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The Best of Camp JORI and Israel

Read this story in The Jewish Voice

JERUSALEM – As a participant in Camp JORI’s Israel trip, I didn’t know what to expect. To my surprise, the program went far beyond my expectations. The opportunity to spend four weeks in Israel was offered to teens, ages 15 and 16, who had “graduated” from JORI – we were too old to be campers and too young to be counselors. It was a way to extend our camping experience while doing something completely different.

The Israel trip was done through BBYO, a pluralistic movement for Jewish teens. BBYO, which has been running the program for many years, now has it down to a science. The activities were all planned well and very reliable.

Our group included 45 teens – 15 from JORI and the rest were strangers. Although at first it felt strange for me to be living with 14 of my closest JORI friends and 30 strangers in a foreign country, the awkward feelings quickly vanished. By the end of the first week, we all became close friends; although it didn’t seem that I could grow any closer to my JORI friends, I did. I soon realized that we had the perfect balance – spending time with camp friends and meeting new people, who were to become almost as close as if we’d been visiting them every summer for years.

In visiting the traditional tourist sites – the Kotel and Masada, the Dead Sea and Ein Gedi, and more – we saw much of the country. In addition, we had our share of active fun rafting on the Jordan, doing water sports in the Red Sea and climbing sand dunes in the Negev. Every day was packed with something new to anticipate.

By the end of our four weeks, no one wanted to leave. Parting with our new friends was hard, but we knew that we would see our camp friends – who had stayed at JORI – again soon. After a week or so at home, we headed back to Camp JORI to become counselors-in-training, CITs.

Being in its infancy, the CIT program initially felt awkward to me. But, we shared a strong bond from going to Israel and our time at JORI allowed us to reminisce and debrief. We weren’t campers and we weren’t counselors, we were stuck in between. However, as the 12-day program progressed, I started to love my position. I was assigned to one cabin and I helped with activities, but I could hang out with my CIT friends and have as much fun as I did as a camper. It became a perfect balance and I could think of no better way to prepare myself to be a Canp JORI counselor next year.

This summer has been one of the best of my life and, for that, I can thank Camp JORI, BBYO and all the amazing people I met along the way.

Noah Prizant ( Noah.Prizant@wheelerschool.org), a Cranston resident, is the son of Barry Prizant and Elaine Meyer. He will be a junior at Wheeler School in Providence this fall.

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