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What Our Keshet Staff Have Gained From Working at Camp

(Community Spotlight) Permanent link

Long before and throughout the pandemic, Keshet continues to provide new opportunities for self-growth, new friendships, unique opportunities. However, this impact extends beyond our participants and can leave our staff with an equal amount of growth and belonging.  

Anxious, nervous, and not knowing what to expect are common phrases that we hear when staff reflect on their first experiences with Keshet. The great news is that it’s often followed up with comments that those feelings immediately went away once they saw how meaningful and impactful the programs were. “Stepping into Keshet on the first day, I automatically noticed how they make every person in the room feel included and accounted for,” Alix Eisenberg, who has been a Keshet staff member for five years, says. “Being able to be included into such a welcoming environment made my first experiences at Keshet truly memorable.”

In addition to the impact created for campers involved in the program, our staff members have equally gained so much from spending their summers at Keshet. Our staff create bonds with their campers that extend beyond the eight weeks of the summer and into some of our other year-round programs like Buddy Bowling, Baseball and Winter Camp. The integration with the staff at our partner day and overnight camps create long-lasting bonds and friendships that keep them coming back year after year. 

Keshet Experience

However, what may be the most rewarding are the skills and experiences that our staff gain from the experience. “After being able to take part in the many programs Keshet has to offer, I have gained responsibility, leadership, teamwork, and confidence,” Alix says. After spending their summers working for Keshet, many of our staff end up choosing a career path that allows them to further develop these skills, including Alix, who is now a sophomore at Miami University in Ohio studying Inclusive Special Education. The passion that our staff gain for inclusion while working for Keshet is unmatched and even on the toughest of days, our staff still leave with a smile on their face.

We promise you a summer of fun, and we know you will gain invaluable experiences and memories that will stick with you long after the warm days of summer end.  To capture all of the reasons in one post is impossible. What we do know is that Keshet stands for something greater than only one person, and we would love nothing more than to have you join our family. Apply today at:  https://keshet.campintouch.com/ui/forms/application/staff/App

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Special thanks to Alix Eisenberg for sharing her story.

You can learn more about Keshet and what we do by visiting us online at https://www.keshet.org

Please note:  All names of participants have been changed.

 

How Keshet Staff Can Create a Lasting Impact at Camp

(Community Spotlight) Permanent link

Keshet provides countless opportunities and programs for individuals with disabilities but our largest program by far is our summer camp program!  Keshet believes that everyone at camp benefits when everyone can participate. We provide opportunities for inclusion out in the community on field trips, assist campers in forming friendships, and ensure accommodations are available so that everyone can be successful at camp.

Our staff and volunteers are the backbone of our programs because they make all the magic happen! They all have their own unique stories about how they became involved and why they stay connected. They are passionate individuals who deeply care about the individuals that Keshet serves. Without each and every one of them, our services would not be possible. 

Keshet Photo

Keshet models inclusion from the beginning for staff and participants. With Keshet, campers can go to camp with a one-on-one staff member who helps them get through their day, makes the accommodations necessary, assists them in getting to know the group and ensures an amazing summer experience. “Nobody is a better friend to Keshet campers than their peers their same age,” says Abby Zucker, senior at Highland Park who was a Keshet counselor at “Z” Frank Apachi Day Camp this past summer. “At art, they would practice writing [my camper] Mitchell’s name and no matter where we were, the group always make sure Mitchell got a turn.” Inclusion at Keshet is not just a program, it’s a way of life!

In addition to fostering inclusion within the camping environment, our participants show immense growth throughout the summer. Katie Penn, a junior at Illinois State University and a long-time staff member of Keshet recounts back to her first summer spent with her camper, Sam. “From the beginning to the end of those eight short weeks, I saw tremendous growth in Sam. He became more independent and confident. And quite frankly, so did I.” When our campers succeed, we, as staff, feel just as accomplished. 

Keshet Photo 2

Our staff love Keshet, and we know you will too. Keshet is so fortunate to have incredible staff who help blossom meaningful opportunities and friendships. We’re getting ready for Summer 2022, and are looking for new people to join the team. So, what are you waiting for? Apply today at:  https://keshet.campintouch.com/ui/forms/application/staff/App

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Special thanks to Abby Zucker and Katie Penn for sharing their stories.

You can learn more about Keshet and what we do by visiting us online at https://www.keshet.org

Please note:  All names of participants have been changed.

Top 5 Reasons to Attend Relief Mission to New Orleans with NCSY and JSU

(Program Experiences) Permanent link

NCSY and JSU's next relief mission trip is to New Orleans, March 3-7, 2022. Apply at midwestncsy.org/reliefmissions. The cost of the trip is $599. Springboard, Chicago’s hub for Jewish teen programs, is excited to offer Access Grants to teens who are participating in a multi-day Jewish experience for the first-time! Access Grants will cover 50% of the cost of the NCSY Relief Mission up to $200, bringing down the price to $399. Please complete the form below and then apply for the access grant at https://www.juf.org/accessgrants.

Teens on the recent NCSY/JSU Relief Mission to Houston share why YOU should join the upcoming Mission to New Orleans!

1) You’ll get a hands-on opportunity to make a difference.

“I really enjoyed putting in the work and seeing all the things we accomplished.”
--Shai Kaszynski, junior, Deerfield High School

2) You’ll work hard – but you’ll see the impact of your efforts.

“Getting to give meals to homeless people and seeing how happy it made them, [helped me] know for sure we were making a difference.”
--Daniella Volkov, junior, Walter Payton College Prep

3) You’ll learn about the Jewish values that shape the mission and spend a meaningful Shabbat with teens from across Chicagoland.

“I loved learning about parts of Jewish culture that I’d never been exposed to.”

--Simone Redensky, junior, Jones College Prep High School

4) You’ll explore local attractions – and have lots of fun – while building Jewish community.

“It was amazing to bond with other teens from Chicago while helping build the Houston community.”
--Stone Schwartz, senior, Niles North High School

5) This is more than a one-time event. You’ll learn valuable lessons that can enhance your everyday life.

“The most meaningful part of the trip was getting to learn about gratitude and how [I can] use my time [after the trip] in an impactful and meaningful way.”
--Nehama Kaszynski, junior, Deerfield High School

New Orleans Mission

Our Experience on NCSY and JSU's Relief Mission Trip to Houston By Simone Redensky and Bella Fleischer

(Program Experiences) Permanent link

On January 13th, a group of teens left Chicago to go volunteer in Houston, Texas. Each person made the decision to leave their comfort zone and give their time to help a community in need. Along the way, everyone made memories, helped those in need, and learned valuable lessons. Here's a rundown of our amazing trip with NCSY and JSU!

JSU Relief Mission 1 JSU Relief Mission 2

On our first day in Houston, we went to volunteer with SBP, an organization that rebuilds homes that were destroyed from natural disasters. We painted, built window frames, and assisted the SBP volunteers. Everyone had a great time learning how to use power tools and using new skills to help a home get rebuilt. After our work with SBP, we sat in a small patch of grass by the house we were rebuilding. Rabbi Oran’s talk helped us connect with our recipient and others impacted by Hurricane Harvey. He asked us each to think about our very own homes being destroyed and told us to think about two items, only two, that we would take with us before fleeing our homes. We then went around in a circle to share, quickly realizing how incredibly impossible making such a decision was. This allowed us to better understand and envision the level of destruction and loss the people of Houston faced both during and in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. 

JSU Relief Mission 3 JSU Relief Mission 4

After we finished our work on the house, we returned to our hotel and prepared for Shabbat. Our amazing Rabbis helped us welcome Shabbos with great food, song and prayer. The experience was a whole new level of spirituality for many of us. Throughout Shabbat we did many small activities to open our souls to Hashem. The days were filled with not only prayers but with small purposeful opportunities to rethink the meaning of life. Who would have known how uplifting a 5 minute meditation could be? This was a very emotional time for many of us and brought us closer together as a group. In those moments even though many of us had just met, we were able to share very personal and deep personal emotions and come together as a group to support and console each other. We spent Saturday playing games, relaxing, and getting closer as a group. We also are given opportunities to explore our connection with God and with our own Jewish identities.We ended Shabbat with delicious food and songs from our talented Rabbis. After Havdalah, the group went to the Kemah boardwalk where we went on plenty of rides. We ate some great pizza and then went to bed, excited for the next day's volunteering.

JSU Relief Mission 5 JSU Relief Mission 6

On Sunday, we went to the Houston Food Bank. It was our job to look at the food and make sure it was acceptable, meaning that it was not expired or damaged. We broke off into small groups that made assembly lines, some people checking dates and others wiping off products. Along with all the other volunteers, our group helped package 6,000 meals, or enough food to feed a family of six for a year. Our Rabbis talked to us about how much of an impact we can make with just a little bit of our time, and how it is our responsibility to put good into the world. After we finished our shift at the food bank, the group went to see the Houston Space Center, which was a lot of fun!

JSU Relief Mission 7 JSU Relief Mission 8

After, we went to buy food that we would put into bags for the homeless. On our last day, we went to plant food at the community garden which coincided with Tubish Vishvat. This was a great and educational experience. Everyone had a lot of fun planting different foods! We also packaged the food that we bought the previous day into small lunch bags to give to the homeless. The group went to walk around the neighborhood and look for people who were in need of help. We found a community of people living together, and got the opportunity to talk to them and give them something to eat. Going to a homeless community and being able to see how they live was a humbling experience. The process of being able to hand food to those in need and seeing the great gratitude they felt in turn filled us with a different type of gratitude. It allowed us to realize that giving back to those in need not only makes a difference to them, but also has a profound impact on us. We feel full from witnessing their gratitude and knowing that we helped make a difference, no matter how small.

Anytime you give back it reminds you how fortunate you are. You feel pride and are reconnected with your Jewish identity and the principles of tzedakah and chesed. After every mitzvah we completed it came with a meaningful and emotional discussion led by our Rabbis and trip advisors. They incorporated stories and lessons into each volunteer project that gave us a better understanding of the hardships the recipients experienced, providing a more meaningful perspective on the impact of our work. Our Rabbis provided an extremely moving ending to our trip when they took us to the site of a synagogue destroyed during Hurricane Harvey. They reminded in this holy place that nothing is forever and to always cherish moments in everyday life. They allowed us to reflect on what the trip meant to each of us before asking us to share with the group. This final moment brought us even closer together as we said our final goodbyes and shared how different yet uniquely special the trip impacted each of us. 

JSU Relief Mission 9 JSU Relief Mission 10

This trip was an incredible experience. We learned the importance of giving back to the community, of helping people in need, and of putting good into the world. We also learned about Judaism and how it was connected to volunteer work. We learned how important it was for Jews to put good into the world, and how each of them has the potential to help so many people. For anyone who wants to experience a truly life changing trip that will act as a catalyst to empower you to become a better person, a better Jew, and a better member of society, look to join any of the upcoming NCSY trips. You will not regret it!

NCSY and JSU's next relief mission trip is to New Orleans, March 3-7, 2022. Apply at midwestncsy.org/reliefmissions. The cost of the trip is $599. Springboard, Chicago’s hub for Jewish teen programs, is excited to offer Access Grants to teens who are participating in a multi-day Jewish experience for the first-time! Access Grants will cover 50% of the cost of the NCSY Relief Mission up to $200, bringing down the price to $399. Please complete the form below and then apply for the access grant at https://www.juf.org/accessgrants.

About the Authors:

Simone Redensky

Simone is a current junior at Jones College Prep, where she plays on the varsity lacrosse team. When lacrosse is not in season, she plays on a club team. She is also on the Model UN and Mock Trial teams at school. Simone enjoys reading and spending time with her friends and she loves volunteering with Cradles to Crayons! 

Bella is a current freshman at Glenbrook North High School, where she is on JV Poms and Orchesis. Bella is a competitive Rhythmic Gymnast out this season due to injury. Bella has been an active volunteer with Maot Chitim of Greater Chicago and the JUF with her family since age 5 and is an active member of NorthShore NCSY.



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