With iCamp Robotics, Gan Israel Campers Get Hi-Tech, Hi-Jewish Camping

With iCamp Robotics, Gan Israel Campers Get Hi-Tech, Hi-Jewish Camping

At CGI, iCamp rounds off a wholesome summer experience. (photo:lubavitch.com)

by Rebecca Rosenthal - Westminster, CO

July 14, 2008

(lubavitch.com) Levi Stein is a Chabad rabbinical student from Michigan. Neil Voss is studying finance at a college in Fresno, CA. This summer they are sharing their two areas of expertise – Judaism and technology – with campers at Camp Gan Israel of Westminster.

“Our goal is to give children the best of both worlds, and to show that living in the modern world and being a proud and informed Jew is no contradiction,” said Rabbi Benjy Brackman, director of Chabad of Westminster. 

To achieve this, Camp Gan Israel, 50 campers strong, added a new option to its established Jewish camp line up of activities. CGI partnered with Children’s Technology Workshop (CTW) to bring an iCamp experience to the camp’s 10-acres, on the grounds of the Ryan Elementary School. ICamp boots up the camp day by offering mini-courses in robotics, video game design, computer animation, and graphic art.

“The partnership between CGI and CTW offers a great deal for kids who want to enjoy a Jewish camp and simultaneously experience a cutting edge science and technology program,” said David Singer, Denver’s CTW regional director.

Matthew Rodzihovsky, 9, manipulates his mouse just so as bananas appear on the screen before him. Matthew’s video game, a maze that has sheep seeking fruit rewards, is a starter level in the iCamp video game design class. He took a break to speak with Lubavitch.com. “When I am done, I will take the game home on a CD and play it,” he explained, and then bolted back to the classroom to continue working on his game.

The “Jewish camp experience”, a form of informal Jewish education considered so potent that it is the subject of scholarly research and widespread Federation support, must be able to compete with the wealth of specialty camp options. With iCamp as part of the CGI program, parents do not have to compromise between Jewish summer activities and of the moment camp options.

ICamp boosted CGI’s program in the eyes of Jenine Rubin. “Our two boys, both long time campers of Camp Gan Israel Westminster, are very interested in technology and love to build, so having iCamp as part of CGI is the perfect combination for my family.”

Rubin’s son Jonah is three short years away from his bar mitzvah coming of age milestone. On Friday, rabbinical student Stein and his colleague Chaim Goldstein, both from Michigan, will be revealing the inside story on the parchment within tefillin, a prayer accessory used by males once they reach bar mitzvah.

Inscribing parchment with the words used to write tefillin, Torah scrolls and mezuzahs is an ancient art, done with goose or turkey quills and micro batch ink. But Goldstein and Stein are looking to help campers see a larger message within the letters.

“Just as every Torah must have every letter to be considered fit for use, every Jewish child is important and vital for the whole of the Jewish nation,” said Goldstein.

During the presentation, they’ll highlight complementary relationship between technology and Torah. These days checking ritually inscribed parchment for errors is a high tech enterprise. Many scribes use scanning technology to evaluate scrolls for cracked, blurred or missing letters; to be fit for use all must be corrected.

The role of computers in Torah writing fits in with CGI’s message. At every turn, CGI underscores the relevance of Judaism to modern life. It’s obvious even in the theme Head counselor Chani Brickman of Brooklyn, NY, chose for the summer: “Bases Loaded.”

Baseball turns Jewish at CGI. Bunks bear names like Mitzvah Mets, Jewish Giants, and Torah Twins. Each one of the four weeks of camp represents a different base and is used to teach the basics of Jewish life. First base, when camp began on June 30, was reached when campers learned the fundamentals of Jewish identity, beginning with a celebration of Jewish names. To reach second base, campers studied and played games revolving around the Jewish holidays.

Brickman is hopeful that over the next two weeks, CGI’s campers will come to understand that whether in the computer lab or on the soccer field, “There’s a mitzvah to do at every moment, and every mitzvah you do is a home run.”

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