Are you looking for a fun-filled, Jewish program for your children this summer? Well look no further, because the Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel & Pomona Valleys is excited to be putting on their annual Camp Gan Shalom, once again offering a great place for Jewish kids “to come together in play, laughter and learning.” Jlife caught up with Aaren Heller, Director of Youth and Camp Programs for the Jewish Federation, to learn more about the day camp experience.
JLIFE: For what ages or grade levels does Camp Gan Shalom offer programs?
HELLER: Our “Kehilla” program is for kids going into Kindergarten through 5th grade. Our “Manheegim” program is for 6th through 8th graders. And we have a Counselor-in-Training (CIT) program for 9th and 10th graders.
JLIFE: Can you talk about the curricula for each program?
HELLER: Kids in “Kehilla” learn a Hebrew song before being split into smaller groups by grade level. Then around mid-morning they have a “heetmahoot,” or specialty, which is basically an elective that they get to choose every week. These are focused around developing a skill, and the kids will work on a project until they complete it. In the past we’ve offered cake decorating and painting among others. Then after lunch we usually go to the pool. And then they have their “chug,” which is an elective they get to choose daily. This year we plan on offering activities including basketball, arts & crafts, theater games, gaga, and cooking. And then we end every day with a closing circle. So that’s a typical day for our “Kehilla,” but on Wednesdays they go on a fieldtrip.
The “Manheegim” program is focused on leadership development. In this program, the 6th, 7th, and 8th graders get to go on fieldtrips everyday that are oriented around leadership, community service, and vocational skills. We also set aside certain days to let them choose what they want to do. So we’ll say to the group, “You have x-amount of money and three days to plan activities for.” And because they all have different interests, this becomes a really good exercise not just in budgeting but in compromising as well.
On a typical day, the CITs have an hour-long session, either with myself or with a guest from the community, where they have the opportunity to learn counseling skills or other important vocational skills. In the past we’ve had educators come in and talk about lesson planning, we’ve had a youth director talk about reflecting after a lesson or program, and we’ve even had someone come and teach resume writing. For a lot of them, this is their first taste of what a job will be like.
JLIFE: What are you most looking foward to the summer?
HELLER: Just getting to hang with the kids. It’s really fun to see some of our kids come back year after year. It seems like just yesterday that they were coming out of preschool, and we get to watch them grow and blossom into wonderful children. I’m really excited to meet all our new campers and to welcome the returning kids back for another amazing summer at Camp Gan Shalom.
Camp Gan Shalom runs for two sessions. Weeks 1 – 4 (June 17 – July 12) take place at Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center. Weeks 5 – 7 (July 15 – August 2) take place at Temple Beth Israel of Pomona. To register a child, visit https://jewishsgpv.org/our-work/youth-and-teens/camp-gan-shalom. To sponsor a child’s camp experience, visit http://www.jewishsgpv.org/make-your-impact. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
PERRY FEIN IS A CONTRIBUTING WRITER TO JLIFE MAGAZINE.