Counterpoint a “Winning Formula” for Identity Building and Communal Development; Initiative to Serve 300 Israeli Campers

Sixty undergraduate students from the United States, United Kingdom and Panama will serve as counselors in Israel on the eighth annual Counterpoint Israel Program of Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future (CJF).

The month-long immersive service-learning initiative aims to empower the next generation of Israeli youth via an exciting, Jewish values-driven summer camp experience while simultaneously instilling a sense of civic responsibility within its YU student volunteers. With the program returning to the communities of Arad, Dimona, Beer Sheva, Kiryat Gat and Kiryat Malachi, Counterpoint Israel will serve 300 Israeli campers from varied socio-economic backgrounds in five student-run camps from July 2-23.

A recent study conducted by the CJF indicates that Counterpoint, which includes classes given in English and workshops in arts, fashion, music, dance and sports, is not only an unforgettable summer experience but a winning formula for identity-building, communal development and personal enrichment.

“Following last summer’s successful program, we employed surveys, interviews and focus groups with Counterpoint campers and counselors, as well as municipal and regional professionals, in order to collect data that would conclusively prove that which we always thought to be the true, namely that Counterpoint changes lives,” said Kiva Rabinsky, co-director of Counterpoint Israel.

Research Success Technologies, the company that conducted the research, has the facts and figures to corroborate this experiential knowledge.

“Our findings show that Counterpoint is a transformative experience for campers, with the camps providing a learning environment that is different, and in certain ways even more effective, than the school environment,” said Dr. Ezra Kopelowitz, CEO of Research Success Technologies.

“Speaking English and expanding vocabulary is first and foremost a fun and engaging experience. But, as seen in Counterpoint camps, the process also enables campers to find new levels of confidence—acquiring knowledge and skills leaves the campers with a heightened sense of accomplishment. Additionally, the campers report that dialoguing with their American counselors, who are religious Jews, results in the exploration of their personal and Jewish identity—growth of a different kind.”

The study also shows that the municipalities of cities where Counterpoint operates see it as indispensable to their educational systems and are committed to contributing their own resources to ensure the program’s success. Some municipalities have even been inspired to invest in enrichment programming beyond Counterpoint.

Along these lines, the city of Dimona has developed special programming of its own to help the Yeshiva University student volunteers understand the politics and realities of communal living in development towns as well as how to best work with the leaders of such locales. Set to be implemented for the first time this summer, the program will include meetings with young leaders and local student activists and will provide the counselors with an intimate look at life beyond the school walls.

“Counterpoint has made a profound impact on the city of Dimona over the last six years and the municipality wanted to do something to give back to the program,” said Moshe Nachum, director of the Department of Education and Welfare in the municipality of Dimona. “Yeshiva University gives the children of Dimona an educational experience that the city cannot afford them, and the city is now providing the YU students with real world experience that their institution cannot recreate. It is a perfect partnership, a result I hope will be duplicated with the other four cities in the years to come. ”

The final findings of the study focus on the experiences of the student volunteers. As hoped, Counterpoint counselors report positive service experiences in which they develop meaningful relationships with campers and work successfully as experiential educators.

“Counterpoint counselors gain skills and confidence as educators, broaden their Jewish horizons and come to view their service work through a Jewish lens. But most importantly, they are motivated to find professions that will allow them to contribute to the global Jewish community as well as strengthen the connection between Israeli and American Jews,” adds Rabinsky.

Counterpoint Israel is run with support from Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, Ron Fischer and Lisa Rosenbaum and the Fischer Family Foundation and Repair the World.

The Counterpoint Kiryat Malachi Program is dedicated in the memory of Dr. Bernard W. Gamson. The Dimona program is run with support from Sharon and Avram Blumenthal. The program in Arad is run with support from the Jewish Federations of Central New Jersey and Delaware and Congregation Beth El – Atereth Israel of Newton, MA. The Be’er Sheva program is run with support from Doreen and Beryl Eckstein and Jennifer and Saul Burian.

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