This month, we are kicking off a new newsletter directly from Rabbi Erin Mason, Camp Director, to alternate with our Tell Me S’more newsletter and blog. Expect this email to come in the middle of each month with different notes and happenings around GFC.

Dear GFC community,

With the turning of the calendar year to 2024, the countdown to summer has officially begun. In just over four months, we will welcome our summer campers and staff! We have a full winter and spring, though, to tide us over and help us get ready for summer: JFAM Family Camps in February and April, Spring Camp for 1st-7th graders in March, NFTY-TOR WinTOR Kallah for 8th-12th graders in February, Mitzvah Weekend (Adults 21+) in March, Camp Committee Weekend, Summer Leadership Weekend, and more! Throughout these busy months, we are planning forward to summer: preparing camp, hiring summer staff, working with our education faculty, planning programs, and dreaming up an amazing summer.

I want to share with you an exciting addition to our year-round camp program. We are fortunate to be part of the CLASP fellowship program, which embeds a summer staff member in a congregation full- or part-time during the year, solidifying the connection between camp and a congregation and bringing camp into the congregation. Our CLASP partnership this year is with Temple Emanu-El of Dallas. Aya Margalit is Temple Emanu-El’s very first year-round shlicha (Israel ambassador) and our CLASP fellow! In addition to Aya’s full-time responsibilities with the congregation, she will meet with camp families, host regular programming, and connect GFC to the congregation and families.

Aya is married to Erez Margalit and they have three children – Yuval (14), Danielle (12) and Roni (4). The Margalit family has been connected to GFC for decades. She first came to GFC as a summer shlicha over 20 years ago, when I was GFC’s assistant camp director. Since then, she has been back on and off as a summer staff member with her husband, Erez, and for the past three summers, the whole family has been at GFC together, with the Margalit children becoming GFC campers. In Israel, Aya worked as an educator and teacher, and over the course of her career has worked with many different ages and types of students, and in many varied settings. Aya specializes in Israel education and her position as a shlicha fulfills a long-time dream.

Aya and her family are from Kibbutz Nir Yitzchak in the northwestern Negev, about 2 miles from the Gaza border. Their beloved kibbutz was invaded on October 7 and suffered significant losses. The community is now living temporarily in hotels in Eilat. Aya is in Israel right now, connecting with the students she taught for 4 years and visiting her community in Eilat. In just a few days, members of Temple Emanu-El and GFC leadership will travel to Israel to meet up with Aya for a Solidarity Mission designed to stand in support of Israel and bear witness, and to see the country in this moment through Aya’s heart and eyes. If you want to learn more about Aya’s visit to Israel and her reunion with her students, you can read this article from eJewish Philanthropy.

Greene’s connection to Israel has always been strong: our rising 11th graders travel to Israel each summer on our Garin Greene program, we typically bring 30-40 summer shlichim to our summer staff community, and we welcome 4-10 Israeli teens to our summer programs through the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism. We are hopeful these programs will all run this summer.

Our commitment to and support of Israel is unwavering. We are working with Temple Emanu-El and Aya to create opportunities for learning and engagement about Israel over the next few months. When we know more, we will share these opportunities with the GFC community. Our hearts are in the East as we pray for peace and the safe return of the hostages to Israel.

Shabbat shalom,
Rabbi Erin