Over Memorial Day weekend, Debbie Rabinovich, Max Malter and Steven Kufert, three south Charlotte teenagers from Temple Beth El, volunteered as counselors at Camp Jenny in Cleveland, Ga.
"You cannot begin to fathom the experience (at Camp Jenny)...," said Rabinovich,14. "It's a life-changing, social action experience."
"Being with the campers is just amazing," said Kufert, 17. "Knowing that I have made a difference in their life has truly touched me."
"To provide for these kids is truly fulfilling," said Malter, 17.
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Camp Jenny, held on the Union for Reform Judaism - Camp Coleman grounds, gives non-Jewish, underprivileged children from the Walter Francis White elementary school in Atlanta the opportunity to attend camp for four days. This year, Camp Jenny hosted about 120 campers in first - fifth grades and had about 100 teen counselors.
"These children have never been with their peers at camp," said Nathalie Malter, Max's mother.
Campers were able to have "a fresh air experience," said Rabinovich.
Activities included art, music, water play, ropes course, sports, dance, drama and cooking.
Camp Jenny is sponsored by the North American Federation of Temple Youth's South Atlantic and Southern Tropical Regions, NFTY-SAR and NFTY-STR, respectively.
According to the Camp Jenny website, "The camp is funded by the money youth groups raise during the year and is subsidized by Camp Coleman."
There is no cost for the camper, but to send one child to camp, it costs approximately $450.
Camp Jenny was founded in the spring of 1988 as a tribute to the memory of Jenny Rosenthal, who was killed in a car accident in 1987. Rosenthal was an active NFTYite, loved children and had spent many summers at Camp Coleman.
Kufert, Malter and Rabinovich are active in Jewish youth groups. Kufert is the NFTY-SAR Membership and Communications Vice President; Malter is the LIBERTY (Life in Beth El Reform Temple Youth) President; and Rabinovich is the LIBERTY Social Action Vice-President.
Their high level of participation in youth groups was not a guarantee of acceptance as counselors.
"About 250 people apply," said Malter. "They take about 100."
The selection process is based on how creative and inspired their applications were. The teens had to fill out a questionnaire, create a 45-minute camp program, and design a card to get the campers excited.
The teens' assigned roles at camp were based on their applications. Rabinovich was a counselor-in-training (CIT); Kufert was a counselor; and Malter was a head counselor.
The theme this year was "Toy Story." The camp's co-directors dressed up as Buzz and Woody, and the CITs were green soldiers. Through "Toy Story" references, the counselors taught life lessons.
The teens are committed to raising awareness and funds for Camp Jenny. They presented a letter to Temple Beth El's Board of Directors explaining how being counselors at Camp Jenny changed their lives.
Andy Harkavy, Temple Beth El's youth director and assistant director of education, noted that the teens "are so committed to performing Tikkun Olam (repairing the world), such an important value in Judaism."