Meet Oria: An Israeli working in a Minnesota summer camp
Summer may be drawing to a close, but we’re not done talking about the connections and Jewish moments that shaped our community’s summer.
Back in June, Oria Siman-Tov arrived from Israel to serve as the shlicha for Camp Olami at JCC. One of over 1,300 Israelis dispatched to Jewish summer camps throughout North America by Federation partner The Jewish Agency for Israel, Oria’s summer was about more than ultimate frisbee and making friendship bracelets. It was also a chance to immerse herself in a Jewish community different from her home, learn from those differences and find common ground, and bring those connections back home to Israel.
As Oria prepared to head back home in early August, we got a chance to catch up with her and find out what she learned about American Jewish life while living and working in the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes.
What surprised you about the kids at Camp Olami?
I feel like it’s really important that there be an Israeli here. [That way] they’ll get to know about Israelis and Judaism.
What do you think the kids at Camp Olami learned from you?
Well, first of all, I’m thinking in Hebrew and saying everything in English. I made a lot of mistakes at the beginning. I think they learned how to accept that difference between us.
I also think it’s super important that kids here learn to appreciate Israel. What I did with all my activities was [to help the kids learn] about all the places in Israel, learn about the history, learn that we need to be in the army. When they will be in college, the Israeli kids that will be their age will be in the army. They were surprised to hear that I was in the army. They were like, ‘What? No way!”
What surprised you about the Jewish community here?
The community here is super, super tight. Super close. Everyone knows each other in the area. If I was friends with one of them, everyone would know.
[There are] a lot of holidays that we celebrate in Israel, and you don’t. Or there’s a lot of holidays that you celebrate, but you celebrate them really differently.
Are there any other major differences you noticed in American Jewish life?
So I live in Jerusalem, and there are obviously a lot of Orthodox people there. What was so different here is that Orthodox people are super open. They were super accepting, even if you’re not Jewish.
What did you really love about being in Minneapolis?
I loved the fact that you have lakes everywhere. Because we don’t have that. It was amazing. I love that you can bike everywhere. At first, when the Jewish Agency told me, ‘You’re in Minnesota!’ I was like, ‘Is that even a place?’ And then I looked it up and it said ten thousand lakes and I was like, ‘Okay, cool.’ It’s amazing. I would definitely want to come back here.