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Understanding their sacrifices and witnessing their joy of being Jewish first hand

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Two hours north of Toronto is Camp Ramah, a Jewish summer camp at Skeleton Lake in Muskoka, Ontario. Part of the National Ramah Commission, Ramah is affiliated with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. They proudly state, “Camp Ramah is dedicated to offering our campers tools to thrive in a challenging world through immersion in vibrant, accessible Jewish living.) (Photo: Camp Ramah)

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“I hate mosquitoes! I can’t wait to go home.” One of my campers shouted in disgust in one of Canada’s rare sweltering mornings this past summer.

Worried that she meant back home to the comforts of her bed and family, I asked her to clarify.

“Yeah, home. You know, to our cabin.”

I understood what she meant completely. Because as much as I adore Israel – where I was born and raised – for two summers now Ontario has become my home away from home.

And, yes, I too, hate mosquitoes. 

The first summer occurred before I enlisted in the army. I had the honor of being selected as a Jewish Agency Shinshin, which allowed me to defer my army service and serve a year as an emissary abroad instead.

I was placed in Ontario and it was the greatest stroke of fate I’ve ever experienced, so much so that I asked to return upon completing my army service. My commander at the time didn’t quite understand my eagerness to return. When I said I had family I wanted to get back to in Canada after my service, she assumed I was a lone soldier.

When I attempted to explain that while I have a loving family in Israel, as an emissary, I inherited an equally welcoming family in North America that spanned across Ontario’s entire Jewish community.

She didn’t get it. After all, it’s difficult for someone to understand how complete strangers can welcome you into their fold so easily, but that’s exactly what that community did for me.

Wrapping up yet another summer at Camp Ramah was bittersweet. I was able to see the once awkward and shy kids I encountered three years ago blossom into confident young adults who are now part of that extended family. 

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I came to Canada initially because I wanted to understand more about Jews around the world. In Israel, there is so much we take for granted as being Jewish is a given. We think our cousins in North America are privileged and have it easy, and yet, living as a Jew outside of Israel takes more work than Israelis realize. Going to synagogue, for example, costs money. Enrolling children in Jewish education – more money. And, of course, the camp that my pupils went to also has a cost. This doesn’t even touch upon your casual antisemitism which is becoming more apparent outside of the Jewish state.

Understanding their sacrifices and witnessing their joy of being Jewish first hand was gratifying.

Conversely, they would learn from me as well. The kids would often ask me about my army service, most recently my involvement in Israel’s latest operation in May, Guardians of Walls. They would ask about life in Israel and joy would spread across their faces with every word in Hebrew they learned from me.

While I said goodbye to Canada for now and am regretful that I probably won’t bike along one of Toronto’s many rivers any time soon, I know in my heart I will be back.

For now, the plan is to travel and make progress in a book of poems and short stories I’m writing about my time in the army and travels meeting new and unique Jews worldwide.

But no matter where my travels take me, I know that I’ll always be comforted by the letters, outpouring of support and well wishes from my extended family I’m so blessed to have known. 

Faran Raz, 22, is from Kibbutz Nir Etzion in northern Israel. This summer she served as an eighth-grade summer camp Shaliach (Israeli emissary) on behalf of The Jewish Agency for Israel at Camp Ramah in Ontario.

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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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