Shlicha's/Shaliach's View

Camp J counselors, Israeli scouts bring taste of Israel to Tucson

Israeli culture in Tucson

Oshrat Barel
Oshrat Barel

Bringing Israeli culture to Tucson is one of the central goals of the Tucson Jewish Community Center, and this summer it is my pleasure to spend part of the summer here and see the great work of the two Israeli camp counselors, Dar Katz and Shachaf Shahar. These dynamic young shlichot (emissaries) bring Israel to the children at Camp J and the Early Childhood Education program — more than 500 children every day! Enriching our community even more, Julie Zorn, the Tucson J’s Jewish living and learning specialist, coordinates a special program every Monday morning so these young women can visit different Jewish agencies, bringing Israel across our Jewish community. (Editor’s note: See more on the shlichot in the June 26 issue of the AJP.)

The Tzofim Israeli Scouts Friendship Caravan will be at Camp J on Friday, June 19. The energetic teenagers will arrive at the J the preceding evening and enjoy dessert with host families. On Friday morning they will be welcomed like superstars by the JCC campers.

These 10 talented Israeli teenagers share their love of Israel through songs in Hebrew, English and Yiddish. On Friday evening, the Friendship Caravan will continue to share their program with a free show at Temple Emanu-El. This year, in coordination with the J, Temple Emanu-El and Congregation Or Chadash, the community concert will be preceded by a joint Shabbat service at Temple Emanu-El.

Tucson’s Ken Miller, an archaeologist and Partnership2Gether co-chair, shared with us that last summer, while he was digging at Tel Gezer, Israel, a young Israeli approached him and asked about the T-shirt he wore, which was an Israeli Scouts T-shirt from almost 10 years ago. Both of them were very excited to find out they attended the same concert — the young man performed as an Israeli scout and Ken enjoyed the concert.

To experience even more of the scouts’ enthusiasm, families with children ages 10 and older can serve as hosts for the teens during their two-night stay in Tucson. Although it is only two nights and the scouts will be busy with performances, this personal connection will be remembered always and cherished by both the Tucson families and the Israeli scouts.

Host families are asked to attend the community concert and drive their guests to the J two mornings. Says Todd Rockoff, CEO of the J, “If we can’t send all campers to Israel at least I know that by bringing the Tzofim Caravan for a concert, the young shlichot for the whole summer and the unique opportunity for hosting both the Tzofim and young shlichot, we are planting a seed of love for Israel in every kid’s heart and hope that this seed will flourish.”

Families interested in hosting a scout should contact me at

Oshrat Barel is Tucson’s community shlicha (Israeli emissary) and director of the Weintraub Israel Center.