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From Our Members
Camp Tel Yehudah is rockin' for Young Judaea's 100th birthday!
“Follow the car in front of you for parking, have fun today, enjoy the activities, and...welcome back!” Those were the words that greeted us into Camp Tel Yehudah on Sunday, August 16th for Young Judaea’s 100th Anniversary celebration. What a welcome back indeed! Accompanying my father and me to the reunion was my 5-month-old daughter. We hope and imagine she, too, will be involved in Young Judaea, following in the footsteps of three generations of Judaeans in the family. (My maternal grandfather was a member of YJ in the late 30’s!) We drove along the bumpy road in Machaneh Aleph, admiring the trees, fields and bunks around us, giddy and excited to arrive back to our roots.
As the daughter of an active Young Judaean from the ‘60s, it was almost second-nature to be involved in the movement, participate in summer programs and feel so strongly connected to Israel. After my own experiences at Sprout Lake, Tel Yehudah, and YJ Israel Programs, I understood the enthusiasm, ruach (spirit) and passion my father always expressed when reminiscing about Young Judaea, his experiences, and his friends from the movement. I feel the same way. It is a bond that we all have…it’s something that we just all “get,” and it truly is like a shared language, one that is special and unique only for those who have been involved or a part of it.
Sunday’s event was the truest example of this special Young Judaean connection. There were YJ Alum of all ages, from all corners of the United States and Israel; some who haven’t been back to Tel Yehudah since their last summer there as a teen-ager in the 60s, 70s, or 80s, and others who were there last summer to drop their children off at camp. There were Judaeans of all ages coming together to reminisce about their own fond memories, reconnect with old friends, support the movement, and pay tribute to Mel Reisfield…an individual who has been a part of every Judaean’s experience.
After a delicious barbeque lunch on the main lawn of the camp and an enormous rikud circle playing everyone’s old favorites, we all took part in a ceremony that had been organized to celebrate and pay tribute to Young Judaea. Torches were lit to honor the accomplishments of the peer-led movement, of its members, and of its past, present and future leaders. Several alumni spoke about their memories and experiences in Young Judaea and how the movement has helped them become who they are today. I found myself nodding my head as they each spoke, agreeing that YJ is in fact a huge part of who I am, who my father is, and who we both hope my daughter will become.
Two reunion coordinators then took the stage and introduced the one and only Mel Reisfield. The day was not only about YJ’s 100th Anniversary, but it was also organized as a tribute to Mel’s 50 years in the movement. Each and every person there had a memory of time with Mel as a counselor, merakez (head counselor), ulpan teacher or basketball teammate. We all laughed when the speakers shared their “Mel-isms,” highlights from sichot (discussions) he led, and of course all of his cheating tendencies on the basketball court. He is truly a legend in the movement, and a-one-of-a-kind educator whom we all can learn from in so many ways.
That day, and in his 50 years committed to Young Judaea, Mel exemplified the importance of commitment and belief. His passion as a Zionist, love for Judaism, and belief in each individual’s ability to make a difference radiated through the loudspeakers and touched everyone’s hearts. He broke out in song – cheerfully singing “Haleluyah.”
Shortly after he spoke, the ceremony ended with all 800 plus attendees singing “Ani Veatah Neshaneh Et Haolam – You and I will change the world.” The lyrics of this song and the passion in its message most clearly represent Mel’s efforts, my father’s beliefs, my experiences, my daughter’s future commitments, and the heart of Young Judaea’s mission.
-Shara Sheinberg is a charter member of the Meira Chapter. She is also a former Judaean who attended Camp Sprout Lake, CYJ Midwest, Tel Yehudah, and Year Course. She never banged her hands on the table during the Birkat.