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Hebrew Coming Alive in Canadian Young Judaea Camps

Camp Shalom campers showing off their Ivrit bracelets

“Hakshivu, Hakshivu” rings out clear across the beautiful grass field next to the Beit Am and weaves its way past cabins as the sounds reverberate off the lake’s dark blue water. It is another announcement designed to inform and engage campers and staff at Camp Kadimah, the Canadian Young Judaea (CYJ) camp in Barss Corner, Nova Scotia, a call to action that has been calling out since the camp opened in 1943, five years before the establishment of the Jewish state. The next day during a visit to their peers at Camp Shalom in Gravenhurst, Ontario, this same phrase comes across the speakers spread through the camp, leading the campers and staff to look up from the meal or an activity to see if a particular call to action is directed their way.

Camp Shalom’s Amita Ivrit creates Hebrew labels for the lost and found

The use of Hebrew is found throughout the culture of both of these camps, whether in the naming of buildings, the various periods of the day, or on the beautiful flags decorating the ceiling of the “Hadar,” or dining hall, from the camp-wide Maccabia events from years past. However, these camps are hoping to further increase the use of Hebrew and a general enhancement of the intentionality of how Hebrew is used at camp as participants in Hebrew at the Center’s Amitei Ivrit program. Through the training of an Amit/a Ivrit¸ a Hebrew Fellow, along with the training of a senior camp professional to assist in implementing the Fellow’s work, a new approach to Hebrew engagement and infusion is enhancing the presence and use of Hebrew at these camps and bringing a more intentional approach to how Hebrew advances the camps’ educational and communal goals. Interactive language games, exposure to Hebrew and Israeli culture, the expansion of Hebrew language signs and songs throughout camp, and discussions about why Hebrew is important as the language of the Jewish people are the key methodologies underlying this initiative.

The Amita Ivrit at Camp Shalom discussing the Hebrew play with a group of campers

At Camp Kadimah, the Amita Ivrit also runs the Sababa program as a regular activity that each of the camp groups visit, an opportunity to engage with Hebrew as a part of connecting to Hebrew. Food, art, discussions, and games provide opportunities to integrate learning, language, and fun. Dr. Ilan Danjoux, the camp’s educational director and a professor of education, is hoping to work with the Amita and the camp leadership to add additional Hebrew place names to each location and new building at camp so that it creates a physical map of camp that links directly to the land of Israel.

Camp Kadimah campers in conversation with the Amita Ivrit about Israel and Hebrew

Becca Unterman-Somer, Associate Director of Camp Shalom, works closely with her Amita to offer informal opportunities for campers and staff to play with Hebrew, whether through an impromptu group of campers putting on a brief Hebrew play for the entire camp one morning or the labeling of various groupings of items in the lost and found with Hebrew titles. For movement camps with a long history of wanting to make certain Israel and Israeli culture comes alive, the Amitei Ivrit program is a perfect combination of approach, activities, and materials to make Jewish and Hebrew learning compelling and fun for all.

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