REFORM JEWISH CAMP MAKES HISTORY BY INCLUDING ISRAELI ARAB COUNSELOR ON ITS STAFF
For the first time in the history of Jewish camping in North America, a Jewish summer camp will have an Israeli Arab counselor on its staff this season.
Rula Faran, a 23-year-old Christian Arab and student at the David Yellin College of Education in Jerusalem, is serving as an art specialist at the Union for Reform Judaism's Greene Family Camp near Waco, TX. Greene Family Camp hosts 800 children each summer from Reform congregations in Texas and Oklahoma.
Loui Dobin, director of Greene Family Camp, and Dr. Yehuda Bar Shalom, the head of the Department of Education at David Yellin College and the leader of a delegation of 30 Israelis working in the United States this summer, came up with the idea for the cross-cultural exchange.
"The integration of an Arab student has tremendous educational value - it exposes Israeli reality to American Jewish youth through a real individual's personal narrative," Bar Shalom said, adding that most American Jews have "distorted views about the possibility of coexistence" between Jews and Arabs in Israel.
Adds Dobin, "This experience can build bridges between American youth and non-Jewish Israelis - after all, the Torah teaches us that we were strangers in the land of Egypt."
Faran said she's having a great summer and finds she is being readily accepted in the camp community. "One child was shocked to find out that I'm an Arab, obviously because of images that he or his parents may have created from mass media representation, but I was happy to see that after a few minutes we were able to become good friends and stay that way through our work together," she said.
Working with the Jewish Agency, Bar Shalom has incorporated work in Jewish camps outside of Israel as part of the curriculum at David Yellin College, with the belief that cross-cultural experiences with Diaspora Jews are an important component of educating young people about Jewish life around the world. Seven of the students are working at Jewish camps in the United States this summer; when they return to Israel, they will be expected to write about their experiences and encounters.
The Union for Reform Judaism is the synagogue arm of the Reform Movement in North America, and represents 1.5 million Reform Jews in more than 900 congregations in the United States and Canada. The Union services include youth camps, music and book publishing, outreach to unaffiliated and intermarried Jews, adult education programs, and the Religious Action Center in Washington, DC.