From Poland to TheZone

From TheZone to the Rebbetzins, from TorahMates to ChillZone, from our retreats to our many other programs, we are always grateful to impact so many families each and every year.  All our employees, in every department, are dedicated to providing the best experience to every Oorah family member.  When we receive letters from grateful families, it not only puts a smile on our face, but lets us feel the impact of all our hard work.

One such letter we recently received is from a Zone camper’s parents, all the way from Warsaw, Poland:

Dear Henny and Bina,

We would like to thank you very very much for making it happen that D would be able to come to the Zone Camp.

She has came back a different person – she grew up, she became positively influenced and filled with Yiddishkite! More than that, she came back so happy that until today she recalls her wonderful memories from the camp.

We know that without your help, patience, answering endless e-mails it would happen, therefore please accept our sincere gratitude.

We are looking forward to meet you in person. We hope that next summer, B”H both of our daughters would be able to participate in the camp.

We wish you and your colleagues Gmar Hatima Tova and that we should all have beautiful, peaceful and year ahead of us.

Thank you very much.

Yours sincerely,

D’s parents from Warsaw, Poland

Even if we inspire but one Jewish life, all our work is worth it.  We look forward to seeing all our campers back at TheZone this summer!

 

 

 

 

 

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So What Does Oorah Do?

Ever wondered about the scope of Oorah’s reach? Watch now for an inspiring video of TheZone’s Chillzone, where hundreds of campers each learn with a TorahMate one-on-one.

Two Special Bar Mitzvah Celebrations

With gratitude to Hashem Yisborach, Oorah Inc will be honored to share with you some pictures from the beautiful bar mitzvah celebrations recently commemorated in Israel!

Isaac Mlabsadi and Abraham Horowitz were two lucky Zoniac campers that celebrated their bar mitzahs in Israel surrounded by Zoniac staff. What and appropriate way to celebrate a momentous occasion in such a holy place with the people who inspire you most!

Abraham Horowitz:
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Isaac Mlabsadi:
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A Happy Camper Tells Her Story

I first heard about TheZone from the principal in my Hebrew school. My sister Rebecca wanted to go to a camp and she said that the camp would be a really good experience for her. She went last year and she said it was really fun, you learn new things, meet new people and make new friends, and just have a really fun summer…. so I figured – why not go?

counselors form a "tunnel of love" greeting new campers as they come off the bus to camp

“tunnel of love” greeting new campers

Right when I came off the bus, I was surprised how nice and caring the people were. They all helped me with my luggage and they made a tunnel of love for me to go through! My counselors met me right away and comforted me, cuz obviously I was new so I was a little overwhelmed and scared. Also I didn’t come with any friends at all, so it was a little scary for the fist minute. But then people started talking to me and being really friendly, and all my fears vanished right away!

The kids in my bunk thought that I was shy at first, but then I started to get to know them better and opened up more! My counselors acted like they knew me since forever!! They showed me around and where the cool places are in camp, told me directions… Miriam is really loud and cheerful and makes everything really funny! But she’s also really respectful and I look up to her for that. And Shani is really caring and listens to everyone’s needs and tries to fulfill them. I’m so lucky to have them as my counselors; both of them are really amazing people and I look forward to keeping in touch with them when camp is over!

TorahMates is a really nice part of this camp cuz you get to have one on one time with a staff member and it’s really personal. It’s a relationship that will always last and it’s a staff member that is “yours” and they won’t leave your side. I learn with my TorahMate about the mitzvos – right now we’re learning about parts of Torah. Now I know even more then I thought I could know! She taught me so much and continues to teach me.

This camp has activities I never even heard of till I came here! One of the awesome activities that I really enjoy is ATVing. I also LOVE the horses!! And it’s an amazing experience trotting through the woods! Seniors switch day, which was this past Friday, was SO COOL. It makes you know more about the staff members and campers and see how much they do for us even though we don’t realize it. It makes me appreciate our staff more. Speaking of which, the staff is great! They all just want us to have the best time possible and they really do all they can to make sure we have an enjoyable summer. The fact that they come without being payed is a huge chesed and it shows how much they really really reallly want us to just have a good time!

It’s funny becuase one thing I learnt is that you can wear a long skirt and be tzniut but still be really awesome and cool! That’s one thing I learned from the staff. I look up to so many people in camp, but two people in specific that really stick out in my mind are the two head counselors. Even if they don’t get a lot of sleep or they work so hard, they still put on a great show for us every single day! Imagine what camp would be like without them!!! Even when Elisheva’s mom had a baby, she went home for a drop (For the FIRST time this summer!!) and came straight back!!! That’s a five hour drive!! #Devotion

If you asked what my inspiring memories from camp are, it would have to be Rabbi Davidowitz’s speeches! They mean so much and I know the topic but I don’t know much about it, and he opens up a whole new world! He really means everything he syas and it reflects back onto me. I learn so many lessons in camp each day, but one lesson that really stuck out was to appreciate your parents – cuz here I am being independent, and now I realize how much my parents do for me!! I love you Mom and Dad!

TheZone feels like one big happy family – everyone sticks together as a whole and everyone is here for each other. I know that now that I’m part of the family, theres no going back and it’s gonna be my second home forever! Thank you to Oorah, TheZone, and our amazing staff for putting your time and effort into making my summer amazing! Thank you for giving me the amazing experience I never dreamed I could have!

-Sarah B, S1 2014 Session B

From Warsaw to the TorahMates Retreat: A Miraculous Story of Reunion

A beautiful letter we’ve recently received.

Dear Dasi and Devirah,

Camaraderie? Women’s song? I have been searching for the words to describe the experience that I felt and lived at the Oorah Women’s Retreat. There are times in the continuum of this experience that we call life; moments that somehow stand apart from the others; remarkable moments that are etched into the timeline of each life. This Oorah TorahMates Retreat was one of those moments for me.

I am so grateful to Oorah for gifting me those miraculous four days at TheZone. One week, two weeks, three weeks later I am still in a glowing sort of ethereal emotional state that is hard to describe. What made these days so special?

Giving credit to the amazing organizers of the event, Dasi and Devirah, for the smooth transitions from event to event; for your thoughtful planning in including lots of recreation, great food and learning time. For me, I have to say that what impacted me the most was the friendship that was offered by all. The caring expressed by the women that I met from Borough Park, Staten Island, Brooklyn, Monsey and Lakewood.

The suite I shared with two other women had ten beds. The open floor plan suited us as we each found an area to occupy without infringing on the other’s personal space. I was lucky to be with pleasant individuals who offered conversation and friendship. I correct myself now and I think—- lucky? There was absolutely no luck involved in this event.

Luck cannot begin to describe how we all came to be at this event. We are all off searching for something. The Torah Mates- teachers and students- I believe are all seekers. The new learners are seekers of knowledge, and a way to retrieve what may have been lost to us. We are seeking connections with our lost cultural heritage, our culture, our Yiddishkeit but most importantly a way to speak to Hashem.

The beauty of our collective voice was so uplifting. Hearing our women’s voices raised in song I thought, “This is the most beautiful prayer I have ever heard.” How liberating to be able to sing openly with heart and soul to Hashem.

Walking around The Zone campus a woman looked at my name tag and she said, “My family knew your family in Warsaw.” And so began a conversation of —do you know so and so? And yes, my family did know hers in Warsaw. Now she and I meet in upstate New York. Was it a coincidence that we met at this Retreat?

Our family structures, in many cases, are still trying to recover from the disintegration caused by the Holocaust. We may be one or two generations removed from the events themselves but we are still living proof of the aftermath of the devastation that was caused by this horrific event.

The pain our grandparents and parents felt is still very real and it lives on in us. Yes. We are Children of the Holocaust. Our lives are forever changed by those events. The neighbors from Mila 18 are neighbors no more. The Pesach koshering pots in the middle of the courtyards are gone as are the potato carts that the children chased to bring some food home for dinner.

Thanks to my learning partners I am developing a new understanding about Rabbinical Law. I have a growing respect for the vision of the Rabbis in creating the laws that forced our ancestors to daven in a minyan thus creating a community. Community is one of the great strengths of our Jewish Nation. Over seventy years have passed since my Dad left Warsaw and here I come to upstate NY to meet a woman whose family knew my family back then.

I could write much more on this topic but I will end with my most heartfelt thanks to Oorah for planning and hosting this women’s retreat. It will be my pleasure to return on another occasion to fly the zip line, eat good food, learn and make new friends.

TheZone: Not Just A Summer Camp

Mrs. Varda Epstein shares reflections from her first visit to TheZone.

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Learning the Hebrew alphabet with a TorahMate

Everywhere I went the girls greeted me, asking my name, asking if there were anything they could do for me. Always with a smile.

It wasn’t what I would have expected from teens. What I would have expected from teens is utter narcissism. Total self-involvement. But that wasn’t happening at TheZone. TheZone is about giving and giving and giving some more. Not in a smarmy, false, gushy way, but in a way that makes you feel these girls feel good about helping others. TheZone helped them learn to give, thereby giving them a positive, higher purpose.

I hadn’t had any clue until now what it was my work on behalf of a car donation program with a funny name, performed at my desk via virtual office an ocean away, achieves. Which is why Rabbi Mintz went to the trouble of flying me in from Israel. He wanted me to see, really see, what it is we do.

Going back in time, one month earlier, I looked at my boys seated around the Shabbos table and I said to them, “Have Jewish children. That’s all I ask of you. Have Jewish children.”

At the time, I was thinking about the results of the Pew poll regarding American Jewry and assimilation.

I thought about that poll again Friday night as Mrs. Kleinman lit the candles in shul. “You can pray for anything you want at candle lighting and Hashem listens. He really does. You can ask for anything in any language and He will hear you,” she said.

I looked around the room. As Mrs. Kleinman covered her eyes to make the blessing, so did the girls. I noticed varying levels of engagement and concentration. Then I noticed the four girls sitting in the front pew, closest to Mrs. Kleinman. Their eyes were shut tight and their lips were moving furiously. They were totally focused on their prayers.
I thought, ‘Out of the hundreds of girls in this room, those four girls—those four banot Yisrael (lit. daughters of Israel, Jewish girls)- might be saved. They could end up bearing Jewish children, generations of Jews.’

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TeenZone campers do the makeup and hair of younger campers in preparation for Shabbos.

TheZone had to be seen to be believed. No one could have ever explained it to me. And now that I’ve seen it, my job is to convey it to YOU.

How am I doing so far? Not there yet? So let me tell you about the Shabbos Revolution.

The girls worked toward this event at length. They were ready to make serious changes, real changes, in their Shabbos observance. A humongous poster was created on the wall of the dining room and on that poster were squares of paper on which campers had pledged to take on this or that new Shabbos observance. It might be refraining from biting one’s nails, or learning that week’s Torah portion. It might be as simple as not turning on the television.

And why did they do it? Ostensibly for the merit of IDF soldiers fighting a war. But in reality? The girls thirst for their Jewish heritage as a man in the desert, parched for water. They would have taken on these Shabbos observances, war or no war.

TheZone is packed with fun and friends. But you can get that at any summer camp. The difference at TheZone is that everything here is infused with meaning. Jewish meaning.

And you know that the memories built here at this place, high up in the Catskill Mountains, are solid memories. The kind that last a lifetime.