Four Camp Gan Israel summer camps in Broward County are organized by different Chabad organizations to combine a love of the Jewish heritage with camping activities, such as arts & crafts, sports and swimming for boys and girls up through age 13.
In Broward County, Chabad of North Broward/South Palm Beach has the only South Florida regional overnight camp in Lake Worth, along with a day camp in Coconut Creek. The other CGI locations are day camps only, organized by the Chabads in South Broward and Weston.
Camp Gan Israel (translated as “Garden Of Israel”) was founded in 1956 by Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson as a warm, welcoming camp that integrated Jewish learning with fun.
A child does not have to be Orthodox or affiliated with Chabad to participate at any of the four CGI programs.
“We want to show the love that we have for each child in having some davening (prayer) and Jewish learning so that each child could feel a deep Jewish connection. We want all the children to develop friendships at Camp Gan Israel that will endure through their lives,” said Rabbi Shuey Biston, director of Camp Gan Israel Florida overnight camp in Lake Worth and the day camp in Coconut Creek.
“It is adults, not children, that often do the labeling of Jews in categories. At our camp, whether a child is considered Orthodox or not does not matter to other children. They are there to have fun and make friends. We accept all Jewish children from all walks of life,” said Biston.
One of the distinctions of CGI, especially in the overnight camp program, is the unique combination of distinct Torah learning sessions combined with outdoor activities.
A typical day at the CGI Florida overnight camp program would be as follows:
At 8:45 a.m. the campers daven the Schacharis (morning prayers) service followed by breakfast. Following cleanup after breakfast is the first of three daily learning sessions at 10:40 a.m. Other learning sessions are at 11:45 a.m. and 5:45 p.m., as well as the mincha (afternoon) and ma’ariv (evening) prayer services. In the afternoon and early evening, there are many activities that include sports, swimming and cultural activities along with kosher lunches and suppers.
“Parents love that their children learn at Camp Gan Israel. Children are in the care of an experienced Yeshiva bachur (student) who cares for them not only in the three hours of day learning class, but 24-7. The talks during the day and the individual care he shows to each of his students adds a great chayus (energy) to the camp,” said Biston.
The CGl day camps also involve an integration of learning with outdoor activities. CGI in South Broward begins each morning with a tefillin session.
CGI in Weston emphasizes the closeness of the Jewish “spirit” or community.
“At Camp Gan Israel in Weston, Judaism is a natural part of the daily experience. We convey to each child the love and joy of Judaism in a creative and fun fashion through prayers and the children learning about the many Jewish heroes throughout history,” said CGI Weston director Rabbi Mendel Kesselman, who is also the youth director at Chabad of Weston.
For more information on CGI Florida (overnight camp), 7495 Park Lane Road in Lake Worth, call 954-796-7330. The day camp, also organized by Chabad of North Broward/South Palm Beach is located at Lyons Creek Middle School, 4333 Sol Press Dr. in Coconut Creek or go to http://www.cgiflorida.com
For information on CGI of Weston, 18501 Tequesta Trace Park Lane in Weston, call 954-349-65765 or go tohttp://www.chabadofweston.com
For information on CGI of South Broward, 1295 E. Hallandale Beach Blvd. in Hallandale Beach, call 954-687-7225 or go to http://www.chabadofsouthbroward.com