Lithuanian Jewish Community youth programs coordinator and camp programs director Pavel Gulyakov reported the only negative at the camp this year was some not-so-great weather, it rained, preventing the children from visiting beautiful Lake Asveja at times. The camp went international this year with children from Jewish communities in all three Baltic states.
The LJC camp located in Dubingiai, Lithuania, is a summer favorite for all. “Living conditions are of the highest caliber, and I remember my own childhood when I went to summer camps; I never had it so good,” Pavel recalled. The summer camp is financed mainly by the Joint Distribution Committee who pay most of the costs.
Parents usually worry about living conditions and whether the activities program is interesting before allowing their children to attend summer camp. Pavel comments: “I looked at other children’s camps in Lithuania but found nothing like our Jewish Community children’s program, with no idle time left for the children to goof off. The children are engaged the entire time, either going somewhere, learning something, dancing, singing or drawing. All the parents asked about the program before letting their kids attend. What will they do? Will they be bored? We tell parents there is almost no free time, their children will be occupied with different interesting activities under the programs prepared. So-called free time won’t be missed because children can do what they want during activities conducted by camp counselors. If they want to play soccer or basketball, there’s more than an hour per day set aside for that. Every day features sports, dance, art, crafts and song with a teacher from Israel.”
This year two rabbi-teachers attended the camp, able to explain Judaism to the children in a language they understand. One rabbi was from Latvia and the other from Norway. Jewish identity and family values are important parts of camp activities.
There were eleven groups of twenty individuals each. Over the ten days of camping, each day had a daily theme and the events for the day were connected with that theme. Themes included “Ten Cities of Israel,” beginning with ancient Tsefat and ending with modern Tel Aviv. Discussions were held on various topics, including Litvaks, famous personalities, technology and other achievements. One day the children were presented sumo wrestling costumes for fun and mock matches were held with older children. Representatives from Lithuanian and other national scouting organizations visited camp, held discussions on their activities and showed photographs. Musician Misha Frishman visited, taught the children how to make music videos, the children danced and sang and in the evening watched their music videos together.
The camp had its own doctor on hand just in case. Some of the adolescents built up a healthy appetite from all the activities and asked for second helpings, which of course they received. Pavel Gulyakov said 99% of parents were completely happy with their children’s stay at camp and with the quality of the food.
The Bubble Show turned out to be a big hit with all. A troupe arrived with a bubble-blowing machine and campers danced and waded through huge piles of bubbles. The scene was extraordinary and it made a big impression on the kids.
Professional Israeli singer Uri Zer was on hand for the last day of camp, the discotheque in the evening and the farewell party. He taught Jewish songs to the children and got everyone to join in to sing a song together.
Children who are participants in the LJC social programs were able to attend camp at a discount and the LJC provided the volunteer camp counselors who made the experience such a success with the children this year.
More photos here.