DNEPROPETROVSK, Ukraine (JTA) — Organizers of a Ukrainian Jewish summer camp recruited their alumni as counselors to avoid closure.
Camp Shuva, which is held annually at a site 50 miles from Kiev, opened for the 25th consecutive year earlier this month thanks to the recruitment plan, Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich, a chief rabbi of the Ukraine and the camp’s organizer, told JTA.
The camp, which has relied on foreign volunteers to serve as counselors, almost did not open this year because organizers “couldn’t get any volunteers to come work as counselors,” Bleich said, adding the problem was connected to unrest in Ukraine following its bloody revolution and conflict with Russia.
In addition, the opening was threatened by a lack of funds created by Ukraine’s ailing economy and the need to spend on security and other emergencies, said Bleich, who is the president of the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine.
His organization launched an online campaign to raise funds to cover the deficits and simultaneously recruited alumni from Shuva Camp to serve as counselors and replace the foreign staff.
The Jewish Confederation of Ukraine estimated the cost of running the camp for 60 days at $288,000.
The camp operates out of a compound donated in 2002 by the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation and will host four groups throughout the summer, bringing together a total of 500 adults and children, Bleich said.
“The camp has always been important to instilling Jewish life in Ukraine,” he said, “but it’s especially important now for instilling a feeling of normalcy.”
The counselors chose to prepare activities built around the theme of peace.
“Especially now, it’s important kids from all across Ukraine can come and see what unites us as Jews,” Bleich said.