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CJF’s Counterpoint Israel Program: “Shmitta” Year is the Strongest Ever

Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future recently sent a cohort of students to Israel as part of its seventh Counterpoint Israel Program. While the first year of the program had 12 student counselors at one camp site, this year, nearly 70 students are working as counselors in six different camp locations.

The students, who returned home on August 6th, ran enrichment programs in the English language and other academic skills in Dimona, Arad, Beer Sheva, Kiryat Gat and Kiryat Malachi, all cities with significant populations of at-risk youths. YU students worked with the youths to improve their English, overall academic proficiency, and to help keep them busy and out of trouble during the hot summer months. Overall, close to 1,000 local teens have benefitted from the efforts of the YU students since the program’s inception.

Rabbi Kenneth Brander, David Mitzner Dean of the CJF, declared, “We are proud of the Counterpoint initiative, which has proven to be one of the most effective and powerful tools in educating and empowering Jewish youth, impacting entire communities and preparing YU students for their roles as future Jewish leaders. Our counselors have a chance for self-discovery and the opportunity to hone their skills while taking on the roles of Jewish change agents.”

Israeli teens receive healthy meals during the day and participate in various classes in art, martial arts, sports and English language immersion. There are trips to Jerusalem and the Old City, a movie festival trip, chesed activities, and even an airport trip to welcome new olim (immigrants) who have just arrived in Israel via Nefesh B’Nefesh.

Shosh Balk ’11S, who will begin studying for her Master’s in Education from Bank Street College of Education this fall, returned to Counterpoint this summer to serve as the head counselor for the new camp in Beer Sheva. “My first experience with Counterpoint Israel was Summer 2008, which coincided with the first time summer camp was launched in Dimona,” says Balk. “When the opportunity arose to lead a branch of summer camp in Beer Sheva, I was excited to be involved in bringing Counterpoint to another community, and enthusiastic about guiding current students in establishing a new camp and fostering meaningful connections with their campers. I am glad that, as an alumna, I have the opportunity to return and continue making a difference as part of YU.”