SUMMER CAMP IN POLAND
July 11-23 rd, 2006/16-27
Each Lauder Camp in Poland, since the first one more than 15 years ago, has a common goal: to share Torah and Jewish tradition and to integrate children, youth and families into a small, albeit temporary, Jewish community.
This year’s Lauder Summer Retreat took place in Wisła Malinka.
There were 146 participants from all over the country, more than one-third of whom were children and teenagers. For many, it was not their first Lauder camp experience, but there were quite a few new families as well as individuals from new communities. Many returning participants brought members of their own families for the first time and others came at the recommendation of those more seasoned.
As it says in “Pirkei Avot” (The Ethics of Our Fathers) “The wise person is one who learns from everyone.”
This has always been and always will be the guiding principle of the Lauder Foundation sponsored camps.
AT THE WISLA SOURCE
Each day was filled with prayers, lectures, discussions and informal conversations. Each participant had the opportunity to attend a wide variety of workshops and activities. The sessions, both formal and informal, brought the participants closer to Judaism and to each other.The theme of the session was Jewish Ethics. Each day featured a particular aspect of Jewish ethics, including topics in business, medicine and law, as well as issues of ethical speech and communal responsibility. Often, participants would make a special request or raise an issue about which they wanted to learn more.
The staff used the theme as the basis for the children’s program as well and, through hands-on workshops and a variety of activities, transmitted a strong sense of Jewish identity and a sense of pride in their Jewish heritage. The children were introduced to different mitzvot and created a brick symbolizing each new mitzvah that they had learned. The bricks were used to create a giant “Mitzvah Gate”. In addition, the children were treated to many outings, taking advantage of the summer sunshine and fresh mountain air. One of the great successes of the camp program has been that children and teenagers, now in high school, university and studying in yeshiva, return as madrichim (leaders) and teachers for the new “generation”.
The highlights at camp were the two Shabbatot. The classes and discussions, preparation, communal prayers, learning, singing, and special Shabbat delicacies (among them challot that the participants had made themselves) all added to an extraordinary atmosphere. One of the most special events was the last havdalah ceremony of the camp. The dancing and singing went on for more than an hour as old and new friends, who had become part of a unique, authentic and vibrant Jewish community, said goodbye to the Shabbat and to one another.
The impact of these programs is felt well after the camp and, while for some they are “refreshers,” for others they are often the only connection with Jewish life, tradition and community.
The photos and the following excerpts from letters best illustrate the import of the camp experience:
“As a participant in this intergenerational camp, organized by the Lauder Foundation, I relish these moments of joy. The staff tries to pass on everything possible about the roots of faith to those who are eager for it. In this wonderful, almost family-like atmosphere, I can try to imagine how my grandparents used to live…”
“The camp in Wisła was incredible... the mixture of people, their different backgrounds and life experiences create a unique atmosphere that I particularly enjoy...or old, it doesn’t matter as everyone feels at home there. It is a place not only for rest, but also a place for inspiration and learning about Judaism together with rabbis and our wonderful staff, who worked through the whole day and night…”
“Bydgoszcz is a city in which there is no Jewish community... Therefore everything that concerns the Jewish calendar, Torah study, Shabbat celebrations, takes place in complete solitude, and very often it is simply impossible. Thus, attendance at camp is sometimes the only way of studying or evaluating self-gained knowledge through open discussions and mutual celebrations, as well as the occasion to meet people who become your close friends...”
“The Lauder camp in Wisla was an enormously successful program. A cozy and comfortable building, good food and, above all, the things we learn there…The very important thing is the chance to meet your friends from around Poland again and to live a Jewish life for these few days. So, looking forward to our next meetings, we thank you for what has happened so far...”
“I’ve been attending Lauder camp for many years: Rychwald, Sródborow, Ladek and Wisła... collective rooms or two with a bathroom, Tamara in the kitchen and the waiter coming to the table always the same. Upon arrival and I look around for familiar face. The first I notice is a preoccupied Dorota and a calm Baruch, and then I ask: Who has arrived?? Who hasn’t come? Who will come for the Shabbat? Will Rabbi Herschel come? And Rabbi Michael? Who made aliya? Who went to yeshiva? How are you doing? I’m always surprised. Just when I thought I knew everyone new faces appear. Where are you from?… We are different at the beginning: those who know a lot and those who are just learning. But, by the end we are the same... Leshanah haba’ah bemachaneh Lauder…Next year in Camp Lauder!”
The Blaze of Memoir
At the Wisla source, the source of knowledge
Revision of verses, symbol of a paper lace
Ma niszma chawerim?
The heart pounding to the rhythm of sacral dance,
Chant rise a spirit, the joy of Shabbat lasts
Stillness on the fields, tranquility in a soul.
(Tamuz 5766, Bolesław Bieniasz)
We are extremely grateful to Ambassador Ronald S. Lauder, Dr. George Ban, Rabbi Chaskel Besser and the Foundation board for their continuing support.
We wish to thank Rabbi Michael Schudrich; Rabbi Hershel and Pessie Lieber; Rabbi Yitzhak and Nurit Rapoport; Rabbi Zelig Avrasin and Rabbi Sacha Pecaric for their teaching and spiritual guidance.
We would also like to thank Yaakov Finkelstein, Cultural Attaché of the Israeli Embassy in Poland; Symcha Keller, President of the Jewish Community of Lodz; Hadassah Pawlak; Monika Krajewska, Helise Lieberman and Yale Reisner.
We appreciate the assistance of Piotr Kowalik, Yisroel Szpilman, Albert Stankowski and Gary Bluestone.
We applaud the hard work and dedication of our staff: Ola and Paweł Bramson, Iwona Lewandowska, Iwona Skrzypczak, Sara Malka Szpilman, Miriam Gonczaska, Małgorzata Kordowicz, Magda Sadowska, Hillel Jackl, Jakub Staszewski, Zuzanna Kasz, Sonia Adamczyk, Tal Alter, Adam Levine and Nitzan Reisner.
Dorota Ciesielska and Baruch