Israel Day at HKC
August 8th was a historic day for the Henry Kaufmann Campgrounds when all the camps on the Long Island site came together for the first time for a performance by the Tzofim, otherwise known as the Friends of Israel Scouts Friendship Caravan.
For an hour in the afternoon we were truly One Camp Community with 1200 campers and staff singing and dancing along with the performance. The six camps – Camp Kehilla (Sid Jacobson JCC), Central Queens Y, Friedberg JCC, Mid-Island Y JCC, Samuel Field Y, Suffolk Y JCC – welcomed the Scouts with open arms and open hearts, with many of the campers having made signs and flags beforehand. A counselor with Friedberg JCC, Jesse Klirsfeld, even learned Hatikvah, the Israeli national anthem, on his trumpet and accompanied the Tzofim at the end of the program.
Founded in 1973, the troupe consists of six boys and six girls, all seventeen, and their twenty-three year old counselors. Chosen from a nation-wide competition, the caravan travels through North America performing and bringing “a message of hope and peace for Israel,” as their website says. The Scouts performed for a crowd of kids that encompassed multiple JCC camps, In a short pre-show interview, Scout Bar Peres cited the groups goals as “spreading love and friendship and fun for the kids.”
If the atmosphere was anything to judge by, it appeared that they achieved those goals. The Scouts have kid-friendly entertainment down to a science, interspersing Hebrew songs with English ones including an energetic medley of familiar Disney tunes from movies both classic (The Lion King) and new (Frozen). The show encompassed pop music and Israeli folk dance, with plenty of audience participation stirred in. Call-and-response shouting and singing, as well as choreography that got the crowd on its feet, were a part of the performance as well.. As much as the campers enjoyed the show, it was clear that the adult staff, volunteers, and guests present were equally invested.
The significance of this event was not lost on community leaders, including the executive directors of the camp agencies, and Jeremy Fingerman, CEO of the Foundation for Jewish Camp who attended the event. At a lunch for guests before the performance Jeremy addressed the group reiterating the role Jewish day camp plays in Jewish continuity and how summers spent at camp is a defining moment in children’s lives.
None of this would have been possible without the energy and ideas of the HKC Women’s Task Force and the generosity of David Katz, president of the Board of Directors, who sponsored the event.
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