Last week, camp CGI Bat-Mitzvah Experience (B-ME), directed by Gershon and Devorah Sandler, spent a whirlwind weekend in Crown Heights where they toured a slew of local attractions and significant locations including the Rebbe's home and shul.
According to ten year-old Edan Green, the Shabbaton presented an immersive Shabbat in a deeply Chassidic community.
"I personally love theatre, so my only thoughts of New York were Broadway," explains Green, who lives in Valley Village, CA.
"Yet after seeing the Lubavitcher Rebbe's shul, even Broadway was set aside. While we davened there, I thought, 'I have my whole career planned -- actress, writer and director. But then a giant change hit me: 'What if I want to be a religious Jew?'"
"In large part, our campers attend public schools, so the Shabbaton was an eye-opener into Jewish life," said Rabbi Gershon & Devorah Sandler, directors of the overnight summer program that gives Bat-Mitzvah age girls the opportunity to "Be Me."
The camp is situated on 10 acres of magnificent woodlands in Montgomery County, PA, and is geared for girls with Public School backgrounds, and recruits campers from all over the country, including some from abroad.
During the Crown Heights visit, the girls learned about Jewish fundamentals like Sefer Torahs and Mezuzahs at a scribe's office, visited an art gallery featuring photos of the Rebbe at Farbrengens and made the pilgrimage to the Rebbe's Ohel in Queens, NY.
Inspired by their experiences in an environment set deeply in the meaningful values and practices of Jewish life, campers purchased Mezuzahs, negel vasser and basins at local Judaica Stores.
"During our visit," says Elisheva Drillich, 10, "I was inspired by the people of Crown Heights to always kiss the mezuzah; I feel more Jewish every time I kiss the Mezuzah."
Indeed, for campers at CGI B-ME, the inspiration they will draw from the Shabbaton and throughout a fun-filled summer camping experience set in a Jewish context will make for a meaningful takeaway in their lives after the summer.
"My life after this summer will never be the same," she beams
B-ME's 2nd Session begins this Tuesday, on Chof Zayin Tammuz. For more information about CGI B-ME call 845.425.0903, email info@CGIBME.org, visit CGIBME.org