Art, Camp, Children with Special Needs: A Young Judaean’s Summer at the Merkaz

By Deena

Summer was busy for us here at the Merkaz! In addition to our more regular activities, music concerts and the art gallery, we also helped organize two very successful summer camps.

For the third year in a row, we were proud to be involved in the Shutaf Project – an inclusive, informal educational programme for kids and teens with special needs in Jerusalem. Together, we are helping to create a special place of learning, of core Jewish and social values and happy times together. Our partnership with Shutaf symbolizes our efforts to break down barriers and pave the way towards equality of all children.  Shutaf is the camp where every child is accepted, included and welcomed. Regardless of disability, as well as educational, religious, cultural and socioeconomic differences, Shutaf is modeling a unique type of co-existence for Jerusalem children and it is developing a safe and supportive place for integration between mainstream kids and those with special needs.  

Throughout the camp, children with special needs were able to enjoy a fun, meaningful and vibrant environment facilitating their integration within Israeli society. A total of 61 participants attended the camp, which catered for kids and young adults aged between 6 and 21 years old. Campers did a lot of fun things, from sports, to music, to art and drama and everything had a theme around recycling this year, which was worked in and out of all the activities. 

Our involvement with Shutaf represents exactly what the Merkaz stands for, an accepting community centre that aims to truly include and integrate all members of Israeli society – be it Anglos, Israelis, religious, secular - in the hope that their shared experiences and new friendships will play a vital role to their success here in Israel! To find out more about our involvement with the project or to volunteer at our next camp, feel free to contact Deena at the Merkaz (deena@themerkaz.org.il).

Another exciting camp we had this summer was the Summer Theatre Workshop that took place both within our Beit Ar-el Campus and at our Centre Stage Theatre (CST) facility on Dor Dor VeDorshav.

In collaboration with Encore (one of the most established Educational Theatre companies in Israel) and JELLY (the Jerusalem English Language Library for Youth), the Merkaz and Centre Stage Theatre were delighted to be a part of this project for the 3rd year running. One week after opening registration the workshops were full and the 19 "young actors" aged 10-14 from all over Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh and Kfar Adumim enjoyed 20 days of hard work, learning and fun!

Designed for youth of all ages, the workshop is targeted to kids who are English speakers (new Olim and children of "old" olim and Israeli teens that want to better their English) and that have experience and a passion for theatre. The main goals of the workshop are to encourage the future generation of actors in Israel and give them an opportunity to experience a theatre first hand and to learn from professional directors. Additionally, the workshops allow for the development of their theatre and acting skills including: improvisation, movement, voice and the design and preparation of scenery, props and costumes. The cast also spent 12 days working on a production of the play The Fixer – based on the tale by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov and written and directed by Yacov Brody. There were two very successful performances of The Fixer, attended by 180 people.

CST and the Merkaz are proud to continue to support the growth and development of the future generation of English theatre in Israel, which is particularly very active in Jerusalem. Following these workshops, many young actors continue to be active in local performances and their school productions.

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