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Summer

Summer

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Summer is supposed to mean relaxation and vacations as school ends and life slows down. But for families who have experienced terror and war, the painful losses do not go away during the summer. It is at this time especially that children, without the structure of school, suffer even more the fear and anxiety that terror, rocket attacks, bombings and war cause.

CTVP has organized a broad array of day camps, overnight camps, and family getaways to enable these families to have a much-deserved respite from the ongoing challenges they face daily.

Financial assistance is provided so that the children can attend these camp programs which are specially structured

Summer’s underway!

 Summer’s underway!

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The first group of children from families devastated by terror, have now begun their programs in our day camps and overnight camps.
The camps – some from our Gan Israel Day Camp system, some other camps – are scattered throughout Israel. The children are enjoying the normal schedule of camp activities but there is an added component that addresses directly the trauma the chil­dren have experienced. This includes work­shops and special programs geared to an understanding of the situations the chil­dren have gone through, and how to help them heal emotionally and psychologically.
We work directly with the staff members at each of the camps involved as well as with our psychological advisory team to ensure that the children not only have a carefree, wonderful summer, something every child deserves, but that they also have the sup­port and help they need to overcome the trauma they have experienced.
We want to share one touching story with you that illustrates well the impor­tance of these camps and of all of CTVP’s unique work.
We were recently approached by a wom­an who had been widowed some years ago when her husband was killed in a bus bombing in Jerusalem. Her children were very small when the tragedy occurred. But now, they are at an age where they can be­gin to understand their loss and the horror of how their father died.
The mother felt that they needed even more help now than they did in the begin­ning. So we increased our involvement by getting the children into our summer camp programs and directly involving a psychol­ogist to work with them.
The fresh air and sense of normalcy that the camps provide are already helping these children and indirectly their mother as well. This is yet one more example of the life-sustaining work we accomplish to­gether through CTVP and its broad array of programs. Thank you
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Hundreds of Children from Sderot Enjoying Summer Camp

Hundreds of Children from Sderot Enjoying Summer Camp 

63050_18_15932_3066113594.jpgHundreds of children from the beleaguered town of Sderot are finding urgently needed rest and relaxation in a special summer camp program under the auspices of Chabad of Sderot. The program is being directed by Rabbi Zev Pizem.

The people of Sderot suffer greatly from ongoing Qassam rocket attacks fired from nearby Gaza. In fact, a recent study has revealed that fully 71% of the children of Sderot experience severe post-traumatic stress symptoms due to prolonged exposure to terrorist attacks over many years. The need for these children to have even a small amount of time away from the continual stress is critically important.

63050_15_21023_650827445.jpgJust being away in the countryside has helped to restore calm and balance to the children’s lives. They are able to run and play without continually being concerned about when the next rocket will be fired, and where it will land.

When registration was opened for this summer camp program, Rabbi Pizem and his staff were overwhelmed at the number of applicants. Parents came in droves to sign up their children knowing the importance of such a program.

The program includes a broad range of regular summer camp activities supplemented by special programs to help the children cope with the emotional stress they suffer and to help reinforce their spiritual strength.

63050_25_22578_3110722272.jpgIncluded in the programs are arts and crafts, sports activities of all sorts, challah baking, trips to various recreational areas throughout Israel, boat rides, a trip to the Biblical Museum, and much more.

The grateful parents, seeing the extraordinarily positive effects of the camp on their children, pleaded for the program to please be extended. Chabad of Sderot were able to do so and expanded the program to three weeks to give the children the maximum benefit.

Israeli Guests Enjoying New Jersey Summer of Peace

 Israeli Guests Enjoying New Jersey Summer of Peace

The warm summer sun shining as children take part in outdoor activities is something that some people may take for granted. For 10 girls from Israel who are currently visiting Monmouth County‚ experiencing summer fun is something they are doing for the first time in a long while.

Rebecca Morton - newstranscript

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 Young women from the town of Sderot‚ Israel‚ are visiting the area this month as part of a program sponsored by Chabad of Western Monmouth County. The youths are spending their days at the Gan Israel day camp in Monroe Township‚ Middlesex County‚ and living with host families.

 

The warm summer sun shining as children take part in outdoor activities is something that some people may take for granted. For 10 girls from Israel who are currently visiting Monmouth County, experiencing summer fun is something they are doing for the first time in a long while.

 

 

The girls, who are between the ages of 12 and 15, are from the city of Sderot, which is less than one mile from Gaza. For the past eight years, according to the girls, their community has been under a constant barrage of rocket and mortar fire from the Palestinian-controlled Gaza Strip.

But for now the girls are enjoying a New Jersey summer. They are Yarden Ohana, Noa Amsalam, Shani Sara, Ofir Biton, Eden Sabag, Sarit Ben Hamu, Stav Cohen, Lior Azran and twins Bar Ben David and Meitar Ben David. Chani Piamenta and Sara Mauda are their chaperones.

As part of a group of 112 children from Sderot, the 10 girls are attending the Chabad of Western Monmouth County's Gan Israel day camp in Monroe Township, Middlesex County. The rest of the children are visiting day camps throughout the United States and Canada. Another group of 30 youngsters was sent from Sderot to Belgium.

Rabbi Boruch Chazanow of Chabad of Western Monmouth County greeted the group at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on July 2 and brought the girls and their chaperones to stay with host families in the Manalapan area.

"We want to give the kids a worry-free summer in a loving community," the rabbi said.

Rabbi Chazanow said the grassroots effort was developed among 11 camps across the United States that worked with a rabbi in Sderot to locate children who were interested in leaving their country for a month.

Summers in Sderot are usually spent indoors, since residents of the town must be near shelter at all times. Rabbi Chazanow said that when an attack siren sounds, residents have about 20 seconds before the incoming rockets strike their target. It is because of that short response time that many families spend their nights sleeping in a bomb shelter.

The rabbi explained that Eden, 15, was not going to make the trip to Manalapan, but after her home was hit by a missile a few weeks before the girls left Sderot, her parents wanted her to travel to American and to get her mind off the troubles at home. Eden's family was sleeping in a bomb shelter and no one was seriously injured during that attack.

An April report released by the U.S. Department of State stated that from mid- June through mid-December 2007, a total of 428 Qassam rockets and 590 mortar shells were fired from Gaza toward Israeli civilians and soldiers. A majority of the rocket launches from Gaza toward Israel were targeted at Sderot.

It is estimated that one out of every three children in Sderot suffers from posttraumatic stress disorder, according to a press release from the Chabad of Western Monmouth County.

The Israeli girls are spending their days with other children at Camp Gan Israel taking part in activities such as swimming and making friends with their fellow campers. Rabbi Chazanow described the camaraderie that can be seen among all of the campers and said many children will now have pen pals from the opposite side of the world.

In the evening, members of the Chabad of Western Monmouth County have volunteered their skills and are helping their guests from Israel craft items such as jewelry, tote bags and scrapbooks. On the weekends, special trips keep the group busy.

One of the girls' first trips was to Manhattan, where they were treated to a ferry ride and a close look at the Statue of Liberty, as well as a trip to the top of the Empire State Building. Of all the sights they saw, the girls were definitely impressed by Times Square and the wide array of stores for them to shop in. The Israeli teenagers do not speak a lot of English, but they have quickly learned the word "shopping."

The girls eagerly spoke about the items they bought for themselves and for their loved ones back home, including New York City memorabilia. Manhattan eateries Mr. Broadway and Kosher Delight provided the group with meals during their visit to the city. In Manalapan, local kosher restaurants have donated lunches and dinners to the group during their stay.

Ofir, 14, said she enjoyed a trip to Six Flags Great Adventure theme park in Jackson. She said she wanted to get out of the day-to-day life she knows in Israel, meet new people and enjoy a calm summer.

The Israeli teens described the life they lead, one spent mostly indoors. Going to dinner or spending time at the mall like many teenagers do is not something they can enjoy.

"We live from rocket to rocket," said Shani, 14, who went on to say she is happy to have met good people and was able to see more than four walls.

Despite the safety the girls feel in New Jersey, they have expressed homesickness and have wondered how their families are back in Israel. Rabbi Chazanow said that when the girls ask about how many rockets have gone off since their departure, their families at home assure them not to worry themselves and to have fun.

The girls will return to Israel at the end of the month.

All of the young women unanimously agreed that they would love to visit the United States again to continue their sightseeing.

"We hope to raise awareness of the plight of the families living in Sderot. This is not just newsprint," the rabbi said, noting that the young women are the faces of children who are affected by what is happening there.

This is not the first time the Chabad of Western Monmouth County has supported the people of Israel. During two visits in 2004 and 2005, $50,000 was distributed to residents of Israel who lost loved ones due to terrorism.

When asked if Chabad will open its doors to more children from Israel next summer, Rabbi Chazanow said, "I hope by next summer their city will be safe (for them)."

Far From Sderot‚ Just Kids Again

Far From Sderot‚ Just Kids Again

For more than 100 youngsters‚ a summer camp idyll with bug juice instead of bombs.

Carolyn Slutsky from the jewish week

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 More than 100 children from Sderot enjoyed a summer of exploring cities‚ amusement parks and the joys of camp life in Manalapan N.J.‚ above‚ and Collegeville‚ Pa.‚ left. Photos courtesy of Chabad

 

Manalapan, N.J. — An act as simple as riding a bicycle barefoot around a covered pavilion, the sun beating down on the grassy fields surrounding her, is something Lior Azaran could not have dreamed of doing this summer back home in Sderot.

 


But this has been a summer of firsts for Lior and more than 100 other children from Sderot, the embattled city near the Gaza border where instead of swimming, bug juice and summer showers, children endure the weekly rains of Kassam rockets and a constant sense of terror.

The children have spent a month in American camps this summer through a Chabad program started by Rabbi Dan Rodkin last year. Rabbi Rodkin grew up in Soviet Russia attending an underground

yeshiva, and remembers being buoyed by the support of Jews halfway around the world. Last summer he brought 10 children from Sderot to his camp in the Boston area, and this summer he contacted colleagues at Chabad camps throughout the country, securing spots for 120 children at camps on the East and West coasts. The program was funded by George and Pamela Rohr and Morris and Lillian Tabacinic.

 

 

Lior and her friends at Camp Gan Israel in Manalapan, N.J., spent the past month acting the part of teenage girls instead of being confined to their homes during the day and sleeping together with other children in bomb shelters at night.

 

At camp they enjoyed swimming, fishing, biking and horseback riding. On their off days they visited amusement parks and toured Manhattan and Washington, D.C., taking in sites like the Empire State building and the White House and Israeli embassy. They went to 770, the Chabad headquarters on Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and to the Lubavitcher rebbe’s gravesite in Montefiore cemetery in Queens.

 

And, because they are teenage girls, they shopped.

 

“Even though we’re here, we’re still thinking about our family over there,” says Lior, a quiet girl with big eyes and light hair, as Rabbi Boruch Chazanow, the Manalapan Chabad director, interprets from Hebrew. “Here we were shown strength and support and we’re going to use that to strengthen our families and friends when we go back.”

 

“Here you can go out of your house without being scared,” says Ofir Biton, and the others gathered round a picnic table, making matzah after a lesson on the holiday of Passover in the early afternoon, nod in agreement.

 

“You’re able to walk in the street without looking for the nearest shelter,” says Noa Amselem. “Here you have an actual vacation in the summer.”

Rabbi Chazanow says that giving the children a break from home, where some of their houses have been destroyed or they or their families physically hurt, is a paramount goal. But he also adds that having the children at camp, housing them with local families, recruiting some women to do art projects with them and others to serve as chaperones on their many trips, leads to a greater awareness in the Jewish community about the reality of what is going on near the Gaza border every day.

 

At one time there were some 24,000 Jews in Sderot, but now that population has dwindled by 25 percent or more, according to estimates. Those families who can afford to leave their homes have, while others saddled with mortgages and no way to sell must remain.

 

 

“Hundreds of American Jewish children are becoming more aware of Israel,” says Rabbi Chazanow. “We also wanted to show the kids and their families how much the American Jewish community cares. This gives them strength.”

 

In Collegeville, Pa., the children from Sderot are younger than the girls in New Jersey but no less eager to be away from their beleaguered lives for a blessed summer break.

 

Here the girls gather in a circle to play a game where each jumps on the others’ foot; the last girl standing wins. To watch them play in the shady grove, wet children running from the pool past white wood bunks with green trim, frogs in their hands and flip-flops clopping, you would never know what they have been through.

 

 

You would not know that Eve, a pretty, intense 10-year-old wearing a camouflage jumper, was in a mall in Sderot when a rocket hit, throwing her down a flight of stairs and sending her to the hospital for weeks. You would not know that when a routine test siren went off in the first week of camp, the American children ignored it while the Sderot girls ran to the nearest doorway, reminded of home where the tzeva adom, or code red alert, means they have 15-20 seconds to race to a bomb shelter.

 

 

Chani Popack, an Israeli counselor who helps the girls communicate with their American counterparts, says that bringing them to the United States for the summer is not meant to make the children question their home city, but rather to give them a rest from the constant stress and reinforce them for when they return.

 

 

“Our goal is that they will go home to Israel stronger, we don’t want them to stay [here] but to realize how good Israel is,” she says. “We talk a lot about how Israel is the Promised Land and by us staying there, that’s how we’re saving it.”

 

Rochie Pink, the program director at Gan Israel in Collegeville, agrees. “We wanted the kids to re-energize, to go back to Sderot after they’ve been in a safe environment.”

 

Rabbi Moishe Brennan, the rabbi at Chabad of the Main Line outside Philadelphia, who has helped coordinate the children’s stay with local families, says that bringing them to camp gives them a level of freedom they could never experience back home.

 

“They’re able to run around not being scared of anything,” he says. “The concept is to give them a boost, it’s not a relocating project, we wouldn’t want to relocate them forever because they serve an important role where they are back home and we want them to continue to serve that vital role of Jewish people living in Israel and holding onto the land.”

 

For the American campers, the chance to meet the Israelis has been an eye-opening learning experience.

 

 

“I thought Sderot was a normal place just like everywhere else. I’ve learned it’s hard for them to live in Sderot. They’re learning from us and we’re learning from them,” says Avigail, a 10-year-old who lives in the Philadelphia area, sitting on a bench and watching while the girls from Sderot make thank you cards for their host families. “They learn life doesn’t always have to be hard.”

 

 

For Miriam Gerber, who with her husband Rabbi Zalman directs Gan Israel Collegeville, the chance to welcome the children from Sderot has been an extension of what she has always gleaned from the Lubavitcher rebbe.

 

 

“The rebbe always said Israel was the safest place, even in times of war,” said Rebbetzin Gerber. “The eyes of God are on it from the beginning of the year to the end. Israel has a special eye and people are encouraged to stay there and not run away.”

 

 

In addition to the Chabad program, another group of children from Sderot is spending a month at the Central Queens YM-YWHA’s Camp Edward Isaacs in upstate Holmes, N.Y.

 

Thanks to UJA-Federation’s Israel Emergency Fund, the kids enjoyed typical American activities like sports, swimming, arts and crafts, barbecues, as well as a trip to Manhattan where they toured the United Nations, Madame Tussauds, enjoyed lunch at the pricey Le Marais steakhouse, and shopped.

 

While she was relaxed and happy at lunch, Maya Fink, 13, has had to face a lot back home.

 

“It was kind of scary when all the bombs start falling,” she said. “We were really freaking out because we didn’t have safe places and we have to build everything so quickly.”

 

Though she’s grown used to the attacks, “we still live in fear,” she explained.
Roni Yasini, 15, another participant, said he definitely felt “a little bit more free,” here, as opposed to at home in Sderot. “It’s hard with the Kassam rockets falling all the time,” he said.

 

 

All the children head back to Israel this week, but they and the counselors, rabbis and new friends they met during their July respite hope they are fortified for the coming challenges.

 

In Sderot, if it is silent you know to anticipate a shower of Kassam rockets. On a farm in New Jersey, with goats and horses grazing and the smell of manure in the air, with children laughing and splashing in the pool, a rare moment of silence is, simply, silence.

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