We come from far-flung communities and keep different customs, but all CYJers connect as parts of the Jewish family. For many of our campers, camp is the only place where they’ve been surrounded by kids like them, kids they don’t have to explain things to, who understand their cultural background. They get to see new sides of their people, learn new parts of their history and tradition, and make connections to their family living abroad.
Even further, CYJ campers can internalize the specialness of our people, our resiliency, and our accomplishment. And by learning more about how they fit into Judaism, they leave with greater ownership of their own identities.
All of our programming can be linked back to our four core Jewish principles. Though our campers represent the whole spectrum of Jewish upbringings, we believe our core principles can appeal to any denomination of our tribe:
Am Yisrael (Community): All Jews are part of one family. We instill in our campers a pride in their Judaism and a love of Israel.
Tikkun Olam (Repairing the World): Every member of our community has the power to make a real difference in the world.
Chesed (Kindness): We must show kindness to others no matter what.
Tzmicha (Personal Growth): Camp is all about learning and trying new things. Our campers leave each summer at CYJ as better versions of themselves.
JEWISH PROGRAMMING AT CAMP
The center of our daily Jewish programming is our morning t’fillot, or “prayer services”. Every day after breakfast, the camp divides into age groups for the classic CYJ Shacharit (morning service). We hope to familiarize our campers with the most fundamental prayers so that they can feel comfortable wherever they go in life. These groups may also discuss the meanings behind the prayers and consider how they relate personally to their messages. At times, we’ve offered a more traditional service for campers and staff when there is sufficient interest.
At meals, campers will learn the traditional pre-meal and post-meal blessings. In the educational segments of their afternoon activities, some of our campers will study more Jewish basics, like the customs of Shabbat and the major holidays of the year. A memorable project for our Chalutzim (incoming 4th graders) is their Kosher Hunt, where they use their new-found kosher expertise to scavenge a real grocery store for kosher items.
A SHABBAT AT CAMP
Shabbat is a very special time at camp, the highlight of the week for many CYJers. It’s a time where we step back from our normally action-packed schedule and relax, stay in the moment, and connect with each other in a deeper way. No one in the world does Shabbat quite like CYJ-Texas, which could explain why so many alumni think back on it so fondly.
CYJ is a shomer Shabbat camp, meaning we don’t use electricity or fire, write, play instruments, or do any other work from Friday night to Saturday night. Normal activities end early on Friday afternoon, giving the whole camp time to clean up the camp grounds and change into their best Shabbat outfits.
If you asked a historian a hundred and fifty years ago if they thought a displaced people, with no unified language or location, could one day rebuild an autonomous state in their ancestral homeland after almost 2 millennia… they’d tell you your dream was simply impossible.
As part of the oldest Zionist youth movement in America, Camp Young Judaea-Texas has always made Israel a central part of our summer experience. Even further, we strive to instill in our campers the sense that Israel is critically important to the life of the modern Jew.
With pride, we teach our campers:
The autonomous Jewish state of Israel has a fundamental right to exist.
The accomplishments of the Israeli people in the last seven decades are incredible and worth being proud of!
Israel is a wonderful place to visit, to learn, and to live!
The people of Israel are our family and we should support them!
Am Yisrael Chai!
ISRAEL PROGRAMMING AT CAMP
Our homeland is a part of everything we are at Camp:
The People: A large delegation of staff come from Israel every summer. We love that our campers can make personal contacts with Israelis, and many of them in later years manage to meet up again in Israel! Who knew that little old Wimberley could create worldwide connections that often last a lifetime?
Our Pastimes: From the dodgeball-like Israeli game of Gaga, to our Israeli dances, to Israeli songs, day to day life at CYJ is saturated with cultural experiences from the Holy Land. The biggest example of this is of course during Israel day, an all out celebration of Israel where our Israeli staff share their favorite Israeli food, games, and songs with CYJ.
OTHER ISRAEL PROGRAMS
Educational Peulot: Every aidah (age group) has unique educational programs that they do in the afternoons, and all of them incorporate some element of Israeli content. Most of all is the Maginim (rising 6th graders), who spend their whole summer studying Israeli culture and values, and the Tsofim (rising 5th graders), who learn about the modern state of Israel, the land, and the societies who live there. Also of special note is the Bogrim (rising 8th graders), who learn all about the IDF during the unforgettable “Army Day”!
Caravan Show: Every summer, CYJ is visited by a delegation of Israeli scouts, a popular youth group in Israel. Several of these “Scout Caravan” delegations travel across America, visiting Jewish youth to sing, dance, and teach about their lives in Israel. Our campers LOVE the caravan show and we’re so happy we can host the scouts every season!
Rikud is taught to every aidah (age group) a few times a week and culminates in our All-Camp Rikud right after Havdallah every Saturday night. Everyone loves Rikud and is so excited to dance to all of the songs they have learned during the week! Below are links to some of our favorite Rikud songs so you can have your own Rikud sessions at home!
Hebrew at Camp
We have campers with a whole range of Hebrew exposure—from our Israelis who speak Hebrew at home to campers who’ve never learned a single letter.
Our use of Hebrew is very accessible. Rather than conversing in the language, we just replace certain camp terms with their Hebrew counterparts. So instead of calling the room where we have meals our “dining hall” we call it the Chadar Ochel; instead of “counselors” we call them madrichim. It may take a couple of days to get the hang of, but you can see how any camper could pick up the lingo while learning some Hebrew.
B’nai Mitzvah Practice
If requested in advance, counselors can oversee a camper’s bar or bat mitzvah preparation. Studying would be scheduled during the daily rest hour and can occur as often as a parent prefers. Be sure to discuss your expectations with your child before sending them to camp, and don’t forget to include the necessary study materials when packing for the summer.