MADISON — For 47 special Israeli children, Madison, Connecticut is truly a second home.
For the fourth year in a row, Camp Laurelwood has again welcomed children of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers killed during their military service. Twenty-eight boys, 19 girls, and seven volunteer madrichim (counselors) arrived at Camp Laurelwood on July 21 and are participating in a variety of camp activities and trips during a three-week period.
Camp Laurelwood director Ruth Ann Ornstein says she is proud that her community has again welcomed the campers, all ages 12 and 13, who are part of the Chaverim Program of the Israel Defense Forces Widows and Orphans Organization.
Rutie Perechodnik, director of the Israeli delegation, reports that they all had at least one parent die serving in the IDF.
Perechodnik notes that each member of the Israel delegation has a unique story.
Many in the group had fathers who were killed during last summers war in Lebanon. One boy from Ethiopia, who didnt have the best life in Israel, has lost a father. One boy, whose parents both immigrated from Russia, lost his father, who was killed last year in Lebanon. Others had parents who were killed several years ago: One girls father was killed ten years ago in a helicopter crash in northern Israel which killed 90. Someones father was a major officer killed in Lebanon, and anothers father was killed in Jenin four years ago. And two delegation members are orphans-having lost both their father and their mother. Perechodnik adds, They all died heroes.
Referring to their stay here, Perechodni, notes, They are having a good time. It is like group therapy-they are all together. They talk about their feelings and needs as orphans. And they dont feel so different.
The Israeli campers love the opportunity to integrate with, learn from and teach their American counterparts. They get to learn English, teach Hebrew, enjoy American games like baseball and softball, and share games like soccer. They are so excited to be with the American children, reports Perecohodnil.
Some participants in this years program come from religious homes. Wishing to be sensitive to their needs to be near a synagogue on Shabbat, Ornstein contacted JCC employee and (Orthodox) Westville Synagogue member, Barbara Zalesch, for advice. Zalesch easily recruited members of the Westville community to host the 15 religious Israeli children. Camp Laurelwood is Connecticut’s only co-ed Jewish residential summer camp for children ages 7-15.