After a year of remote learning for many kids, campers at CKids Gan Israel overnight camp in Florida headed by Rabbi Levi and Chaya Plotkin, were overjoyed to be reunited with their friends.
As 60 kids from all over Florida arrive at the spacious campgrounds of Ckids Gan Israel, there’s a buzz in the air. Enthusiastic reunions between campers who are returning for their second year take place with laughter and hugs.
Boys meet counselors for the first time, who have donned sombreros and clown suits in honor of the occasion. Parents dropping off their sons put on tefillin with a staff member, taking a selfie for good measure, while Jewish songs blast in the background. This is the second annual summer of Ckids Gan Israel, and it’s going to be a good one.
“The energy of the first day was unbelievable,” says director Rabbi Levi Plotkin. Levi and his wife Chaya moved down to Florida earlier this year to devote themselves to this important shlichus in a permanent way.
“We’ve existed so long ‘cuz the Torah kept us strong, and the Torah will never disappear!” Loud cheers can be heard in the dining room as kids burst into songs about Torah, mitzvos, and Hashem. Such is the transformative power of summer camp, where “Yiddishkeit is infused into every moment of every day,” says Chaya Plotkin.
As Gimmel Tammuz approaches, the importance of summer camp stands out even more strongly in the minds of Chassidim. The Rebbe’s heartfelt words about the impact a summer can have on a child’s neshama stand as a guiding force behind the Plotkins work. “To have these kids in this daled amos is an impact that none of us can underestimate,” says Rabbi Yosef Biston, head shliach to North Broward and Palm Beach county
The first day of camp was a whirlwind of activity, and kids got right into the fun with bubble soccer, nerf guns, an ice cream truck, and of course a spirited night activity. “It’s all the warmth and chayus of a classic CGI experience multiplied by a thousand,” says Plotkin.
It’s been tried and the success is clear—last summer boys came home energized with a chayus for Torah and mitzvos. “The kids from our community who joined last summer couldn’t stop talking about what an amazing time they had,” says Rabbi Asher Farkash, shliach from Daytona Beach.
“Every boy is going to be completely immersed in Yiddishkeit,” says Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice chairman of Merkos. “It’s something that will change the entire course of their lives forever.”
The first day was just a taste of the action-packed and Yiddishkeit-infused summer that the boys have in store. “We’re making the most of every minute,” says Plotkin.
To find out more and support this important work, visit ckidsganisrael.com