CKids Denmark Had a Special Group Join Them This Summer

CKids concluded an amazing summer camp held in Denmark’s picturesque countryside. As a unique addition, they invited a lucky group of children from Sderot, Israel to have a break from the tensions there.

In Denmark’s bucolic countryside lies a summer oasis, beckoning Jewish girls from the most remote corners of Europe. The opportunity is transformative for many of these girls, for whom Jewish education is distant and Jewish friends are hard to come by.

Part of the global network of CKids overnight camps, CKids Gan Israel Denmark offers its campers more than a mere nine-day getaway; it lays a foundation for Jewish friendships, identity, and life. Girls from all parts of the continent are welcomed into the embrace of a loving family the moment they arrive.

The camp also hosts, in a tradition going back some years, a group of children from the Israeli border village of Sderot. With their hometown being a regular target of terrorist fire from Gaza, a nine-day respite from the sirens is a welcome treat. They sit around campfires instead of running to bomb shelters, finding sisterhood with their fellow campers. 

As the language barrier, with at least seven native tongues, quickly faded, a loving atmosphere of ahavas yisroel took its place.  Davening and learning, coupled with activities and fun, kept the thirty-five lucky girls in camp enthralled. Though the forecast may have been less than cooperative, “the Danish response is that there’s no bad weather; rather, you might be wearing the wrong clothes,” says Rabbi Yitzi Loewenthal with a twinkle.

“The secret of this camp’s success,” says Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Vice-Chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, “is, as in all CKids camps, the dedication of those running it. The Rebbe’s shluchim to Denmark, Rabbi Yitzi and Mrs. Rochel Loewenthal give the children their all.” The campers knew them simply as Yitzi and Rochel. Always available, their constant care was palpable. They are the heartbeat of the camp.

Inspired by the Loewenthals, the counselors were conscious that the Yiddishkeit the children absorb at camp would guide them for life. Every moment became an educational act; every conversation was a chance to change a life to impact a family.

The camp soundtrack, full of pesukim of Torah and Jewish pride, stuck with the girls. While strolling on the camp green, campers sang, “It’s geshmak to be a Yid”, and while enjoying the Bonbon Land amusement park, they chanted, “I am proud to be a Jew.” With Judaism learned with such joy, their connection to their Jewishness—and the camp which kindled their spark—will stick with them long after they return home.

A powerful demonstration of the camp’s impact was seen earlier this year. For her bas mitzvah, Sara*, a camper from a small town in Denmark, brought her public school class and family along to Chabad of Copenhagen. CKids Gan Israel Denmark is her family, so it was natural that she’d celebrate with the Loewnthals.

Sheina Mina Wolowik, one of the counselors, reminisces about the first night of camp.

“The girls, having just learned each other’s names, were easing into an atmosphere of sisterhood and closeness.”

As they retired to bed and the counselor led the girls in the bedtime shema, Becca, a camper from Holland, realized that she was not at all familiar with even this basic prayer.

“Becca learned so much in her few days here,” continues Wolowik. “When she left, she took a paper with shema and modeh ani written on it, planning to make good on her new commitment to begin and end each day the Jewish way.” She would keep the CGI flame glowing within her.

That flame shines brightly each Friday night in towns across Europe and a small town in Israel near just outside the Gaza Strip. Welcoming the Shabbos, the precious souls who’ve experienced CKids Gan Israel Denmark light their CKids Shabbat candles and relive the shabbos they celebrated in camp. Jenna from Germany recalls her fear of giving up her phone for the day of rest; arriving in Denmark, she couldn’t imagine going an entire day without talking to her mom. The Shabbat she experienced in camp changed her attitude.

“Shabbat is the best thing ever!” she said when it came to a close. “I would love to keep Shabbat every week!”

As camp came to a close, some girls took on to affix a Mezuzah on their doors; others said they’d ensure their friends know they’re proud to be Jewish. To further keep the memories alive, they created scrapbooks of their camp experience. As she traveled home, one girl couldn’t stop gazing longingly at the pictures of her camp friends with whom she’d become so close. Another camper, while on the road returning from camp, messaged the Director.

The message plainly said: “Dear Mrs. Loewenthal, thank you for such a great summer! I’d like to reserve my spot in CGI Gan Israel Denmark 2024.”

*All identifying details of campers have been changed

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