In an unusual camping experience, some 150 campers were exposed to a new dimension to Jewish living. The camp, designed to run during the Passover festival, gave the boys and girls—from Nizhny Novgorod, Kostroma, Samara, Perm and several other cities in Russia, the opportunity to practice the 8-day long festival in a way they never had before.
“The experience made a profound impression on these children,” says Rabbi Nechemya Kanelsky, one of the Chabad representatives who ran the camp. The students participated in preparing for the Seders, and in every aspect of the festival, with all its attendant historic and halakhic insights, giving a new dimension to the holiday and to Judaism in general.
In a setting that filtered even mundane and ordinary activities through a Jewish lens, the campers enjoyed a wide range of outdoor sports and recreational programs. For most of the campers, the Jewish pride and awareness they developed during this week made it a “before and after” turning point.
“Before they left,” says Rabbi Kanelsky, “a number of the girls asked to be given Jewish names.” That became the impetus for a camp trip to the synagogue, where the girls received their new Jewish names at the Torah.