Ukraine Family Camp

Last month, 80 campers of all ages spent six days together on the banks of the Dneiper River in Cherkassy, Ukraine to attend Masorti Ukraine’s annual Family Camp, which was held from June 28th-July 4th. This perennial attraction is open to Jewish families from across Ukraine and always generates a tremendous response, resulting in the camp being filled to capacity and many others being waitlisted.

The theme of this year’s camp was “From the Promised Land to the State of Israel” in honor of Israel’s 70th anniversary. Activities throughout the week were related to Israel, from Israel songs and dancing to a Shabbat lecture on women active in the early Zionist movement and founding of the State. Sunday’s activities were dedicated to the State of Israel and Aliyah and included a lesson on the Soviet Refuseniks and an all-Israeli Eurovision song contest. On Monday the campers started the day with an opulent Israeli breakfast and the counselors dressed up as historical figures associated with the land of Israel from biblical times until the present day and presented short skits on their characters. Characters covered included biblical figures such as Abraham, Deborah and King David to recent figures including Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, Ilan Ramon and Netta Barzilai.

As with all Masorti camps, Jewish religious practice had a central place at camp. Every day began with Shacharit, led by Rabbi Stamov, and there were special services held for Shabbat, including Torah reading and study sessions. All religious aspects were performed communally—from lighting Shabbat candles to the Oneg Shabbat. Another popular feature was the daily “ask a rabbi” session where the entire group was able to pose their own personal questions for Rabbi Stamov, which he would answer in front of the entire group. Also, for the first time, the camp was supervised by two Masorti Mashgichim—graduates of last year’s online Hashgacha course.

Family camp provides the unique opportunity for parents and children to have an immersive and interactive Jewish educational experience together, which they can bring home and incorporate into their own home lives. Camp was attended by 41 adults and 39 children from all across Ukraine. Participants came from the communities in Kiev, Chernowitz and Odessa as well as Kharkov, Berdichev and Belaya Tzerkov.

Organizers hope to expand the camp next year to allow for more participants, and also to increase programming to include more sports and Jewish content.