Tikkun Olam ‘Takes A Village’

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New Tamarack Camps village seeks to make the world a better place.

Tikkun Olam campers and staff outside the special-needs, long-term home they helped renovate in Lancaster, Ohio
Tikkun Olam campers and staff outside the special-needs, long-term home they helped renovate in Lancaster, Ohio

Tikkun olam, the concept of repairing the world, has become so prevalent in today’s society that Tamarack Camps created a new village embodying this Jewish value.

The new Tikkun Olam Village involves hands-on community service, learning about philanthropy, granting actual funds and being a camper.

“I think this is a great opportunity for kids going into their junior year of high school,” said Ari Cicurel, Tikkun Olam supervisor. “You get to learn and experience many aspects of community service, which is important.”

This was a trial year for Tikkun Olam, which was only offered to campers first session as an alternative to Tamarack’s Alaska trip. Twenty-five campers signed up, including 12 Israelis from the Central Galilee, Detroit’s Partnership2Gether region.

“This was my first year as a Tamarack camper,” said Ben Morton of Chicago. “My friend convinced me to sign up, and I’m really glad she did. Meeting and getting to know the Israeli campers was such a cool and new experience for me. It was the best.”

During the four-week session, campers spent the first week at Camp Maas in Ortonville learning about philanthropy, Jewish values and customs through introductory programs and exercises. The second and third weeks, campers participated in community service work outside of camp, and the fourth week was spent back at Camp Maas wrapping up and enjoying main camp activities.

Tikkun Olam campers spent a week in Ohio’s Hocking Hills area, where they worked with Habitat for Humanity on a special-needs long-term housing project. Campers renovated the home in nearby Lancaster by painting, landscaping and cleaning. In addition to community service work, campers engaged in exciting activities around the city. They spent their nights in tents along the Hocking River.

Ben Morton paints a viaduct in Detroit while working with Summer in the City.
Ben Morton paints a viaduct in Detroit while working with Summer in the City.

“The trip to Ohio was my favorite,” said Omri Eyal of Israel’s Jezreel Valley. “It was the first time we did community service outside of camp, which felt good. We also did unusual activities, like zip lining and mini golf, which was a lot of fun.”

Cicurel said, “It was amazing to see the kids go from having fun to taking that mature step outside of camp doing service work.”

After a week in Hocking Hills, Tikkun Olam campers spent a week working with Summer in the City, a nonprofit organization striving to make Detroit a better place through volunteerism. Campers painted murals, performed service work at Pasteur Elementary School in Detroit and worked on a community garden.

After all their hard work, the group attended a Tigers game and spent the night in Detroit. Because of limited space, some stayed at the Summer in the City house and others with Tamarack alumni living in Detroit.

Learning To Allocate
Tamarack received a $1,000 grant from New York-based Jewish Teen Funders Network for Tikkun Olam campers to allocate to nonprofit agencies in Metro Detroit. The grant also included training for Cicurel and his Tikkun Olam staff members: Steven Hertzberg, Kim Milke and Osnat Yechimovitz.

Alayna Brasch writes haikus with her Summer in the City “buddy” before a field trip to the Detroit Institute of Arts.
Alayna Brasch writes haikus with her Summer in the City “buddy” before a field trip to the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Cicurel and Carly Weinstock, Tamarack Camps program director, chose the Holocaust Memorial Center (HMC) and JARC, both in Farmington Hills, and Forgotten Harvest in Oak Park as the three agencies that would benefit from the grant. These three organizations wrote proposals explaining how they would use the grant money, and campers were able to visit all three sites where they had the opportunity to speak to the agency’s staff members and ask questions.

“The biggest impact the site visits had on the campers was that they weren’t just grant proposals anymore,” Cicurel said. “The campers were able to see the real works each organization is doing.

“At Forgotten Harvest, they saw the food and the trucks and realized how much need there is in our community. At JARC, they got to meet the participants. At the HMC, they got to go on a tour and learned the importance of the center. These all became real moments to them.”

At the end of the session, Tikkun Olam campers led a program to announce the grant recipients. Campers, representing the new Camp Maas Tikkun Olam Teen Foundation, decided all three agencies were deserving and divided the $1,000 among them.

“It was very impressive to see how much these kids learned about the community and how thoughtful they were in terms of how they allocated the money,” said Deena Lockman, Tamarack Camps development director. “The program was held at Camp Maas in the Donor’s Circle, which was very appropriate because that’s where we honor the philanthropists who donate to Tamarack.”

Tikkun Olam campers spent a long summer learning Judaic values and making a contribution to the community; however, one of the most important things they learned from their experience is that Metro Detroit has a great need for money and volunteers.

“This was an amazing first summer of Tikkun Olam, and I was happy to be part of it,” said Cicurel, who is spending second session at camp working on plans for Tikkun Olam next year. “I hope the program is able to grow and that more campers become involved.

“I also hope more organizations in the community reach out to these kids because they are the future leaders of our community. These are the kids who want to make a difference.” 

By Leslie Spector, JN Intern

 

 

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