By Federation Chief Planning Officer Jessica Mehlman
September is here! In my house that means mourning the end of camp and looking forward (that may be stretching it a bit) to the start of school. Because of your generosity, these sentiments are being felt by families, children, and teens throughout Greater MetroWest. And by Greater MetroWest I mean New Jersey, Israel, and in 70 countries around the world… because #IamGMW.
Several years ago, my children were recipients of One Happy Camper grants – $1,000 toward their first summer at a Jewish overnight camp. After one summer, they never looked back and Jewish camp has been their summer home for over eight years. This summer 300 kids from throughout Greater MetroWest attended 48 camps for the very first time. Since the start of the One Happy Camper program, Greater MetroWest has sent 1,900 children to Jewish overnight camp!
While these children were experiencing the magic of Jewish camp across the Northeast and the U.S., 10,000 children were also experiencing camp for the first time at 130 camps in 20 countries across Central and Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union run by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). For many of these kids, not only was this their first experience at a Jewish camp, but it was their first experience being part of an immersive Jewish community.
Greater MetroWest supports camps in North America, Hungary, and Ukraine. We recruit counselors from Israel, including our GMW Rishonim and Shlichim, to connect the next generation with modern Israel and to help these young Israelis learn about the Jewish community outside Israel and from our own community. A summer together at camp makes you family. #IamGMW
Now that summer is over, 1,500 kids from Greater MetroWest will fill the halls of our four Jewish day schools and synagogues throughout our GMW area will welcome back students to religious supplementary schools. Meanwhile, on September 1, our friends at MetroWest High School in Ranana, Israel returned to their classrooms and, throughout the Former Soviet Union, 13,500 children are receiving a Jewish education through ORT schools and programs, while approximately 25 children in Ukraine will be cared for and given a Jewish education through Tikvah. #IamGMW
When the school days ends, 350 children will arrive at our three community centers in New Jersey where they get help with homework, a healthy snack, and a chance to participate in supervised programs in a safe environment. At five locations throughout Israel, in Jewish and Arab villages, 440 children participate in Youth Futures, an afterschool program which provides tutoring and supervised activities for at-risk children.
In September, 50 babies will fill the infant care rooms at the JCC of Central New Jersey and the YM-YWHA of Union County. In the infant room at the Oolie Matnas (Community Center) in Ramat Eliyhau (a community in Israel we have partnered with for almost 40 years!) ten babies receive care while their parents are at work. #IamGMW
For families who have children with special needs, the start of a new school year can bring challenges. Greater MetroWest ABLE helps these families find the resources they need. Likewise, the Feinberg Center in Ramat Eilyhu provides full-day pre-school, afterschool programming, and therapy for children with special needs. #IamGMW
For those children who need extra support, Jewish Family Services of Central New Jersey and MetroWest provide counseling services. While in Ramat Eliyhau, Atzamut Plus, a partnership program between Greater MetroWest and the Israel Center for Educational Innovation, provides Ethiopian immigrant families with intervention services both at school and in the home to help them integrate into Israeli society.
Your gift to the UJA Annual Campaign makes the magic of summer and the productivity of September possible throughout Greater MetroWest, in New Jersey, Israel, Central and Eastern Europe, and the FSU. My children are recipients of your gift. Teens in Ranana are SnapChatting with teens in New Jersey, who are SnapChatting with teens in the Ukraine because of your gift. Babies are cared for because of your gift. Children do not fall through the cracks because of your gift. Thank you. #IamGMW.