We hear from parents repeatedly that one of the things they love the most about Camp Ramah Darom is the chance it gives their children to connect with Israeli counselors. Our Israeli staff, our shlichim, may only get to spend four or eight weeks with your children, but those short weeks leave lasting impressions.
If you’ve ever wanted to build upon this foundation that your child starts at camp, but didn’t know how, we have an exciting opportunity for you!
One of the members of Ramah Darom’s Israeli staff, Oz Katz, has developed a new website that helps connect Israelis who are traveling to the United States for staff opportunities with families who are willing to provide them with home hospitality while they are here.
We sat down with Oz to learn more about the initiative and find out how you can participate.
Ramah Darom: Oz, how did you come up with the idea to start Shaliach Surfing?
Oz: After working at Camp Ramah Darom for three years, I saw that Israeli staff members have a unique opportunity to help Ramah camp families make stronger connections with Israel. While we are in the U.S., the shlichim love to travel throughout North America, explore what Jewish life is like, and try to fulfill our hunger for learning. And in my experience, I’ve found that American families love to host and learn from Israelis. By hosting an Israeli, they learn about the language, the food, and basically have the chance to explore the Israeli culture trough the eyes of the shlichim. But there wasn’t an easy way for Israelis to find these families, so I started a website that would make connecting easier.
Ramah Darom: Tell me about your personal experience traveling through the U.S.
Oz: Every year when I come to the U.S. for camp, I try to see as many places and learn as much as I can about the Jewish American culture. When I stayed in Atlanta, I stayed with Jeffery Allen’s family and had an amazing experience. We had a great kosher dinner, and I was able to spend time with their children who also had been to Camp Ramah Darom. The Allen family gave all of us who were staying with them the feeling that we were at home. We ate Israeli food, went to the JCC, learned about living in the Jewish community in Atlanta, and even had a great discussion about Israel politics over a glass of wine in their Jacuzzi! We keep in touch with Jeffrey and hope that he will come to visit us soon in Israel and we will be able to return the favor.
Ramah Darom: What do you think are some of the benefits families receive from hosting an Israeli?
Oz: There are so many, but the top five benefits from my perspective would be:
1. Learning Hebrow,
2. Exploring Israeli culture,
3. Learning to cook Israeli food,
4. Hearing stories about camp from the Israeli point of view, and
5. Making new friends.
Ramah Darom: What have you learned from your time staying with American families?
Oz: The meaning of giving. An understanding that we can build a bright future by investing today in the relations between Israel and America. The importance of community. And the will to learn and explore roots, and understand different cultures.
Ramah Darom: How many families have signed up through Shaliach Surfing so far?
Oz: We have about 10 families that already have signed up, and about 50 families that said that they plan to sign up in the near future.
If you are interested in hosting an Israeli this year, visit Shaliach-Surfing.com for more information. You’d be doing a mitzvah, and it could be a life-changing opportunity for you and your family.