Tuesday, July 14, 2020

(Courtesy of Bnei Akiva) Since the first Moshava Bnei Akiva camp opened its doors in the 1930s, the Machanot Moshava and Bnei Akiva summer programming have been servicing thousands of youth across the U.S. and Canada every summer, in addition to Bnei Akiva’s year-round programming reaching thousands of chanichim (students) across tens of communities each year. This past summer held a record-breaking 6,000+ campers and 9,000 if you include staff!

The five Bnei Akiva sleepaway camps, also referred to as the Moshavot, are strategically found across the country with two on the East Coast. Moshava IO (Indian Orchard) enjoying 50 years at its current location in Honesdale, Pennsylvania (plus another 30+ before that), conveniently located near the tri-state area, and Camp Moshevet Stone celebrating its 50th year in Sugar Grove, Pennsylvania, located near northeastern cities such as Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Further Midwest is Moshava Wild Rose celebrating 80 summers, and on the West Coast, Moshava Alevy. In Canada, Moshava Ennismore in Ontario has proudly been servicing chanichim from across Canada and the US for 60 years.

Though each camp has its own flavor and character and each prides itself on its unique programming, they all share the same Bnei Akiva values of Torah V’Avodah—providing campers with a unique experiential and immersive program developing a deep appreciation for Am Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael and Torat Yisrael. Each camp has an intricately developed chinuch program which gets strategically interwoven into many aspects of camp.

With the rich history and success of the sleepaway camps, Bnei Akiva knew it had to fill a void in the day camp scene by providing a stronger more enriching day camp offering, and that’s how Moshava Ba’ir was born. The first location in New Jersey opened 10 summers ago and was an incredible success. A year later Moshava Ba’ir Toronto opened its doors. Through a fun and experiential chinuch program that infuses itself into most of the daily activities, chanichim walk away with lifelong Moshava and Bnei Akiva values, as well as learning to be part of a kvutza (bunk) and community with the opportunity to develop individual skills, talents and abilities. With over 800 campers this summer and 400+ staff at the NJ campus, the Moshava Ba’ir model combines a leading chinuch program with top activities from fencing, farming and woodworking to an entire sports program, climbing wall and archery.

Meanwhile, since 1972, Bnei Akiva has been sending post tenth grade teens on a life-changing trip to Israel on Mach Hach BaAretz to learn about their heritage, the land, the people of Israel, and themselves. As the largest and leading Israel summer tour for this age group, Mach Hach fills nine buses with over 450 teens and staff. After years of learning about Am Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael and Torat Yisrael through weekly Bnei Akiva involvement at snif, shabbatonim and summer camp, Mach Hach brings these lessons into a concrete reality as teens explore the land and history first hand.

In addition to Mach Hach, this year Bnei Akiva’s Jerusalem-based Yeshivat Torah V’Avodah was excited to host “Summer In Jerusalem,” a six-week program in partnership with the OU-JLIC for college students looking for a balanced combination of learning, interning and living in Israel. Students were matched with internships in their field of choice across top firms, agencies and workplaces across Jerusalem. With students from schools including Brandeis, Columbia, NYU, UMD and YU, and a wide range of fields such as medicine, law, PR, design and engineering, the program went through great lengths to ensure there was something for everyone. In the evening, students had the opportunity to engage in a vibrant evening learning program offering a full array of shiurim, teachers, social events and learning opportunities.

While for some, a Bnei Akiva summer experience may end after their high school or college years, many of Bnei Akiva’s former chanichim and families actually get to continue living a Bnei Akiva lifestyle all summer and year-round by making aliyah. It’s impossible to say how many campers across the programs have made aliyah in the past 80+ years since the movement was established in the U.S. and Canada, but it is definitely well into the thousands. This past summer alone, Moshava Ba’ir New Jersey celebrated five families plus over 10 staff members who enlisted into the Israeli army or making aliyah on their own at its annual Aliyah Day celebration. As Rav Shaul Feldman, executive director of Bnei Akiva, puts it, “The vision of Rav Kook that Am Israel will be hearing the shofar gadol of redemption of our generation is coming to life with hundreds of thousands of alumni living a life of Torah v’avoda.” He adds, “Although Bnei Akiva is a 90-year-old movement, we are making sure to keep it relevant, fulfilling the needs for our current generation, youth and families alike.”

For more information about Bnei Akiva year-round and summer programming visit www.bneiakiva.org.