A team of thirteen Connected Wisdom trainers* from Brooklyn, NY took the Connected Wisdom Circle to camp Tel Yehudah, a premiere leadership camp for teenagers from all across North America, as well as from Israel, Europe, and Latin America. Located along the tranquil banks of the Delaware River two hours west of Manhatten on 150 beautifully wooded acres, camp Tel Yehudah pairs Jewish leadership training rooted in a deep love for Israel with camping in the beauty of nature. Teens age 14-18 travel to camp Tel Yehudah for a life-changing experience preparing to become the next generation of global Jewish leaders.
Tel Yehudah program coordinator, Jane Dechtiar, had previously experienced the Connected Wisdom Circle during a visit to Tel Aviv. She was very excited to facilitate the debut of the Connected Wisdom Circle experience at camp Tel Yehudah. Through her introduction, Connected Wisdom of Brooklyn was invited to introduce the unique Circle Method to camp Tel Yehudah Sunday afternoon, August 9th, 2015 during the second of two 25-day summer camp sessions.
Connected Wisdom conducted two training sessions for approximately 100 Tel Yehudah campers–one for Kfir campers aged 14-15, and a second for Bonim campers aged 15-16. Because Kfir and Bonim campers focus on the development of individual Jewish identity, connection to Israel, and Jewish leadership, the Circles discussion experience was cloaked within these familiar camp curriculum themes. The Connected Wisdom team constructed the program to highlight the central prerequisite necessary for effective Jewish leadership–mastery of methods for creating unity among diverse groups of people.
Tel Yehudah campers arrived a large rustic outdoor pavilion in small friendship cliques, at once curious yet guarded about who the guest trainers were and what they had to offer. With the help of the experienced Connected Wisdom team, games facilitator, Laurence Cohen gathered the teens into one large circle and led the youth through a series of engaging activities designed to both melt barriers and divide the large group of teens into smaller workshop circles of ten. The participants clapped, counted, sang, and laughed together until primed and ready for the heart of the Connected Wisdom experience, the connection Circle.
Once the Tel Yehudah teens were seated in small workshop circles of ten and they had been familiarized with the all-important and unique Rules of the Workshop, a hallmark of Connected Wisdom’s Circles Method, the workshop discussions began. In order for the young leaders to fully appreciate how crucial equality is among all participants during a Circle workshop, Connected Wisdom moderators assisted with the smooth application of the Circles Method from outside the circles so that the discussions were solely among camp peers. While maintaining awareness of the manner in which the Circles Method creates the sensation of unity among participants, the teens discussed basic questions about Jewish identity and the qualities of excellent Jewish leadership in circular discussion rounds.
To wrap up the successful camp Tel Yehudah Connected Wisdom event, the entire group of teens gathered once more into one giant circle at the end of the session. They reflected together about the usefulness of the Connected Wisdom method for teaching diverse groups of people, arriving with all attitudes and moods, just how to sit together and make satisfying decisions. Then, arm in arm, in one giant circle of oneness, the future global Jewish leaders of the world began to sing. They sang Hine Ma Tov–”How pleasant and good it is for brothers to sit together.” Tears flowed as they sang and savored the special spirit of unity that is the specialty of the Connected Wisdom Circle.
Connected Wisdom trainers and team members not only teach how to use the Circle Method, they live it and put it into practice in their work. So, at the conclusion of the sessions with the Tel Yehudah campers, the Connected Wisdom team themselves sat in a Circle and reflected together on the strengths of the just-completed session and brainstormed improvements for future application. Camp Tel Yehuda staff, including the camp director and the program coordinator, looked curiously on while finishing up their own responsibilities in the pavilion. When it came time for the Connected Wisdom team Circle at the end of the last youth session, the feeling of connection and mutual responsibility was so strong among all present that a program coordinator from camp Tel Yehudah actually joined the Connected Wisdom staff Circle to participate in the post-session reflection. Both the Tel Yehudah camp director and program coordinator, along with other staff, expressed a sincere desire to involve Connected Wisdom in future camp Tel Yehudah sessions and Connected Wisdom of Brooklyn looks forward to working with camp Tel Yehudah to actualize that dream.