Psychologists, therapists, and educational professionals are providing mental support to 35 Jewish children’s camps in Ukraine | Therapeutic circles and group therapy sessions are integrated between the trips and attractions to offer the children emotional assistance in coping with trauma | In Odesa, a vacation for the orphaned children was initially planned in a hotel, but after the city faced a severe attack, their summer camp was relocated to a city ten hours away | Special
Thousands of Jewish children, residents of Ukraine, are currently participating in 35 specially organized summer camps, where they receive professional psychological care to help them cope with the traumas they have endured and strengthen their emotional resilience.
The summer camps are being held in relatively calm areas across the country by the Federation of Jewish Communities (FJC) in collaboration with the JRNU and Chabad rabbis and emissaries, and incorporate therapeutic circles guided by psychologists. Moreover, during the recreational days at the camps, the children take part in art therapy groups facilitated by therapists to encourage them to express and communicate their emotions.
Eighteen months into the outbreak of the devastating conflict, which shows no signs of abating, under strict security measures and supervision, the children also embark on trips and attractions, allowing them to release tension and unwind.
The Gan Israel network of summer camps in Ukraine embarked on this joint project, in collaboration with the Chabad Jewish Relief Network JRNU, MOSAIK, the Ministry of the Diaspora and the Fight against Anti-Semitism organization. These summer camps have expanded their activities to cater to both children and adults. While children enjoy games and recreational activities, the adults participate in specialized seminars designed for their age group.
The children are accompanied not only by psychologists but also by counselors and educational staff. “Each summer camp had a pre-planned educational program,” says Rabbi Chaim Friedman from JRNU’s educational staff.
The Explosions that Altered the Plans
One of the prominent summer camps hosted orphans from FJC’s “Mishpacha” orphanage and Children’s home in Odesa, under the guidance of Chabad emissaries Rabbi Avraham Wolf and his wife Chaya. “We had planned the summer camp at a beautiful hotel by the sea, with breathtaking scenery and fresh air,” Rabbi Wolf recounts, “but the reality of the situation changed everything. There was no choice; we had to choose life, so we did!”
Rabbi Wolf describes that just a few days before the camp’s opening, a severe attack on the city began. “Night after night, there were explosions. Missile after missile,” he explained, and then a building collapsed a hundred meters from the hotel. The windows of the hotel, which was empty of any guests, were shattered. “A great miracle!” he exclaims.
Following the attack, Rabbi Wolf sought an alternative location where the orphaned children could sleep peacefully, and where adults from the local Jewish community could enjoy tranquility.
On Tuesday, the buses departed from Odesa towards the city of Hadyach. It is a relatively calm area, untouched by missiles since the beginning of the crisis. The city holds immense significance in Chabad as it hosts the resting place of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad.
“The journey took ten hours,” Rabbi Wolf shares, “We are immensely grateful to the organizers who provided us with the opportunity for a peaceful vacation, eighteen months after enduring an unending conflict.”