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Jewish Life

Jewish Life at Step It Up

Many of our campers are modern Orthodox Jewish boys grades 3-12 from over 30 Jewish Day Schools around the U.S.

Jewish Life is run by Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Gaby Danieli who is returning for a fourth summer along with the rest of our religious staff, which include Yeshiva University basketball players and Jewish day school kids (sometimes former campers) who serve as counselors. Rabbi Danieli, originally from Montreal, Canada received his Smicha at Yeshiva University and currently teaches at IBC – Isaac Breuer College of Hebraic Studies.

We seek to continue the Jewish education and religious lifestyle that your son has received at home. Consistent with that, before the summer we talk with parents to get an idea of what objectives are a priority to the family (Shabbat observance, benching after meals, attendance at minyanim, learning, etc.).  This way, we can ensure that your son’s time at Step It Up is an authentic, honest and genuine bridge from the home experience. Rabbi Danieli has list of each camper’s needs and where they are religiously and makes sure that each boy is adhering to his and his parent’s wishes.

Not only are the boys present at minyanim, but they’re constantly encouraged to participate and taught to lead minyanim and lain. We aim to develop leaders not only on the basketball court but religious leaders as well. We inspire and teach our campers to take ownership of davening. The spiritual growth at Step It Up is evident and we’ve had great feedback from campers and parents alike.

What we have found from SIU graduates is that instilling such leadership and independence at a young age has actually helped them be proud and take control of their Judaism once they arrive in college.  This is part of the overall character development that we seek to instill in all our SIU graduates.

Step It Up is all about the growth of our campers, not just in basketball but as Jews as well.

Is the food at Step It Up Kosher?

All of the food served at Step It Up is Glatt Kosher. Hashgacha is provided by Rabbi Chayim Zirkind of Brandeis University in Boston, Massachusetts. We have washing stations at every meal and kids are able to bench after meals. Chalav Yisrael is available upon request.

What’s Shabbat like at camp?

Step It Up provides a truly unforgettable Shabbat experience.

Kabbalat Shabbat is followed by a traditional Friday night meal, followed by zmirot, divre torah and benching. Shabbat morning services are led by Rabbi Danieli as well as the rest of our religious staff and campers. Following Shabbat lunch, boys have the option to rest, learn or play some pick up games if they play ball on Shabbat. At 5:30 pm we get together for Mincha followed by learning, Seuda Shlishit, Maariv and Havdalah.

Is there learning as well?

Rabbi Danieli learns with a group of boys every afternoon. We have boys who bring their sefarim and learn daily and some who learn a few times a week.

What do you do for Fast Days?

We have a meaningful Tisha B’Av program with the reading of Eicha. We also screen educational movies/documentaries and share stories during the day followed by a break fast meal.

For Shiva Asar B’Tamuz, we wake the boys up early and have a big meal before they go to minyan and head back to bed to nap or rest in their rooms. The campers are chaperoned by staff members who are fasting as well, in addition to Rabbi Danieli.

It goes without saying that no physical activity is required on any fast day or Shabbat at camp.


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