Gan Israel Lubavitch Day Camp of Stamford Hill celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. 375 campers from 17 schools across London and from different backgrounds attended the 3 week camp.
“Camp is more than just a fun place to spend the summer holiday; it is also a place to grow,” says Rabbi Shmuly Karasik, who co-directs the camp with his wife Chana Karasik.
The theme for this year’s camp was the 39 Melachos (categories of work forbidden on Shabbos). The Melachos were brought to life in a unique and unforgettable way. The Melachos can be quite difficult to understand, and many people are baffled by their complexity and sheer volume, especially when learned as a theoretical subject.
In order for the children to walk away from camp with a clear understanding of the melachos, a lot of thought went into preparing hands on activities so that the campers can perform all of the 39 Melachos. Using this method, even very young children are able to relate to the Melachos, as they are actually doing it themselves. They aren’t just taught it in class, they are the professionals, they master the melachos.
The children received an exclusive, specially printed ‘passport’ which they were able to fill up with 39 seals, one for each Melacha, once they showed proficiency in the Melacha.
The Melachos are split into four easy to follow groups; baking bread, making fabric, making leather and construction.
Group One – Baking Bread: The children plowed earth and planted their own wheat. (If you see some wheat growing in someone’s garden, ask them if they went to Lubavitch Day Camp…) They went to the Kent countryside, where the children harvested wheat, bundled it, and brought it back to camp. Then they threshed the wheat, winnowed it, removed the pebbles, ground the seeds into flour, sifted, kneaded and baked challah for Shabbos. The children took home challah that they made from scratch! Even a three year old camper was able to tell his parents the entire sequence of melachos for baking bread.
Group Two – Making Fabric: Camp was transformed into a farm with live sheep, goats and calves. We had a few sheep shorn by a professional sheep shearer. The children washed the wool, combed it and spun it into thread. They played a specially designed ‘human loom’ game to better understand the weaving process. Campers were treated to a visit by Dayan Yisroel Gukovitzki – a rabbinic authority specializing in the 39 Melachos – who brought looms, so that the children were able to clearly understand the weaving process. The children dyed shirts, did weaving and sewing projects.
Group Three – Making Leather: Using big animal skins in all different stages of processing, the children were able to change animal skin into parchment. The children smoothed, measured and cut the parchment. They wrote on parchment using quills dipped in ink, just like real scribes. They also prepared a pair of leather shoes, and learned about all the different steps needed to produce Tefilin from an animal.
Group Four – Construction: These melachos, which include building and fires, were brought to life with exciting games and activities.
A Happy Place:
Throughout camp, there were also many other fun games, outings and activities, which included swimming, canoeing, park trips, Chessington, Woburn Safari and more.
“Children thrive in a positive environment,” says Mrs. Karasik. “In camp, we focus on building self esteem, life skills and making Yiddishkeit come alive.”
And parents agreed. “It has been a wonderful camp with a great atmosphere. Our children have made friends with other children from different places,” says Ari and Nikki who had four children attending this year’s camp. “We were so happy that our children are learning about the 39 Melachos in a hands-on way. They loved the activities and are excited to discuss what they have learned with us.”
Avigail, a mother of three campers, says: “My kids loved coming every day and are so disappointed it’s over. They can’t wait for next year! Over Shabbat, Yossi and Yanki wanted to go through the 39 Melachos. I was so impressed with how much they knew and they were so eager to tell me what they had learned about each one.”
Adi wrote a beautiful thank you note. “Thank you so much for all those who helped make this year’s Camp Gan Israel in Stamford Hill so amazing. It was the first year my son Yishai went and had the best time of his life. I have never seen him glow as he did during the three weeks of the camp. All the camp counsellors were amazing and caring. A huge Yashar Koach and please G-d, we hope to see you again next year.”