Kayitz Kef: Summers of Fun. A Lifetime of Hebrew

July 24, 2017

Source: eJewish Philantropy

Nine Jewish day camps across the country are running a unique Hebrew program known as Kayitz Kef. Supported by The Areivim Philanthropic Group, in collaboration with Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC), ”Kayitz Kef” represents the fun process campers experience during summer camp as they acquire Hebrew without even noticing.

The program was created as a pilot at Camp Ramah in Nyack, NY in 2013 – with the guidance of Prof. Vardit Ringvald, currently Director of the School of Hebrew at Middlebury College in Vermont – to bring a new approach to support the Hebrew acquisition among youth in informal educational experiences at Jewish summer camps. The approach is premised on acquiring rather than learning. Kayitz Kef camps use Hebrew for communication between campers and staff, and encourage its use among the campers and in certain camp-wide settings. Thus, experiences campers will remember for a lifetime happen in an authentic, cultural, and meaningful Hebrew environment. As campers enjoy the second language acquisition, they are motivated to communicate and function in Hebrew in a short period of time (4-8 weeks in the summer), and in a very natural and fun way.

We’re only in the fifth summer of the program but, the results are promising. Here’s some of what we’ve learned from an independent evaluation:

  • Language Gains Among Children: The immersion program, based on the proficiency approach, provide Campers with the best opportunity to maximize their language acquisition experience.
  • Deep Connection to Israel and Israelis: Campers interact with charismatic Israeli role models in an authentic and engaging way, creating a strong emotional connection that is not achieved to the same degree when Israeli counselors are speaking to children primarily in English.
  • Transformed Perceptions of Hebrew among Parents: Parents learn that it is possible for their children to have fun while learning Hebrew. Some parents even become inspired to learn Hebrew themselves.
  • Halo Effect: The ongoing presence of campers and counselors speaking Hebrew intensifies an Israeli cultural presence and engagement with Hebrew for adults and campers throughout the camp.
  • Jewish Content Area for JCCs: For Kayitz Kef programs taking place at JCCs, camps welcome contemporary Hebrew culture and Israeli educators as a means to build a sense of Jewish Peoplehood beyond religious belief or practice.
  • Summer to Summer Language Gains: Returning campers show that they recoup their language gains from the previous summer within less than three weeks, providing them with at least four to five weeks to build higher levels of proficiency.

As anyone in the camp world (or almost any other youth engagement effort) knows, parental buy-in to any new program is integral to its success and future potential. Evaluation by Rosov Consulting shows that parents are overwhelmingly pleased with the program. Parents report that their child had fun, developed greater self- confidence, learned and improved their Hebrew skills. They also indicate that their child speaks more Hebrew at home than he/she did before and is now more enthusiastic about learning Hebrew.


Read more at eJewish Philanthropy.

Updated: Jul. 26, 2017