Uncategorized 06.14.18

An Open Letter to Day Camp Shlichim Host Families

An Open Letter to Day Camp Shlichim Host Families: 10 Steps for Welcoming a Guest (Hahnasat Orhim)

Dear Day Camp Schlichim Host or Hostess (with the mostest–of course),

First of all: Thank you. Thank you so, so much, for inviting a young Israeli emissary (shlicha/female, shaliach/male, shlichim/multiple) into your home for all or part of Summer 2018. Your generosity in opening your home will not only greatly impact the lives of young Israelis, but will make it possible for so many campers and staff to get to know them too.  You are creating an opportunity for Jewish people to come together from across the globe. You are doing a mitzvah. You da best.

I bet you’re a little nervous too! That’s okay. Here is an easy 10 step guide that you can use to help ensure the best experience possible for you, your family, your day camp community, and of course, the shlichim you host.

  1. Be in touch. Have you video chatted with your soon-to-be house guest yet? Do you have their contact information to set up a time to connect with them? If not, please ask your day camp director for their contact information.
  2. Ask questions. When you do connect by either phone or video chat (or email, if that’s what works best), ask questions (Examples include: What are your flight details? What time will you be arriving? Do you need any help getting to our home from the airport?). If you can, offer to pick them up at the airport, or send a cab. Don’t forget to ask about dietary restrictions and food preferences. You are most likely responsible for providing meals to your shaliach, so it’s essential that you know what they can and can’t eat. Finally, ask how you can ensure that they’ll feel comfortable in your home, and give space for them to ask their questions.
  3. Tell them things! I know from my own experience attending and speaking at JAFI’s Day Camp Shlichim seminar in Israel a few months ago that the incoming shlichim have many questions for you. They’re excited to get to know you! Tell them about yourself and your family and your home (and specifically, their sleeping quarters). Let them know your expectations regarding weekly and weeknight curfews, communication, and alcohol consumption. Remember that some shlichim are of legal drinking age in the U.S., and most if not all are of legal drinking age in Israel.
  4. Lead the greeting. When you finally come face to face with your shlicha, be the first person to extend a handshake or open your arms for a hug. Don’t leave that awkward moment for your guest from another country to navigate!
  5. Give a tour of your home. Do this as soon as possible upon arrival. Be sure to point out anything that’s broken or requires some special jiggling maneuver to open.
  6. Give a tour of your neighborhood. Point out parks, restaurants and other eateries, grocery stores, and anything else your area offers by way of culture or entertainment. Tell them about the Jewish community in the area, too.
  7. Do something special. Possibilities include hosting a welcome gathering and inviting friends and neighbors, or going out for a welcome dinner as a family.
  8. Acknowledge discomfort. Don’t be afraid to discuss the current political climate in the US, and tell your shlichim what you do or don’t know about what’s going on right now in Israel. Acknowledge that being in a new place when things are happening at home can be difficult, and ask how you can be most supportive.
  9. Forgive and forget small transgressions. There’s a Jewish sensibility called “teshuva” which asks us to fix what we’ve done wrong, then forgive, and if possible, forget. If you or your new house guest fumble in any small way, work together to quickly fix the misunderstanding, forgive, and move on.
  10. Do your best to build a lasting relationship and through it, a connection to Israel for you, your family, and your community.

Todah, todah, todah (Thank you, thank you, thank you)!

Here’s to a wonderful summer at day camp, and at home.

Jenni Zeftel
Director, Day Camp and Strategic Programs
Foundation for Jewish Camp


P.S. If you are interested in hosting shlichim this summer in your home for a dinner, a week, or more, please contact your local Jewish day camp director. You don’t have to have children in camp to be considered!