By Lori Sagarin, Chalutzim Segel (faculty) and Director of Congregational Learning at Temple Beth Israel in Skokie, IL.
Of the many unique and creative programs offered at OSRUI, Chalutzim, a 7-week Hebrew immersion program, stands out among others as it is the only one of its kind in North America.
Begun in the 1960’s by a group of Chicago rabbis who were “meshuga l’davar,” single mindedly focused on the importance of Hebrew in the lives of Reform youth, Chalutzim was created to bring an appreciation and what was hoped to be a lifelong commitment to the Hebrew language.
This year, after years of success (90+ chanichim (campers) last summer), the OSRUI faculty and staff began to look at ways to bring some creativity into the way in which rising 10th graders prepare for their summer. In the past, passing a written test was the only path to entry. This year, several options have been made available, including one that created a community of pre-Chalutzim chanichim. Held on Presidents’ Day weekend at OSRUI, Chalutzim B’Choref or Chalutzim in the Winter made its inaugural debut. Twelve chanichim along with madrichim (counselors) and segel (faculty) joined in for the weekend creating a community of Hebrew learners who ate, prayed, cooked and scavenged around camp.
Beginning with Shabbat together, the chanichim and the adults with them joined in with Veida, 150 NFTY leaders from throughout the U.S. who were also spending the weekend at OSRUI. Moving worship experiences and lights out programs combined with Shulchan Ivrit (Hebrew speaking tables) helped to make Shabbat meaningful. A scavenger hunt in Hebrew on a cold February afternoon was just the thing to increase Hebrew usage and build community. A Master Chef competition replete with teams, timers and delicious Israeli food rounded out the time together.
Online Hebrew classes are taking place currently as another alternative to the Chalutzim exam. Chanichim meet with faculty members through the Zoom platform to learn and speak Hebrew.
Camp opens in a few short months and these Chalutzim chanichim are ready to speak רק עיברית!