In the cold corners of Latham, in the NY Capital District, a banquet room in a quiet hotel was alive and afire with a blazing energy and youthful warmth this past Motzei Shabbos. Circles with over 100 girls filled the room, hands on each others shoulders, dancing together to musical duo Rivka Leah Cylich and (JGR staff alumnus) Chaya Sara Weiss.
The highlight concert for the Jewish Girls 5 day Winter Retreat, open to women in the local community, was an apt culmination of the camp’s learning theme and focus: “Building the Future” – To inspire each girl to recognize her unique abilities to create and contribute to building our future with goodness and kindness. “Find inside your own song”, encouraged singer/songwriter Rivka Leah, “Sing it! Share it! The world is waiting to hear from you!”
With a variety of warm up acts from the camp creative clubs including drama, singing and dancing performances, as well as a brief sharing of learning, the evening program aptly reflected the JGR philosophy and program which melds both a focus on meaningful learning and content as well as creative development and nurturing.
JGR concluded on Sunday with a grand trip to snow tubing and many tearful goodbyes because of the meaningful bonds created in such a short time. “The friendships that grow from JGR are unique,” explains staff member Basya Yaffee, “it’s like becoming part of a family, these connections are for life.”
Standing apart from all other camp programs, JGR is unique in its inclusion of Jewish girls from all ages and walks of life, “I believe in girls bonding beyond their differences,” explains Nechama Laber, camp founder and director “each has what to give to each other – whether it be the inspiration of fresh interest in Judaism and Jewish concepts, or the ability to model by example to others, what it means to be a proud observant Jew.”
Here are some quotes from campers who shared their JGR experience.
“I feel like everyone here accepts me for who I am. I have no Jewish friends at home…sometimes I feel like an outcast…and here I belong”. “This retreat taught me what true friendship is like, and showed me that I deserve real friends. I learned that there is so much more to people than you see.”
Now in it’s 12th year running, without its own location, the Jewish Girls Retreat is finally working towards its dream of a permanent home. Their new fundraising campaign, to raise the much needed funds for a dream property in Southern Rensselaer County is underway. To help JGR build the future for so many Jewish girls and their families, please visit www.ahomeforjgr.com and contribute your part to make this dream a reality.
For more information about the summer program for girls ages 8-16, go to www.jewishgirlsretreat.com