A Kids Center Partnership with Ashkelon Youth
By Laura Green, Director of Kids Center and Assistant Director to J Camps
From America to Israel and around the world, Jewish Holidays are celebrated differently depending on local rituals and traditions.
Recently, the Kids Center after school program at the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC received a grant from the Associated’s Ashkelon Partnership to share how we celebrate our Jewish holidays, and to see how our friends in Ashkelon, Israel celebrate theirs.
Ashkelon is a beautiful city resting on the Mediterranean Sea. Ashkelon’s marina is their busiest tourist spot, where visitors can enjoy local cuisine while they watch the boats go by. Though Ashkelon is a gorgeous place to visit, during times of war, they see very few visitors as they are only 13 miles away from the Gaza Strip.
Through a video exchange, the JCC’s Kids Center participants have been sharing our traditions and practices, while also learning more about how the children of Israel celebrate holidays such as Chanukah, Purim and Lag B’Omer. They will also exchange videos for Passover and the Israeli holidays of Yom HaZikaron (Remembrance Day) and Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day).
Our JCC is paired with a Matnas (local community center) at the Neve Dkalim School in Ashkelon. Neve Dkalim also provides an after school program for children in the surrounding areas. The partnership creates great opportunities for both Baltimoreans and Ashkelonians to explore Jewish identity and create a bond.
The partnership creates great opportunities for both Baltimoreans and Ashkelonians to explore Jewish identity and create a bond.
This year there are two Shinshinim (young Israel emissaries) from Ashkelon living in Baltimore who have been organizing projects and programming for the youth in the Baltimore area. They are also assisting with this grant by teaching the children more about Israeli customs associated with certain Jewish holidays.
So far this year the children in Kids Center celebrated Chanukah by having a party. During the party kids made menorahs, ate Sufganiyot (jelly donuts) and potato latkes, learned how to play dreidel, and participated in a service project to make mezuzot to send to soldiers in Israel. The kids had a great time learning new traditions and being able to participate in a movie that we sent to our friends in Ashkelon.
For Tu B’Shevat the J’s after school program partook in a Tu B’Shevat seder in which the children sampled different dried fruits and learned a little about what each one symbolizes. The children also took part in a planting project as well as an art project where they were able to create trees from pencils. The children participated in another video project showing their friends in Ashkelon what they did for Tu B’Shevat!
Next up on the calendar…an after-school Purim carnival complete with games, hamantaschen and costumes.