Summer Camp With A Difference

July 07, 1995|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,Sun Staff Writer

Sweeping and mopping, scrubbing and chopping, raking and trimming, painting and gardening; it's all hard work. But the campers attacked their chores cheerfully and energetically.

After a breather, small knots of youngsters sat on the basketball court, discussing "conflict," and how individuals and groups can resolve it. Older campers were studying the history of Chinese Jewry.

This is summer camp with a difference. Modeled on an Israeli kibbutz, Camp Moshava in Harford County implants the concepts of community, personal responsibility and self-reliance in the 200 boys and girls, ages 9 to 18, who attend as campers or counselors.

"Our goal is to introduce and reinforce the view that Israel is an important part of an American Jew," said camp director Rachel Glaser, 46, who is principal of the Beth Israel religious school in Owings Mills.

Moshava means "settlement" and signs on the buildings are in Hebrew, as are announcements over the loudspeaker system.

"Camp Moshava's role is to provide an opportunity for the kids to have a creative Jewish living experience based on the ideals of kibbutz life, love of Israel, a Jewish identity and Jewish community life -- while enjoying summer camp at the same time," Mrs. Glaser said.

That these tenets have been implanted shows in conversation with young campers.

"I like it for the reason that it makes the outside world seem not as much of a problem. You feel here that you're cut off from [the outside] and everyone here is equal," said Rachel David, 13, of Columbia, a second-year camper.

"We're all one family," said Elissa Freedman, a first-time camper, also 13 and from Columbia. "Sometimes we fight but we're all one."

While "Mosh," as the campers call it, is Israel-centered and focuses on building the Jewish community, it is not all work and study. There are standard summer-camp activities, including sports, hiking, swimming, boating, crafts, nature study and the much-loved "chofesh," free time.

Among the favorite Friday activities -- after a mandatory two-hour work period -- is rehearsal for the evening's Shabbat performance. Each week a different group of campers performs the traditional observance which includes dramatics, Israeli songs and dances.

Founded 55 years ago in Annapolis, Camp Moshava is part of the Habonim Dror Labor Zionist Movement of Israel and designed to bring up succeeding generations of community leaders. Since 1985, the camp has been at its present densely wooded 250-acre site near Rocks State Park.

Campers live in wooden bunkhouses with the counselors who oversee different age groups. Senior counselors, most of whom have lived and studied in Israel, live in large wooden-floored tents.

Five of this year's senior counselors -- who are 18 and older -- are young Israelis who have completed their Army tours and are preparing to enter college. They come to Moshava to teach Hebrew and tell about life in their homeland.

Ayelet Falach, 20, of Petach Tikvah said many campers are familiar with Israeli folklore. "They know songs I don't even know," she said.

Moshava is one of six Habonim Dror (freedom builders) camps in North America. It is modeled on the Zionist Labor Movement which still follows the socialist ideal, said Amy Saidman, 25, of Gaithersburg, the camp's program coordinator.

"We teach a love of Israel as the Jewish homeland, above and beyond whatever issues confront the country," said Mrs. Glaser, director for 11 years and before that a camper and counselor. She and her husband of 24 years, Richard Glaser, met at Moshava as campers, and now their four children are at Mosh as campers and counselors.

In another area, junior counselors -- 12th-graders -- were discussing "how to be good counselors" while also plotting "the revolution" -- their traditional 24-hour takeover from the senior counselors.

The "revolution" is more than just a game, Mrs. Glaser explained. It is symbolic of a new generation showing its elders that it is ready and able to assume leadership roles.

Another feature at Mosh is "kupa," the Hebrew word for "cash box." At the beginning of the camp, each camper puts up to $25 in the kupa and then each may draw on the fund for minor purchases at the canteen.

"We use kupa to mean a communal fund," Mrs. Glaser explained. "We tell each camper, 'Give what you can; take what you need.' The children don't need money here, so it is really another lesson in community."

The campers prefer swimming and sports to education, Mrs. Glaser conceded, "but the camp produces a very interesting dynamic between the community and the individual.

"Kids who go through this camp grow up with a sense of community responsibility. We call it 'tikkun olam,' repairing the world. The concept is that each one of us is responsible for fixing whatever little part of the world you can."

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