50 Lives ‘Changed Forever’ at Ckids Gan Israel

After being quarantined for months, 50 children joined the first ever CKids overnight camp, directed by Rabbi Levi and Chaya Plotkin. 

Close to 50 campers are having the summer of a lifetime at the Ckids Gan Israel Florida summer experience

After being quarantined in their house for the last few months, Adam and Joshua Cismas were thrilled to join other Jewish kids from around the state for ten days of nonstop excitement. 

“Our goal with the Ckids Gan Israel overnight camp, in our first year, is to give kids everything they love about the classic CGI experience but in a completely immersive way,” says Mrs. Chaya Plotkin, co-director of Ckids Gan Israel along with her husband, Levi. “With the help and support of Rabbi Zalmy Loewenthal, Ckids International director, we’ve managed to create an unprecedented program.”

The most impactful aspect of Jewish summer camp is that learning isn’t limited to a few hours a week, like it is during the year with Hebrew school, and it’s not even limited to an hour or so a day during camp shiur—instead the Jewish aspect infuses everything that happens throughout the day. “We designed an experience where Judaism’s warmth is part of the atmosphere,” says Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, Executive Director of Merkos 302, the organization behind Ckids. “The result is a powerful effect on each child.”

Close to 50 boys from grades four to seven are lucky enough to be joining the wide range of activities, from ziplining and daily clubs to challah baking and late night ice cream parties. (More daily updates can be found on Facebook and Instagram @ckids_gan_israel.) A highlight of this week was the first Shabbos in camp, imparting a transformative energy that left many kids inspired. 

Camp would not be half as exciting without the beautiful grounds, which includes air-conditioned facilities, a private swimming pool, and ropes courses and zip lining on site. Rabbi Yossi Biston and Rabbi Sholom Ber Lipskar are the ones to thank for helping gain access to the grounds.  

Of course, coronavirus is still a very encompassing reality, which means that safety protocols from the Florida Health Department are carefully upheld, along with applicable CDC guidelines. “The health and safety of our campers and staff is a top priority,” says Plotkin.

“It’s so crucial for kids to have this overnight experience, says shliach Rabbi Moshe Kievman, who sent kids from his community in Highland Lakes, Florida, to the Ckids Gan Israel. “Especially now, with so much uncertainty in the world, this experience is an important safe haven of fun and calm.” 

When it comes to measuring success, the best way to do so is to look at the kids—and these smiling faces show that results are in. Kids are thrilled about camp. “My boys and I want to know if you would consider extending for longer than two weeks,” Jessica Cismas, Adam and Joshua’s mom recently asked.  

With more families than ever facing financial hardships this summer, Ckids CGI has needed to accept a majority of campers on generous scholarship. To help offset this cost, consider sponsoring a camper today, bringing a life-changing Jewish experience to a young boy who will be forever grateful. Visit www.ckidsganisrael.com/donate to sponsor a camper.

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