After years of running our overnight camp on the Don River, this year we moved to a larger camp site on the Azov sea, to accommodate the growing demand for Gan Israel Rostov. More than 200 campers enrolled this year, from Rostov and the southern region of Russia, including 40 children from war-torn cities in Ukraine. This year we were proud that the majority of our counselors were graduates of, or current participants in, our very own Enerjew youth club, which has revolutionized youth activities in our city.
At a farbrengen following the Friday night meal in the girls’ camp, Rabbi Chaim Danzinger spoke about the importance of everyone having a Jewish name. He encouraged the campers to go to shul when they return to the city, to receive a name. One girl – an orphan – from Lugansk said she has been wanted to chose a Jewish name, but since the situation deteriorated in her city, there is a no longer a Rabbi who can help.
“I was very moved by this 10 year old girl, Katya, who so badly wanted to receive a Jewish name. I decided that if she wants this so badly we must bring a minyan to camp to help her. Monday morning the minyan arrived and 28 girls took upon themselves Jewish names in a really moving ceremony,” said Rabbi Danzinger. “Katya is now Kaila, and she left back home to Ukraine with a big Jewish smile.”
After the naming ceremony, the person who arranged the minyan from Rostov, Sholom Ber Nezhni, told Rabbi Danzinger, “When you asked me to bring the minyan to camp, I honestly wasn’t looking forward to the hours on the road. I thought to myself, ‘is this really necessary?’ But just watching the last three girls, 3 sisters from Ukraine, come up one-by-one to choose their own traditional Jewish names, brought such nachas to my heart and was so emotional, reminding me of my own journey 13 years ago when I received a Jewish name. I’m so glad I came.”
Camp director Kaila Danzinger explains, “One of the most rewarding peulas of our shlichus is camp. After months of hard work, we sit at the banquet and hear the positive hachlatas of every child, knowing this will have a real and lasting effect on their lives. They proudly commit to a variety of resolutions, like lighting Shabbos candles; keeping tznius; going to yeshiva in Moscow; putting on Tefillin daily; joining our day school; or coming to shul regularly. It’s truly amazing to see.”