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The third in our series from Global Jewish Pen Pal members

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Growing up Jewish in Cleveland is a fantastic experience, say Naomi Basking of Cleveland, pictured with her brother Asher celebrating Chanukah. (Photo: Supplied)

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My Jewish community in Cleveland is very active, and my mom, brother Asher, and I participate in lots of activities. My personal favorite is summers at overnight camp, Camp Wise, which is about an hour away from my house. That’s something I look forward to every year! I actually count down the days before camp, starting at the end of each camp season. My mom teases me because I start thinking – and talking – about what I am going to pack in my duffle bags at least sixth months before camp even starts.

The summer of 2021 will be my sixth year at Camp Wise, and I will be there for seven weeks. There are many activities that relate to Jewish life at camp, like Friday evening and Saturday morning Shabbat services.

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At camp I get to meet people I might not have necessarily known considering we don’t live in the same cities or even countries. I have formed lasting friendships that extend long distance through the school year by texts and Zoom calls. There are also many international counselors from all over Europe and Israel. Through my interactions with them, I learn different ways of life.

Every summer, Camp Wise brings together Jewish kids from Ohio and across the world. (Photo: Supplied)

My three best friends are from Camp Wise. None of us go to the same school and one of us lives in Columbus. I hang out with Becca and Lilly, my camp friends from Cleveland, all the time. 

Camp Wise is associated with the JCC (Jewish Community Center), which also has many day camps. These include J-Sports, which is a sports day camp, a more general camp called Anisfield, and Playmakers, which is an acting camp.

When I was younger, I went to Playmakers for a couple years and I did plays through this organization during the school year as well. Just like at sleepaway camp, I got to hang out with other Jewish kids. 

My mom, Asher, and I are also quite active in our Conservative synagogue (Park Synagogue). I went to preschool at Park and used to go to day camp there. I loved preschool. I did fun activities and I got challah dough every Friday after school. I would go home and braid the challah with my mom before Shabbat. It was so fun to light the candles, say prayers, and eat delicious bread.

At synagogue there are also youth groups for grades 3-9, called Jr. Kadima and Kadima. Once a month or so, I go on day trips to different places with kids from other synagogues in the area, so I get to expand my Jewish circle of friends.

My family spends many holidays at our synagogue. On Purim there is a costume contest and carnival. One year I dressed up as our rabbi, Rabbi Skoff. I won the contest that year! I also dressed up one year as Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 

What Jewish kid doesn’t like dressing up as their favorite SCUS judge for Purim?

On many holidays we attend services and some Friday nights we attend as well. Our rabbi makes jokes and has us answer trivia questions about different Jewish things during some services. It’s fun to go to the services because we see friends and get to pray with other congregants. I’ve missed that during the pandemic. 

I also attend Monday and Sunday school at Park. Students have “practice services” where we say prayers, and then in class we study Hebrew and learn Bible stories. I also get to see my Jewish friends. We talk and share snacks that we can buy after drop off. It’s always more fun when you can learn and study with friends. Speaking of Bat Mitzvah studying, I have been preparing during Hebrew school and I am starting tutoring individually, which every kid at Park does with Gadi, the ritual director.

Whenever he gives me a new prayer, I study at home. I love mastering prayers. It makes me feel confident. All the teachers help and all their strategies and ways help me learn prayers much more easily. I am constantly practicing and singing prayers, which annoys my brother. 

In addition, there are also lots of community events that my family participates in. For example, there’s the Schechter Kosher Rib Burn Off (Shechter is a Jewish day school in Cleveland). The rib burn off is a fundraising event on Labor Day that my mom, Asher, and I always go to.

There are carnival games and around a dozen rib stands. There is a contest between different local synagogues and Jewish schools to see who makes the best ribs of the year. It’s so much fun. 

Taking part in charity fundraisers in Cleveland is an important part of the Jewish upbringing for Naomi Baskind and her brother Asher (Photo:Supplied)

Another event we partake in is the My Walk 4 Friends. It’s a walk to raise money for Friendship Circle, which is an organization helping children with special needs. I like walking the mile or so and helping to raise money for this important cause. 

Something fun I like to do is read the CJN (Cleveland Jewish News), which comes in the mail every week. I grab the little newspaper from my mom’s room and read each section. 

In conclusion, I really enjoy living in Cleveland with such a vibrant and close Jewish community!

Naomi Baskind is a Jewish girl growing up in Cleveland. She is on the local swim team and loves reading fiction. Naomi is a member of the Global Jewish Pen Pal program.

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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