Counterpoint Israel’s Summer Camps Make a Positive Impact on Teens from Development Towns

YU student Miriam Herskovits, a counselor in the Counterpoint Israel program, helps a teenaged camper with an art project.

Aug 26, 2008 — This summer, 26 students from Yeshiva University and other colleges across the US and Israel made a lasting impact on the next generation of Israeli youth from development towns. The Counterpoint Israel Program, a project of the Center for the Jewish Future (CJF), ran three-week summer camps for 110 secular teens from diverse backgrounds in the southern Israeli development towns of Yerucham and Dimona.

For a gallery of photos from the two camps, click here.

The Zusman Family Counterpoint Israel Program in Yerucham and the Service Corps Counterpoint Israel Program in Dimona—held for the first time this year with support from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation—provided the youth with important life skills.

The college students created programs to promote the teens’ self-esteem and teach them Jewish values. At the local municipalities’ request, the teens also learned English to improve their chances of college acceptance.

The college students, many of whom have worked before as Hebrew school teachers and counselors, were trained for their roles as camp counselors in New York City before they left. This year, CJF was able to create a “dream team” of counselors, chosen from a pool of close to 100 applicants, said Aliza Abrams, Counterpoint’s coordinator.

“Our counselors are full of energy, creativity, and passion,” said Abrams. “We have teens who have returned to camp a third time—not simply for the amazing art classes and the fun trips, but the counselors as well.”

The program was a growing experience for the counselors, who processed the experience of making a difference in the teens’ lives through workshops and seminars. They explored issues of tikkun olam [repairing the world], social action, human responsibility, commitment to the Jewish community, and their relationship with Israel.

“Counterpoint Israel is not just about service work—it is also about learning the process of what it means to be a Jewish leader,” said Shuki Taylor, Counterpoint’s director. “Our goal was for the counselors to leave with an understanding that it is not enough to just partake in chesed [charity] work—they need to internalize the experience. We wanted them to realize that they matter to the world, and that the world should matter to them.”

Every day, professional instructors also ran six workshops to cultivate the teens’ individual talents in art, fashion, dance, song, and sports. The activities were designed to produce immediate results so that the teens feel a sense of self-gratification and artistic expression—generally an undiscovered area in their lives.

The workshops culminated in a moving closing ceremony attended by family members and local officials, where the teens performed, exhibited projects, and received prizes for their progress.

Taylor described the breathtaking sight of the teens’ joy and their parents’ amazement upon discovering their children’s talents. “Boys from the breakdance workshop somersaulted in the air, girls from the fashion workshop proudly exhibited the sarongs that they dyed and beaded,” he said.

“Watching the teens hold trophies in acute disbelief that they are being rewarded for showing love to their friends and for making the greatest effort summed up what Counterpoint is about: showing these teens that they are talented, unique, and worth spending summer upon summer in Israel for.”

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