As a diverse Jewish community pooling our resources, we are seeing an increasing trend towards collaboration among agencies, schools, congregations and Federation. This past summer, for example, 107 teens journeyed to Israel as part of the Sue and Alan Jay Kaufman Family Teen Mission to Israel – offered through the unprecedented partnership between Federation, Tamarack Camps and community congregations.

For most teens on the Mission, it was a first taste of Israel – home of fondest memories – and the start of lasting friendships. Since its inception 20 years ago – as the brainchild of Rabbi Harold Loss of Temple Israel – Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit’s Teen Mission has provided outstanding opportunities for teens to travel, learn and connect with their rabbis and synagogues and community while also seeing some of the work that Federation does in Israel.

 “Tamarack Camps is thrilled to partner with our local congregations and the Jewish Federation on the Sue and Alan Jay Kaufman Family Teen Mission to Israel. By connecting more Jewish teens to this world class Israel experience, we are helping to strengthen our Detroit Jewish community.”  – Steve Engel, CEO of Tamarack Camps

Commenting on the strength of the partnership, Federation’s Chief Executive Officer Scott Kaufman observed, “One of the great strengths of Jewish Detroit is the collaborative nature of our organizations. We are blessed to have real team players in so many leadership positions. When I speak to my colleagues around the country about the esprit de corp among the rabbinic community, we are the envy of the nation, and Tamarack Camps, with Steve’s leadership, has been a consummate “community first” partner.”

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 6,000 miles of smiles

For a month of travel from July 5 to August 5, Teen Mission 16 exceeded all expectations with a 4½-week educational, experiential itinerary of more than a dozen cities, towns and national parks including Beit Guvrin National Park near Jerusalem and Mitzpe Ramon in the Negev. Geared to build connections, Michigan teens travel with Israeli teens from the Federation’s Partnership2Gether Region of the Galilee for the entire mission. Together they enjoy home hospitality and experience Federation’s funded programs firsthand.

Describing an “incredible trip” this year, Rabbi Jen Lader of Temple Israel enumerated some of the activities. “We hiked, we toured, we swam, we ate, we visited a dozen cities, hung out with Druze, Israelis, Palestinians, Christian Arabs, Bedouins . . . we did it all.” Rabbi Lader accompanied the Mission along with Rabbi Jen Kaluzny, also of Temple Israel, Rabbi Daniel Schwartz of Temple Shir Shalom, Rabbi Aaron Bergman of Adat Shalom Synagogue, nine madrichim (counselors) from Jewish Detroit and three madrichim from Israel. Co-Chairs of the Mission were Michael Berger and Phyllis Pilcowitz.

Rabbi Daniel Schwartz felt fortunate to be with the teens from his congregation the entire month and to witness their transformation first-hand. “It was truly a blessing for me,” he observed. “But, really, a blessing because of the impact that we have made on the next generation of Jews to the land and people of Israel.”

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Discovering Israel and new friendships

Expressing a special appreciation to Sue and Alan Jay Kaufman for making the Teen Mission possible, Rabbi Aaron Bergman observed, “Our Mission also shows the beauty and potential of our Detroit area community. There are very few places that connect teens of different denominations in such a powerful way. I feel like the future of our community and people is in very good hands.”

“Giving teenagers the opportunity to feel Judaism, taste Judaism and become part of the heartbeat of Israel is a gift they will take with them, and benefit from, for the rest of their lives.” – Rabbi Jen Kaluzny, Temple Israel

Through the Sue and Alan Jay Kaufman Family Foundation, Teen Mission 2016 to Israel was generously subsidized. On the wings of a Mission that went off without a hitch, Tamarack Camps has launched the TSS Israel Fellowship, a new leadership program for teens entering the 12th grade. For more information, call Jackie Yashinsky, Teen Programs Coordinator, 248-952-9030 or email jyashinsky@tamarackcamps.com

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