61 Chabad-Federation of Jewish Communities (FJC) summer camps opened their doors this season for an exciting summer vacation to young Jewish campers from all over the vast area of the former Soviet Union (FSU).
The 43 day-camps and 18 sleep-away camps in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia and other FSU countries are hosting over 5,000 children, providing them with clean and secure environment, hot nutritious meals and a wide variety of physical and intellectual activities, while the tuition is free of charge.
Gan Israel camps welcome Jewish children from all backgrounds between the ages of 5 to 15. Over the camps’ 25-year history in the FSU, the network proved to be one of the most powerful and charismatic ways to connect the children and youngsters to their Jewish identity, history and heritage in an informal and fun atmosphere, while also providing for their basic needs and keeping them safe off the streets.
The first few camps were opened in major urban centers such as Moscow, Kharkov and Dnepropetrovsk. With every year, new branches opened in smaller cities, some regional. Today there are 61 camps ranging in location from Siberia to Azerbaijan.
The camps have also gradually begun to employ locally trained counselors, as opposed to those from abroad, and young Jewish activists develop and lead programming and activities.
“Today we take the opportunity to reflect on the unique influence the camps have had on shaping the future of post-Soviet generations of Jewish children. The camps have been a vital part of the revival of Jewish life in the FSU,” said Daniel Gordon of the FJC. “We also consider how we can further develop to go hand-in-hand with today’s youth and their changing needs.”
The Gan Israel network is operated by the FJC in partnership with foundations and philanthropists and additional supporters across the world.