The Jewish Girls Retreat, recently concluded the summer session with 90 campers and 40 staff members.
“JGR”, located near Albany, NY is an overnight camp geared for Jewish girls of all backgrounds and is directed by shluchim, Rabbi Avraham and Nechama Laber who work with Rabbi Israel Rubin, head shliach of Capital District Chabad.
At the conclusion of each retreat, there is a candle lighting ceremony, where campers and staff reflect on their experience at JGR.
Talya, a teen camper from Florida lit a candle and spoke, “As I was sitting around watching everyone lighting the candles, I was thinking about how everyone has a candle inside them waiting to be lit and here at JGR that is what happened. I hope that after this summer, I can go home and take that light with me and continue to spread it.”
“At JGR, girls are discovering their unique light and gaining the leadership skills to shine brightly among their communities,” said Linda Schwartz, the mother of a camper from California.
The camp theme this year was “Discover Me.” Each day, the campers learned a verse in the song, aishes chayil, and explored the noble qualities of Jewish women throughout the ages who brought light into the world. Through, hands on activities, discussions and debates, campers uncovered the noble qualities of the woman of valor hidden within their souls.
In an atmosphere of warmth and acceptance, and with a focus on the arts, each girl is given a chance to shine. Girls had the opportunity to star in a camp movie, directed by Chavi Resnick and Saralaya Rockford and filmed by Danny Finkelman and his crew of SPARKS NEXT Productions. The title of the movie is “A Flame to Follow” and is a story that shows the power of Shabbos candles.
Many of the campwide activities also offer campers various ways to express their talents and shine. This includes creative art clubs, gymnastics, sports, public speaking, talent and fashion shows and color war.
At a beautiful concert, led by singer and composer Rivka Leah Cylich, talented JGR staff and teen campers had the chance to perform before an audience of women and girls. The spotlight was on staff soloists, Chaya Schochet, Menucha Rothstien Chaviva Elharrar, Devorah Serraf and teen camper Tamar Guterson. Mali New, a counselor accompanied on the piano.
Guest speakers and women who are living examples shared their light and wisdom with campers and staff. Some of the speakers included Rabbi Asher and Sara Esther Crispe, Rabbi Yossi Paltiel, Shimona Tzukernik, Leah Caras, Rabbi Yossi and Chana Atara Madvig, Chaya Bracha Rubin, Shirley Goodman, Yaffa Lown and Mayer and Neomi Gniwisch.
Deanna from Upstate NY, lit a candle and shared how she will add more light once she leaves camp. “My family doesn’t do Shabbos or Kosher or anything like that. Something I really want to try harder is to light Shabbos candles and keep Tznius outside of camp.”
Riva from Michigan was next to light a candle and shared, “My mom told me to try out this camp. I was kind of nervous. I didn’t think I would make such good friends or come so close to G-d or Judaism and I’ve just learned so much. I love being Jewish. I’ve become such a proud Jew. This summer taught me to be more spiritual. And these friends I made here will be my friends forever.”
“After each retreat, my heart is filled with joy upon seeing how every soul at JGR has been ignited in just a few weeks of camp. Our girls are inspired to add more light with each new mitzvah and dispel the darkness in the world today,” says Nechama Laber.
It is thanks to a dedicated team of 45 staff members, who provide unconditional love and guidance, enabling every girl to shine with her unique light.
Head Staff included program directors, Leah Caras, Chaya Schochet and Chaviva Elharrar. Bracha Morozow, Chana Faygen and Bryndel Gniwisch were head counselors. Specialty staff at camp were Nurse Ellen Zagorsky Goldberg, Shoshana Pimentelli, Devorah Serraf, Shprintza Gutnick, Tova Leah Steinmetz, Itty Wagner and Menucha Rothstien, Mrs. Chana Atara Madvig, Chaya Leah Dickel and Tonna Pevsner.
“My daughters came home glowing thanks to the impeccable organization, to the staff (all who are amazing), the fun (of course), the close JGR friendships and family, the Yaldah magazine inspiration and all the artistic expressive opportunities and the delicious and healthy food. Now all we need is a permanent home!” said Linda Schwartz.
This year, JGR was held at the Holiday Inn Express in Latham, NY. The Labers and the JGR building committee are currently raising funds to purchase a permanent camp grounds so that the light of JGR will never be extinguished and will inspire the Jewish women of the future.
To find out more, and to contribute to the building campaign, visit www.ahomeforjgr.com.
For more information on the winter or summer retreats, visit www.jewishgirlscamp.net, call Rabbi Avraham or Nechama Laber at 614-JGR-CAMP or e-mail [email protected]