By Delaney Stock, Summer Camp Marketing Associate

Since the 1970’s, our 10th and 11th grade Hevrah campers have stood for a statement of changing the world, every year shifting their focus towards a new theme. This year’s focus is on Economic Inequality, and teens have spent the last several weeks learning about the repercussions of poverty and how drastically it can impact lives. In America, the large disconnect between the poverty line and the well-off is giving Hevrah the impetus to learn more about what resources and knowledge could bring real change to those most affected in their communities.

We sat down with some of the staff and campers to hear more about the impacts of Hevrah’s programming, and how these teens are bringing new ideas to our own camp community, the community at large, and eventually, our elected officials in the State Capital next week.

“We have covered so many topics,” says Hevranik Simona Lewis. “Hunger was the most impactful since we talked about its relationships to education and other impacts.” By focusing on sub-categories within the general realm if economic inequality, campers like Simona have begun to recognize patterns that make up the issue as a whole.

“Everything is connected in wealth disparity,” mentions Renata Feinstein. “It is because of all these other factors like the wage gap, health care, gender/sexuality, race, and even environmental that makes it such a huge topic.”

The campers explained how when one or more of these issues is affecting someone’s lifestyle, it becomes a never-ending loop. For example, when someone goes hungry, they shift their focus towards that need while neglecting non-necessities such as education. This turns into a generational issue; families become stuck in a pattern of always searching to acquire enough money to solve their hunger in the short-term – rather than focusing on a more long-term solution, for example, like getting a proper education which would lead to a better job and paycheck.

Learning more about the impacts of economic inequality go hand in hand with the Jewish vision of Tikkun Olum, to repair the world.

“Especially as a group of people who are lucky enough to be able to learn about these issues, it’s important that we give the campers the right tools to make a difference,” explains Hevrah counselor Rachel Mellman.

Campers are experiencing and engaging with individuals who have experienced economic inequality first-hand as well as learning how to lobby for laws that would benefit those below the poverty line. They will put their skills to good use during Hevrah Project Day, a trip to the California State Capitol to meet with individuals from our government to discuss the issues at hand.

“An incredible thing is happening [in this session] – the campers are not only engaged with the programming but are prompted to ask things like ‘why are these things happening?’ ‘What are the base systemic issues?’ And ‘what can we do to help?’”

And we know these Hevrah campers – now armed with the tools and tactics they need to know to actually affect change on issues they care about- will go on to make a lasting, positive impact on their world.

(Watch Hevrah “stand up for what they believe in” during their session song here)