Yachad Jewish Identity coordinators teach Jewish identity and heritage year-round in 108 community centers throughout Israel, but in the summertime, the centers operate on a vacation schedule. School is out, so there are no afternoon-care classes, nor do the morning daycare centers operate. Even the extra-curricular courses in sports, dance and the like are on hiatus.
The Yachad coordinators thus reach out to the local day camps with the aim of infusing Jewish content and values into the wide range of daily activities. This includes everything from sport competitions, treasure hunts and art projects to special events commemorating the destruction of the Temple. “Because Tisha B’Av takes place in the summer when there’s no school, many secular Israeli kids have no idea what it is,” explains Yigal Klein, Yachad’s educational director. “Our coordinators introduce them to the concepts of ahavat hinam (baseless love) and Jewish unity as the antidote to the sinat hinam (causeless hatred) and divisiveness that caused the second Temple’s destruction.”
This approach leads to innovative activities such as “The Three Weeks of Love,” teaching children about Jewish values of tolerance, charity, and the ripple effect of positive actions during the three weeks leading up to Tisha B’Av. Capture the Flag was turned into “pass on the good deeds” at one camp; a friendship bulletin board was posted in another, where campers left positive notes for one another; and in another day camp, Yachad coordinator had campers create a large chain of multi-colored papers to represent the various skin tones found across Israel.