Apr 22, 2013
A Camp Before the Summer
The impact a summer has had on Ukrainian Jewish boys, has led Chabad bochurim to return there in middle of the year.
For the past 12 years, Camp Yeka has received funding from various places which covered the majority of the cost of each camper’s food and lodging.
Unfortunately, this year there is no funding at all.
This year the staff from the previous summers have undertaken to raise the entire $65,000 needed to give 110 Jewish Ukrainian boys the summer experience they so desperately need and deserve.
Without the help of generous donors such as yourself, the children who have so enjoyed this respite from their difficult life, will remain on the dangerous streets of Ukraine or in abusive homes.
Support their work at CampYeka.org
The following article was written by Rishe Deitsch in 2012 by the Nshei Chabad Newsletter about the summer of 2012:
Every summer, bochurim come to the Ukraine and do a three-week overnight camp in one location, then move to another location and start all over again with a new group of campers. The campers get attached to the counselors, and since it's summer and they're free anyway, very often the campers want to come along with the counselors to the new location for more camp.
"At first I could not believe the boys wanted to travel for 25 hours on a train from Minsk [Belarus] to Crimea [a region near the Black Sea] to have another three weeks of camp," said Ephraim Yarmak, 21, who spent several summers and Pesachs as a counselor in the Ukraine.
"But then I understood. Camp is all they wait for the whole year. It is when the boys, many of whom live in very uncomfortable or even hostile environments, come alive. It is when they are given unlimited love and attention, given the time of their lives and given a full dose of the 'oxygen' of Torah. Not to mention American treats like chocolate bars and licorice."
Just to try to give American readers some understanding of the difficult lives of these Ukrainian children, let me share with you what one counselor told me: "Many Yidden come to Berditchev to visit the grave of Reb Levi Yitzchok, and nobody turns down a child beggar. So, many Jewish children living in Berditchev survive by begging."
Levi Katzman, 24, spent six summers in the Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia as counselor and head counselor. He will never forget the day he found a pile of challah rolls in a camper's drawer. He asked the child why he was keeping them.
"To take home," said the boy.
"But they'll be dry and hard by the time you go home," Levi explained.
"It doesn't matter," insisted the boy. "My mother will still be happy to have them."
Ephraim Yarmak was teaching his campers that Hashem created the world in six days; Adam and Chava lived in Gan Eden for a short while, etc. At the end of the learning session, Ephraim noticed tears rolling down the cheeks of one small camper.
"What's wrong?" asked Ephraim.
"For me," replied the boy, "camp is Gan Eden. And I know we only have a short time here and then it is going to end, just like it did for Adam and Chava."
Ephraim was once in a suburb of Dnepropetrovsk for Shabbos. They had nine for the minyan.
"We went out searching for a tenth man. We saw a group of young men. I walked up to them and asked, 'Anyone here Jewish?' They all pointed to one guy, who said,
'My name is Yosef Yitzchok. I went to camp with you guys twelve years ago; I had a bris then and took Yosef Yitzchok as my Jewish name.'
After completing the minyan, Yosef Yitzchok stayed for seudas Shabbos. We sang all the camp songs he still remembered."
And the rest of the story is told in captions...