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The letter itself, sent to those looking to work at the camp, is very honest about the organization's goals, stating that "Since the 1970’s, Horav Chaim Mintz,shlit”a, has been reaching out to our uninformed brethren to share with them our rich heritage of which they were previously unaware. Horav Chaim encompassed the total kiruv spectrum; making contact, inspiring, encouraging parents to send their children to Jewish schools, funding when necessary, educating parents, being their connection to frumkeit, supplying them with Yom Tov needs, and most importantly, giving them full moral, social, and spiritual support for the journey towards a Torah way of life"(page 1.) The goal of this camp is to groom children (not college students) for an orthodox lifestyle and the letter even states that the Oorah had grown immensely: "Horav Chaim is still the inspiration and guide, but now he is assisted by hundreds of others who reach out, stay in contact and help fund this massive kiruv initiative"(page 1.) Again, this letter does not go to the parents of non-orthodox children.
On page two, we read that "[Oorah] want[s] our campers to experience Yiddishkeit and a Torah way of life during their stay at GirlZone that will inspire them and show them that a life of Torah and Mitzvos can include all the things every girl likes to do"(page 2.) That's wonderful news! You can be orthodox and still go to summer camp, but when the counselors and staff are following up throughout the year with these kids, and they find out that "Caitlin" is on the co-ed soccer team and singing in her school's mixed chorus for the Winter Choral Presentation, are they supportive of this? (I honestly wonder about this.) I also know that the activities that are done at an all-girls orthodox summer camp are very different from what is often done in orthodox communities of mixed genders. But that's another argument and off-topic.
The relationship between staff and campers just starts in camp. Our summer program is only a jump-off point for our year-round Kesher program. Each staff member in GirlZone is assigned a Kesher partner with whom she will be expected to maintain weekly contact throughout the year. We keep their kesher to Yiddishkeit and the GirlZone spirit alive throughout the year with Chol Hamoed trips, Shabbatons, parties and other get-togethers. GirlZone staff members participate and help run these events(page 2.)After summer camp, it's natural to keep in contact with your counselors and friends if you so choose. But in this case, those employed by the camp are told that they must have a kesher (a connection) with a child that is maintained after the camp ends. They are assigned a kid to continue to influence on a weekly basis throughout the year. This kesher doesn't sound very kosher to me. It sounds very contrived. Even if it ultimately feels natural and a true friendship develops, the basis of this friendship is to bring these children (not college students) "towards a Torah way of life"(page 1.) Here is what is meant by the term kesher.
Kesher- Each staff member is assigned with one or two campers with whom she will develop a kesher. This includes a daily session of learning/schmoozing with each other during camp, a weekly phone call throughout the year, joining her at the various get-togethers throughout the year, whenever possible, (such as chol hamoed trips, shabbatons, birthday parties etc.), and keeping a specific interest in the welfare and growth of that particular girl(page 3.)
Page four offers this statement:
Update: It has since been brought to my attention that Oorah uses different terminology and this may not be their most recent letter to counselors--making a kesher is really making a Torahmate. Regardless of the cute wording, the point is still the same.
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