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Amitei Ivrit Fellows infuse Hebrew at In The City Camp in Atlanta, GA

Yael Shapira, of Jerusalem, and Amita Ivrit through HATC at In The City Camps in Atlanta, GA.

Anyone who has been blessed with a Jewish summer camp experience knows that there is no better place to have joyful Jewish identity seared into one’s soul than at camp. For the next few issues of the HATC Newsletter, we’ll be taking a break from Member School Highlights of formal Hebrew instruction and turn our attention to Amitei Ivrit and informal Hebrew learning at Jewish summer camps.  

Amitei Ivrit is Hebrew at the Center’s signature program to infuse Hebrew into the culture of Jewish Summer Camps in North America and Europe. By designating and training one or more members of the staff as the official Hebrew Fellow (Amit Ivrit for masculine singular, Amita Ivrit for feminine singular, and Amitei Ivrit for plural) and utilizing the games, user guide, and materials designed by HATC for this purpose, Jewish summer camp staff can intentionally and consistently infuse Hebrew terminology and phraseology into the culture. 

The HATC leadership team recently had the pleasure of visiting “In The City Camp” in Atlanta, Georgia, where the Director, Eileen Price, has devoted significant effort and corralled tangible and financial resources to amplify the Jewish identity by infusing Zionism and Hebrew language into the lives of over 700 campers and 150 staff members per season. “For 75% of the campers, In The City Camp IS their primary Jewish experience,” Eileen shared. “I believe that the future of Jewish connectivity in America IS Jewish camping.” 

HATC Leadership team with front row from left: Shahar Newman, 23, of Jerusalem; Eileen Price, Founder and CEO; Danya Maloon, Director of Camp Care;

With the support of the staff’s senior leadership, the designated and trained Amitei Ivrit enlist the efforts of the other Israeli Shlichim and American staff members to utilize Hebrew throughout the day. There are 9 Israeli shlichim at camp this summer, some brought to camp in partnership with the Jewish Agency, such as Yael Shapira and Noa Kobo, and some who are already embedded as educators in the local community. Last year’s Amita, Ofri Katzap, will be joining them in July, bringing her extensive experience implementing the HATC Hebrew materials and resources. Other Israelis find their way to In The City Camps by word-of-mouth. Price mines her connections to find Israelis with American citizenship who can come to work in the summer without the need for a special visa. By example, Shahar Newman, 23, is working at In The City Camp before beginning her studies at Hebrew University of Jerusalem this fall. Shahar was born and grew up in Los Angeles, until at age 11 she moved to Jerusalem, completed her army service, and spent this past year travelling through South America.  

Price points out that it cannot just be on the Israelis to infuse Hebrew, Judaism, and Zionism. “It’s just not fair,” Price notes, “so we need more counselors and staff members who are day school graduates and who have done a gap year in Israel, who know Hebrew and Israeli culture and are also natives of the American mindset.” This year Price successfully recruited 5 post-gap-year students to the staff and is figuring out how to best leverage them to meet her goals for Hebrew infusion in support of Zionist and Jewish identity building. It is also by design that the Site Director, Sydney Harlow, spent 3 seasons of the year on staff at Georgia Tech Hillel and that the camp photographer, Abbie Frankel, is on the staff of Emory University Hillel. “The Jewish community has to wrap itself around each other more, so that everybody utilizes the available services.” 

Signage now features Hebrew (and transliterated) terminology.

This is the third summer that In The City has participated in Amitei Ivrit program, and the increased Hebrew infusion through all five senses is palpable throughout the camp. Hebrew vocabulary is supported by signage that was once all in English and is now in Hebrew and transliteration to be inclusive of those who need to navigate the camp facility but do not (yet!) know how to read Hebrew. Music blasting in the counselor break room that was once American hits is now Israeli/Hebrew hits, and Chef Howard, overseeing Bishul (cooking class) peppers his explanations with a heavy hand of Hebrew. Some Hebrew vocabulary is taught with camp-wide intention, while other vocabulary is organically infused through free-choice activities, in which campers are most personally invested. “The Hebrew language materials from Hebrew at the Center are great and very accessible,” says Eileen Price, “but you must pick the right Israelis and Hebrew-literate Americans to implement Amitei Ivrit. For those who are not natural-born teachers, it is a godsend to have the designated Amitei Ivrit to gently guide the rest of the staff.”  

Everywhere one looks at In The City Camp, campers are happy and engaged, but perhaps the biggest impact of Amitei Ivrit at In The City Camp has been on the young adult staff. This is true at the best Jewish summer camps that make life-changing impressions on the lives of 18–20-year-olds. No one is more in tune with this responsibility and opportunity than its director, Eileen Price. 

2024 State of the Field of Hebrew Language Education Report

We are excited to share the new 2024 State of the Field Report: Hebrew Education in North American Jewish Day Schools.

This report brings together significant work of partners and stakeholders to better understand, recognize and leverage advancements in Hebrew education throughout our field. The 80-page report features aggregated and curated knowledge acquired from our field over the past 12 months.

Join Hebrew teachers, Hebrew leaders, and other school leaders for an intensive, virtual conference on Sunday, April 3, 11:30 – 3:30 EDT. 

Click here for more information and to register