Gan Israel Lubavitch Day Camp of North London celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. With over 375 campers and 60 counsellors, this year’s camp was “the biggest and most successful camp we have ever had,” says Chana Karasik who co-directs the camp with her husband Rabbi Shmuly Karasik.
The camp – which ran this year for 3 weeks between August 4 and 21 – caters for boys and girls between the ages of 3-11. With only 10% of campers coming from the Lubavitch community, the camp attracts Jewish children from all over London and from all religious backgrounds.
“Camp is more than just a fun place to spend the summer holiday; it is also a place to grow,” says Rabbi Karasik. The theme chosen for this year’s camp was the 39 Melachos (categories of work forbidden on Shabbat). “Studied from a book,” explains Mrs. Karasik, “this subject can often seem technical, dry and a little boring for many children.”
However, this year’s camp brought the 39 Melachos to life in a unique and unforgettable way with an array of fun hands-on activities. The Melachos can be quite difficult to understand, and most people, especially younger children, are baffled by their complexity and sheer volume. The campers learned about and experienced first hand all of the 39 Melachos in practical ways so that even the very young children were able to relate to them.
What began as a dream was soon turned into a massive success. During the first week of camp, the children focused on the first 11 Melachos which deal with the process of making bread. In camp and on an educational excursion to the Kent countryside, campers actually experienced the entire process involved in making the bread, all the way from sowing seeds for wheat, harvesting, making sheaves, grinding flour and then making the bread.
During the second week, campers experienced first hand the wide range of activities involved in making cloth. During this week, camp was actually transformed into a farm with live sheep, goats and calves. Campers learned about caring for animals, were able to shear the sheep, and then comb, dye and weave the wool. Campers were treated to a visit by Dayan Yisroel Gukovitzki – a rabbinic authority specializing in the 39 Melachos – who presented a weaving workshop to. Bringing spinners and looms, children were able to see and use the tools used in days gone by.
In the third and final week, children on camp learned how Tefillin and parchment are made. The campers experienced this process first hand by looking at the leather making process from beginning to end. “It was incredibly eye-opening for the children,” says Rabbi Karasik. “Some of the children didn’t know that Tefillin were made from leather or that leather was once a cow eating grass in a field.”
In addition to learning about the 39 Melachos through hands-on activities, children also took part in a road safety course presented by Hackney Council, as well as lively games, exciting trips like Chessington and swimming.
“The 39 Melachos really came alive for the children on camp,” says Mrs. Karasik. “Through learning about them with exciting and engaging activities, the 39 Melachos are now something they know from hands-on experience rather than something abstract from a book.”
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, the mother of one camper, says: “My kids loved coming every day and are so disappointed it’s over. They can’t wait for next year! Over Shabbat, they 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.”