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Survey: Jewish Summer Camp Boosts Identity in Former Soviet Republics

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Forty-five percent of the youths who participate in Jewish Agency summer camps in the former Soviet Union want to live in Israel, while 61 percent want to study here, according to results of a survey recently released by the Jewish Agency.

Before the summer program, the number who wanted to live in Israel was 39 percent and those who wanted to study in Israel numbered 56 percent.

The Guttman Institute for Practical Social Research surveyed 2,976 youngsters who participated in last year’s Jewish Agency camps to assess if the camps strengthened Jewish identity and ties to Israel.

The number of youths who expressed an identification with the Jewish people worldwide increased over the summer from 79 percent to 89 percent.

The number of those who expressed a feeling of closeness to “the concept of Jerusalem” increased from 66 percent to 77 percent.

Fifty-six percent of youngsters at the start of the summer said they believed their families planned to remain in the former Soviet Union. This number dropped to 53 percent at the end.

This summer the Jewish Agency ran camps for 20,000 children in 45 locations, double last year’s numbers.

The Jewish Agency currently budgets approximately $2.5 million for these camp programs, according to Daniel Allen, assistant executive vice president of the United Israel Appeal, which allocates and monitors funds to the Jewish Agency raised by the United Jewish Appeal.

Participation in a summer camp is the first Jewish-Israeli experience for most of the participants, according to Baruch Gur, head of the Jewish Agency’s unit for the former Soviet Union.

The survey found that “social motives,” or desire to be with other Jewish youth, was the principal motivation for going to camp.

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