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On Four CJF Winter Missions Around the World, YU Students Get Closer Look at Jewish Leadership

More than 90 Yeshiva University students spent this winter break engaged in the hands-on study of—and contribution to—vastly different Jewish communities around the world.

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A student on the CJF’s “Counterpoint Israel: Winter Camp” mission teaches English at an educational camp in Kiryat Gat.

As participants on winter missions organized by YU’s Center for the Jewish Future, students traveled to Kharkov and Sumy in the Ukraine; Kiryat Malachi, Kiryat Gat and Dimona in Negev region of Israel; areas of New York that were heavily damaged by Hurricane Sandy; and cities across the Midwestern United States to make an impact and hone their leadership skills.

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The camps will include classes given in English and workshops in art, fashion, music, dance and sports.

Jul 20, 2009 — Twenty-one outstanding students from select U.S. universities will serve as counselors on the fourth annual Counterpoint Israel Program, run by Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future, from July 23-Aug. 23. The month-long service-learning initiative empowers and builds the next generation of Israeli youth by offering them a summer camp experience filled with important life skills.

While the day-to-day activities at the summer camps–including classes given in English and workshops in art, fashion, music, dance and sports–will be run as in previous years, the 2009 program boasts several new additions. Most notable is the “Counterpoint for the Community” (C4C) initiative, a series of six evening programs that pairs campers with their parents for art workshops, Torah learning sessions, movie screenings and public discussion forums.

“Counterpoint Israel’s creative programming, developed specially for the CJF by top U.S. informal educators, promotes positive self-image and self-esteem through stimulating educational activities based on Jewish values and identity,” said Rabbi Kenneth Brander, the David Mitzner Dean of the CJF. “These unique camp opportunities will provide an enriching experience for the children of Yerucham and Dimona and an inspirational and transformational experience for our college counselors, our future Jewish leaders.”

The program is supported by the Zusman Family (Yerucham Program), the Blumenthal Family (Dimona Program) and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and will include students from Yeshiva University, Columbia, NYU, the University of Maryland and the University of Pennsylvania.

Participants will join professional staff from the U.S. in the Southern Israel development towns of Yerucham and Dimona, where they will help run summer camps for 110 mainly secular teenagers from low socio-economic backgrounds.

“For most of our campers, Counterpoint Israel represents the most meaningful Jewish educational experience of their year,” explained Brander. “The ‘C4C’ programming allows us to expand our reach beyond the campers, affecting the entire family and making a difference in these development towns.”

In the same vein, the CJF has designed a special counselor-in-training program for a select group of teens from Yerucham who excelled in past years but have outgrown the regular Counterpoint programming. The first-year program will include skill-building workshops, leadership training and meetings with mentors. They will also join the college students as assistant counselors over the course of the camp session.

“Counterpoint Israel has guided these exceptional students through the summers of their high school careers and has become an integral part of their lives,” said Shuki Taylor, CJF’s project coordinator in Israel and the director of Counterpoint Israel. “When they expressed interest in being involved once again, we were happy to create the training program for them.”

Taylor also believes that the interaction between the college students and the counselors-in-training will enhance the overall program, with their diverse backgrounds and very different outlooks on life adding a fresh perspective and new dynamic to the learning experience.

In the weeks prior to and following the summer camps, the college students will also participate in supplementary workshops and lectures on Zionism, geopolitics, social justice and social responsibility. Though Counterpoint Israel is known for its activism component, it is the program’s holistic service-learning formula, stressing in-depth learning from Jewish and academic perspectives, that molds future Jewish leaders.

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