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!

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Special Visitors at TheZone

This past week, TheZone was honored to host Rabbi Hillel David and Rabbi Shlomo Feivel Schustal. The Rabbis spoke to the staff and gave them chizuk throughout their stay.

rabbi and staffrabbis speaking to staff

They also met campers individually, displaying their warmth and caring for each one. The campers, who don’t necessarily have access to rabbanim, had the opportunity to connect and observe these great Rabbis.

havdala with rabbirabbi and camper 2

While their visit was short, their impact is infinite as Zoniacs will always remember these special guests.

Livin’ In A Booth

TrampolineFour hundred lucky people got to experience the first Sukkos Yomim Tovim at TheZone, Oorah’s gorgeous facilities in the Catskill Mountains, and a further six hundred arrived for the second set of Yomim Tovim. Staying in cozy hotel-style accommodations may not be quite the same thing as wandering in the desert with the Ananei HaKovod overhead, but none of the attendants were complaining (especially when it rained)!

The special quality of the holiday was amplified by the intensive preparations Oorah’s event planner, Mrs. Shayndy Abrahamson, and by all the volunteers who worked so hard to bring a fun and lively ruach to the clean mountain air, the air of Sukkos, Chag LaShem.

Running Girls

By all accounts, Sukkos at TheZone was a rip-roaring success. The feedback is still pouring into Mrs. Abrahamson’s inbox. Here’s a sample of feedback from those attending the first days of Sukkos at TheZone (all photos from Chol HaMoed):

Y: I wanted to thank you for a wonderful experience at the Zone.  It was truly a rewarding experience spending Sukkot at TheZone.  We are grateful that we were able to partake in such a lovely gathering.

S: We all loved TheZone, despite the rain! E. and I enjoyed the lectures,  the magical Yom Tov atmosphere,  and learning from so many amazing people we met!

The kids loved the huge Sukkah, the freedom of running around free, petting the bunnies, and the loud communal singing during meals!

We cannot wait to return whenever we are invited back to TheZone!

Thank you, Oorah for this amazing opportunity!

Lama Lo

V: The Succah is magnificent and the ambience uplifting. The food is plentiful and the accommodations impressive. The program is enjoyable for adults and children alike. No detail is overlooked and each specific element is calibrated to ensure a delightful Yom Tov for each and every guest.

R: Thanks a lot for sponsoring us to the recent yom tov event and for sending me 4 minim set free of charge which I am very grateful for. Although I cannot pay you back in dollars and cents for your kindness, I would like to give the following feedback since I cannot pay you back at this point in [any] other way:

  • Amazing hotel campgrounds plus the free activities (boats, horses, bikes, trails) provided almost a 5 star hotel experience and all for free. Truly outstanding!!!
  • My 9 year-old son enjoyed the dinnertime quiz event and prizes event.
  • Re the vorts during the meal, I liked the one by the clean shaven guy that helps run the TorahMate program (don’t remember his name) that tried to explain the mission of Oorah in this event, which was a question on many people’s minds.
  • My wife enjoyed the weekend very much, firstly because it gave her a much needed physical rest, and secondly it was a meaningful peek for her into the American haredi world which she has never really seen, since she is only familiar with the national religious world in Israel where she became religious some 20 years ago.
  • Nine year-old son H. definitely enjoyed the activities and freedom to run and play unsupervised and engage in all the fun activities that your ample and well stocked grounds provide.
  • Sixteen year-old daughter A., [found it] an opportunity to reconnect with her mom and brother in a pleasant setting, and [it was] a peek for her into the American haredi world which she has never seen, since she is only familiar with the national religious world in Israel where she grew up.

Tzedaka

Here’s a sample of feedback from those attending the final days of the Yomim Tovim at TheZone:

E: Thank you so very much.
My children and I enjoyed it very much.
It was our first time joining Oorah and the holidays in TheZone.
Every part of it was great and enjoyable.

I didn’t get a chance to come and introduce myself and family.

But did want to thank you for the wonderful chag!

Tefillin Help

K: Thank you so much for giving us the opportunity to spend such a great chag at TheZone! We enjoyed every single second of it. From the shaking of the very floor of the shul, to the untimely, but delicious meals, the chag was simply amazing. The speeches and programs has created sparks of inspiration in our hearts, and this kind of inspiration stays with us throughout the year. We have never met such kind and selfless people who have such a  passion to give, and who give everything they can when they do! Once again, Oorah has proven the statement, “It’s more than a camp” correct. TheZone is a camp, a home, and a direct road to inspiration. Thank you so much for everything!

M: This was a wonderful program. I never saw hakafot like yesterday. I was inspired by the custom you held of leaving the candles in the Aron while the Torahs were removed for hakafot. I had the opportunity to discuss this with Rabbi and Mrs. Kleinman.

TheZone

Thank you again for all that you do to make sure these programs run smoothly.

K: Thank you for having us.  I was hooked up with a great TorahMate person.  Having Oorah in our life is a blessing.

Overhead Kids

 

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.

learn

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.’

makeup

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.