Danielle Minson — How You Help
How You Help: Israeli Soldier Finds Calling Bringing Scouts to Cincinnati—With Support of his Commander
Partnership2Gether (P2G) builds people-to-people connections between Netanya and Cincinnati; by learning about each other, we strengthen Jewish peoplehood and pluralism in both cities. Through P2G, Israeli and American teens were able to form lifelong friendships, and nowhere was this more apparent than at Camp Livingston this summer. I had the chance to see the Israeli and American campers prepare for and celebrate Shabbat together, and watch the campers sing, dance, and pray together Camp Livingston-style. It was clear that bonds had been created for a lifetime. —Karen Goodman, P2G Cochair
“Those kids, they are creating the beginning of relationships. I believe this is just the beginning, because it was just the beginning for me.”
Oren Enzwaig, 22, led a delegation of eight Israeli Tzofim (Scouts) from the Ramon Tribe of Netanya, Israel, Cincinnati’s partnership city, to Camp Livingston this summer through the Partnership2Gether (P2G) project of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati. They spent four weeks getting to know and making friends with the American Jewish children and teenagers at camp.
The “beginning” Oren talked about is the beginning of friendships: relationships between people in Netanya and Cincinnati—a mission he shares with P2G. He first became involved with P2G as one of the Chaverim m’Israel (Friends from Israel) in Cincinnati in 2013 to 2014 when he was 18. He and another post-high school teen spent the year teaching Americans about life in Israel by visiting schools and other organizations.
Oren’s own beginning, though, was at age 13. He had the opportunity to spend two weeks at Camp Livingston, in southeast Indiana. It was his first time in the US, and he got the full experience—sports, ropes courses, swimming, campfires, playing cards, praying outside in nature, new ideas, and meeting a lot of Americans—and it made a profound impact. Camp Livingston was the beginning of almost a decade of teaching Americans about Israel, and Israelis about the United States, and the beginning of what he intends to make his life’s work.
Camp Livingston, for Oren, was the perfect introduction to American Jewish life at the perfect age. Camp Livingston enriches the lives of its campers and staff by providing a fun, unique, community experience, while encouraging the development of Jewish identity in a safe and inclusive environment. Both American and Israeli campers form lifelong friendships and develop self-confidence through a fun and creative camping experience.
When he heard P2G and the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati brought teens from Netanya to Camp Livingston, he jumped at the chance to lead the group this summer.
“Here, this is our opportunity to create the first bridge between people, between ideas, between kids who would never know each other if we didn’t give them this opportunity,” he said. “By creating this, we are creating a better Jewish world. We are creating a better opportunity for all those kids here.”
Only one problem.
Oren serves in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). After finishing a combat role, he was assigned to a year-long position as a logistics commander—overseeing everything from the toilet paper the soldiers use to the ammunition they need for their missions.
“I was talking with my officer, who knew my story, and I tried to explain to him how this mission was important, just as other missions we did in service [are important],” Oren said. “He understood that this is an opportunity that won’t come back again.”
The officer gave Oren the green light, telling him that he represented not just his immediate family, but his IDF family, too, and that there is more work to do to unite Jews around the world.
“My commander said, ‘Go bring our story to those kids.’”
After the Israeli Scouts were selected, Oren prepared them by telling them what to expect and showing them photos of Camp Livingston; then he traveled with them to Cincinnati. In order to start building those people-to-people connections, the Israeli scouts stayed with host families in Cincinnati, some of which had kids going to camp alongside the Israelis. They spent several days learning about American Jewry and being introduced to Jewish pluralism before heading to Camp Livingston together.
Oren said it is important that Israelis understand why American Jews want to live in the United States; what their traditions are; and why they go to summer camp, something Yuval Bechor, 13, said she didn’t understand until she got here.
“In Israel, it’s very different, because you live there, and everyone around you is Jewish,” Yuval said. “I think that [in the United States] this camp is their home. They come here, and everyone is Jewish, and they can say their prayers together. When I first arrived here, I thought it was really amazing to see how all the Jewish kids bond together and get closer to their religion.”
Creating bonds, sharing experiences, making friends and memories. Adva Aviv, 14, said that happened between Americans and Israelis at camp.
“This way, you can actually meet [Americans],” Adva said. “You can see them, talk with them, hug them, and be with them all day. It’s so fun!”
The other side agreed. “If I would have just heard about Israel, I wouldn’t be as interested,” said Ellie Garfunkel, 14, an American camper who will attend Sycamore High School this fall. “Since they come to us, it’s a whole experience, and I made friendships of a lifetime here.”
And that is exactly the point, Oren said.
“For me, creating relationships between Jews in Israel and Jews in Cincinnati will make us understand more about each other and will make us a united and strong, big family,” he said. “This is the dream I wish for.”
“In just two years, this program has paid so many dividends to our camp community,” said Camp Livingston Executive Director Aaron Slovin. “Our campers from the US have stayed in touch with the teens from Israel and look forward to visiting them on a future Israel trip. The opportunity to experience Israel in many ways is a core tenet of Livingston.”
In a few months, Oren will finish his assignment with the IDF and start college. He wants to study education and international relations to pursue his mission to build more bridges between Israel and the United States.
Camp Livingston and Partnership2Gether (P2G) are two of over fifty programs and agencies funded in part by the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati. Camp Livingston has offered a summer camp experience for Jewish teens for more than 90 years. The Israeli Scouts’ summer camp experience was made possible by P2G, a Federation project that makes people-to-people connections and builds relationships between individuals in Netanya and Cincinnati.
The Jewish Federation of Cincinnati: We look at the whole picture, taking into account the diverse needs of the entire community. Together we can do almost anything.
Thanks to you and the help of our partner agencies, teenagers at Camp Livingston this summer are creating relationships and building bridges with Israeli teenagers.