CGI Reflections

By: Laura Scheiner
Camp Gan Izzy has been a wonderful experience for my son, Alex, and our family. Alex has learned so much over the course of the three weeks he has been there and has had so much fun! What a joy to go into his room each morning, wake him up with the Modeh Ani, and see him jump out of bed when he hears that it is a camp day! As I got him ready in the morning, I let him know of all the wonderful activities that his amazing counselors had planned for the day. There was never a dull day, a dull moment, never a day without a theme, and/or field trip. 

Ask Alex what his favorite part of camp was and he’ll start to tell you about the marvelous trip to the Bloomington Children’s Museum, and tell you about getting to be on the radio. Maybe he’ll regale you with the Camp Gan Izzy cheer. It’s truly amazing to hear him singing throughout the day and trying to teach camp songs and baruchas to his younger brother. He might talk about the games or the pool or going to Jump Start Gymnastics, the bowling alley, or on a plane ride! Perhaps he will tell you about the cookie jar he made or the cereal bowl and pajama party, his special “Gan Izzy Kippah,” or the marvelous food he got to eat. No doubt he will mention his “bunk mates,” aka the Kosher Krocs, and his amazing counselors, Rochel Leah and Chayale. I loved hearing Alex talk about all of the mitzvahs he was learning at camp and seeing him put them into action at home.

As a parent, I could not have asked for a better camp experience. Each day was filled with exciting activities, fun-filled and enriched with learning and Judaism. The counselors were warm, caring, and engaging. There was definitely a family feeling within the camp. Watching the older kids playing and helping the younger kids was heart-warming. I knew that my child was in a safe and loving environment. If there were any questions or concerns, Sarah or one of Alex’s counselors would contact me, and they were never too busy to answer a question or concern that a parent had. 

Families were not forgotten either. A Camp Gan Izzy family Shabbas dinner entertained all with bunk presentations, fun, and games. It was a fun-filled evening for campers and parents alike. A closing family event is planned as well, promising more excitement and fun as well as another chance for families to see what their children have been learning and doing at camp, and a social opportunity as well.   Newsletters were sent home weekly with updates about camp happenings, pictures, and activity pages for the kids. Pictures were posted on the Gan Izzy blog regularly and many more were posted at the end of each week for all to see. 

I’m grateful for all of the hard work that Rabbi Langsam, Sarah, and the counselors put into bringing such a wonderful Jewish camp experience to Peoria each year. The “Mitzvah Marathon” of 2010 was incredible and we look forward to enjoying many more summers with Camp Gan Izzy.

 

By Michelle Eggert
I am biased.  I grew up a camper and have strong, positive feelings about what camp did for me as a person.  A camp should provide more than fun and games.   It should be a place where children learn the importance of caring, sharing, tolerance, patience and working with others.  A camp should bring out the best in each child's character and personality.  A Jewish camp should be a place where children can experience first-hand the richness, excitement & warmth of Judaism.  CAMP GAN ISRAEL is everything a camp should be and more.

Gan Izzy, as the kids love to call it, is in its third summer and had about 50 campers this year. THAT IS HUGE if you think of Peoria as an area with only about 400 self-identified Jewish families.   The kids are ALWAYS singing at Gan Izzy … and at home when the day is done.  (In fact, I think the motto may be “the louder the better?”)  They swim twice a week.  Trip days keep things exciting.  Overnights are the icing on the cake.  Through it all, campers are imbued with a deep sense of pride in their Jewish heritage.  Exciting activities, stories, songs, games and contests teach Judaic themes that literally come to life.   Hands-on activities, stories, games, challah baking and Shabbat parties are all part of the unique experience. There is NEVER a dull moment at Gan Izzy.

The CGI staff is the real secret to its success.  Their love for the children is surpassed only by the children’s love for them!!   Morah Sorah picks the best of the best … Jewish girls she knows share her belief that child development is the most significant ingredient in a healthy camp experience.  They are patient and encouraging, experienced, warm and able to care for each child as an individual. Many return year after year, lending experience and continuity.  

For our children, Camp Gan Israel was much more than a physical break from the school routine.  Both came home more caring, better understanding of the importance of giving, and more equipped to stand up for what they know is right and willing to be more responsible.  Both came home more confident and independent.   Believe me:  That would have been enough.  But for Ashley, CGI was something so much more – it was transformative.  Her change was not a marked event that brought on a sudden epiphany, nor a conscious process of small steps towards a goal.   She just seemed to come alive.   Perhaps it was the sing-song environment that released her inhibitions and allowed her to relish her silliness. . . . Whatever it was, something told her that it was okay to be herself, to take risks, and to meet challenges with temerity.  It taught her to love her Jewish heritage and being Jewish.  She has never been happier, honestly.  For this, I am forever grateful.

While camping in general is key for children to become the best people they can be, Jewish camping experiences are key for children like Ashley to become the best Jewish people they can be.  In a city in which our children exist as the “only” or “one of a handful” of students in their schools that are Jewish, offering the opportunity to live Jewishly, in an all -Jewish environment, is truly a gift.  Statistics show that our kids may become less and less connected to their Jewish communities and to sustained Jewish identity.  Camps like Gan Izzy can help ensure this does not happen.

Thank you to Rabbi and Sorah for putting so much love into our children.  And thank you to the Federation for providing scholarship assistance to Gan Izzy families that make it accessible to all.  Remember to Live Generously when making your campaign contributions this year – Federation’s support of community programs like Gan Israel do a world of good! 
 


Feedback from CGI 2004

Getting Busy With Gan Izzy
By Frandy Raso

When Sorah Langsam asked me to write a brief article about my kids’ experiences at Camp Gan Izzy this summer, I excitedly agreed. I welcomed the opportunity to put down on paper all the wonderful things they did. My kids, David, age 8, and Adam, age 5, absolutely loved camp this year. To help me accurately describe my sons’ enjoyment, I went to them to help me describe why Camp Gan Izzy was so amazing. (I promised David that I would mention that his absolute favorite part of camp was the overnight that the older kids attended. Following an afternoon of playing and picnicking at Detweiller Park, the counselors woke the kids at midnight for a surprise popcorn party...need I say more?! ) At first I got bombarded with simple answers from them about why camp was so great…”THE SONGS! THE SPORTS! THE WATER GAMES! THE COUNSELORS WERE THE BEST! WE BAKED! WE CELEBRATED SHABBAT! WE DID NEAT ART PROJECTS! IT WAS FUN BEING IN THE SHOW! THE FIELDTRIPS WERE AWESOME…!” (During the course of the two weeks of camp, the campers went bowling, swimming, fishing, canoeing, visited the Wheels of Time Museum, and also went to the Children’s Museum in Bloomington. So yes the field trips were, in fact, awesome).

After about a minute of yelling out their favorite things about camp, David said something that I think really sums up the whole Gan Izzy experience. He was talking about his favorite songs and said that a new song he had learned, “Modeh Ani,” a song about remembering to be thankful, made him feel good. When I asked him why, he replied, “Because it put me in my Jewish mode.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. While Gan Izzy offered all the regular activities you would expect at summer camp, it interjected Jewish education, prayer, and tradition in ways that were fun and exciting. For example, some of the kids made family trees with pictures of different generations family members, while others painted beautiful stone etchings of the Wailing Wall. The kids made challah for Shabbat, participated in a mock Jewish wedding, learned new Jewish songs, bensched after lunch, and played fun games involving Jewish themes.

In addition, it felt so good dropping the kids off each day and seeing them run up to their counselors who were waiting for them with huge smiles and big hugs. The connection between the counselors and the campers was really terrific. The counselors demonstrated positive energy and enthusiasm that was contagious. The first thing each morning and the last thing each afternoon was “line-up” in which the whole camp sang songs together and each group did their individual group cheer. All the kids really got into this daily routine and we parents watched them sing and dance like we had never seen before!

The last day of camp was also very exciting as the kids put on a show for all of the parents. Each child had a part either acting in the play or dancing in the show. The kids were all very excited to strut their stuff. While everyone looked forward to this finale, it was hard saying goodbye to fellow campers and especially to the amazing counselors who would return to New York. During those two weeks of camp, the kids at Camp Gan Izzy bonded in friendship, shared experiences, and Judaism – bonds that I hope my kids will continue to seek out in different situations as they grow up. I truly believe our small Jewish community is lucky to have such a great Jewish camp right here in our own back yard.


Feedback from CGI 2003

Rena Fredman
a Peorian currently living in Jerusalem, Israel

Coming home to Peoria each summer is wonderful.  Finding things for my kids to do has sometimes been a challenge- certainly I never expected to come here and have the opportunity to send them to a camp run by Chabad!  And what a camp it was. 

Coming from Israel, I have lots of experience with day camps and after school activities.  I don't think I've ever been as happy with a program as I was with camp Izzy.  It was so well-run and organized.  I
sent two kids there.  My ten year old daughter and my six year old son.  Weeks after it has ended, they are both still talking about it constantly.  They are still full of the ruach (spirit) that camp gave them.  They are always
singing the songs they learned and remembering things to tell me that they did.  And they did so much!  Swimming, parties for the parents, and fun field trips (my little sabras have even been on a hayrack ride now!) that all showed great care and attention to detail. 
Delicious kosher snacks and lunches were provided, and the kids brought home many little gifts and toys.  They learned many things and were encouraged to give charity and do good deeds.  This summer camp Izzy brought in wonderful young women from Chicago and New York to act as counselors.  They were terrific role models and are still being talked about by my kids.  We loved camp- it will long remain a highlight of our summer.  I have only one request for next year- please run camp Izzy for three weeks instead of two!



Gan Izzy wouldn’t be the same without the wonderful counselors that come along with it. They make day camp so much fun and show so much enthusiasm in everything they do. They are amazing role models to al of the campers and teach us amazing things that we will never forget. All of the counselors have shown me what it is to be a proud Jew, to show the world that we have a special piece of G‑d inside us, a NeShema. I will never forget the counselors in Gan Izzy because they reach a special place inside of you and tell us to always be proud of who we are.

Each counselor has done and accomplished wonderful things in Gan Izzy. My head counselor, Rivky, has shown me a lot about the mitzvahs from Hashem, taught me about being a proud Jew, and how she will never forget us. She has also made us outstanding lunches and delt with my crazy tuna orders. Rivkey, the head counselor, has taught us amazing cheers and made us bring out our Gan Izzy spirit. Chaunie taught me all about the importance of marrying a Jewish man and all about growing up proud and strong. Chayla has taught me all about how Jews are all over the world and we are all united by the Torah. Goldie taught me about being a wonderful person inside and really loving a fellow Jew as yourself. Chanky has taught me all about the wonderful things of being Jewish; singing the songs, cheering along, and praying to Hashem. Rivkah has also taught me about being a wonderful Jew inside and taking good care of your NeShema since it is a special piece from G‑d. I have truly appreciated everything the counselors have done for us.

In Gan Izzy, we always have something exciting and fun to do. Rabbi plans amazing field trips for us and makes sure we are always having a great time. Also, the counselors make sure to plan fun activities that always seem to connect with our theme for the day.

This year at camp was my last year being a camper. Next year I will be a counselor. Since it was my last year being a camper, I really wanted it to go out with a "bang." And of course, it always does.

This year it is going to be really hard to say goodbye.. Everyone always grows so close to the counselors and you feel like they are your really close friends that you bonded with really well in the last three weeks. I will miss everyone.

Well, since Gan Izzy was wonderful as it usually is, I would like to say a couple thank yous:

First off, I would like to thank Rabbi and Morah Sorah for planning amazing trips and activities and especially for choosing outstanding counselors to come to work at CGI Peoria.

Secondly, I would like to thank all of the counselors. You have been great to us and made this camp so much fun and really enjoyable. We all will really miss you and are so thankful for what you have done for us! We love you all!

And lastly, I would like to thank all of my fellow campers.. You guys have made this camp extremely fun and we have all had a blast together.

So, if you aren’t in Gan Izzy you are definitely missing out. This camp is amazing and you won’t regret coming here. And if you don’t really know about Gan Izzy, this speech doesn’t explain all of it.. Look back on our last three weeks and see all of us laughing and smiling because Gan Izzy Peoria is full of it!

So thank you Rabbi, Morah Sorah, and all of the counselors for making another wonderful year at Gan Israel! You truly are the best!

Love,

Mazel

July 18, 2008

Gan Izzy 5768


Feedback CGI 2008"My Gan Izzy Experience"  
 

"We want Meshiach now! We want Meshiach now!" are the cheers you would hear coming from the Gan Izzy camp room. Gan Israel is a day camp that is filled with laughter and fun, excitement and joy. It is one of the best day camps I have ever gone to and each year starts a new memory. Every year, I get ready to take that great Gan Izzy experience and put it in a special place in my heart.
Feedback from CGI 2005