Summer was months ago, but for campers of Ckids CGI, memories really do last a lifetime. This winter, during a Chanukah that was lonelier than most, campers and their families were treated to a visit from their summer camp counselors.
“We decided to surprise my son,” says Larah Batkilin. “So when his counselor showed up he was completely shocked and so excited—he started to cry!”
Emotional reunions like this one happened in 25 homes all over Florida. “The goal was to bring the Camp Gan Yisroel spirit to each house,” says Rabbi Levi Plotkin, who is camp director alongside his wife Chaya. “And we’re so proud of the results,” Chaya adds.
“We heard so much from our boys about how amazing camp was,” says parent Erin Berger. “Now we got to see for ourselves exactly why they loved camp so much!” Counselors brought a mini Chanukah party along with them, complete with Menorah lighting, doughnuts, gelt, dreidels, and, of course, camp songs.
Ckids Gan Yisroel is an overnight camp in Parkland, Florida, under the auspices of Rabbi Yosef Biston of Parkland and Merkos of Florida. “We’re bringing Jewish kids together for an authentic summer experience that is completely immersive,” says Biston. “The results have been transformational.”
The power of summer camp is nothing new. Explains Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, Executive Director of Merkos 302, “The Rebbe emphasized time and again how much of an effect a summer can have.”
Ckids International, run by Rabbi Zalmy Loewenthal, is changing the face of Jewish education with an innovative approach to learning. “We aim to provide the highest level of meaningful Jewish experience delivered in an exciting format that will make a lasting impression.”
Summer camp has the unique ability of accomplishing what no other program, school, or shul can do. “The kids come back from camp with a new chayus,” says Mrs. Altein, a Shlucha in Sunny Isles Beach, FL. “They know so much more than they did just a few weeks before—it blows me away every time.”
This winter, families need the boost more than ever. Counselors maintained the highest standards of social distancing throughout their encounters, with many of the visits taking place outdoors.
Campers were thrilled to see their counselors, a memory of an amazing summer from the past and a preview of all the good times to come this year. Parents as well were incredibly touched by the visits. “I can’t believe the guys drove 4 hours just to see my son,” says Mrs. Benchetrit, who lives in Ormond beach. “It was a Chakunah we’ll never forget.”
The Chanukah visits were just a taste of what this summer has in store. Stay tuned for more details coming soon!