit with parents, and continue to grow and get to know each other.
OSRUI is a lovely place. Lac La Belle is picturesque and the sunsets are often stunning. The sound of the water lapping against the shore when I take my early morning walks is very refreshing. But, for me, OSRUI is really about faces. It is about providing people – of all ages – with a safe place to grow.