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After months of planning, Scandinavia’s Winter Camp was a huge success. It started out as an idea the JDC fellow in Copenhagen and I shared: seeing as we are living in one of the coldest parts of the world, we thought it would be fun to take teenagers on a ski trip in the wintertime. Our youth groups in Helsinki had thought about planning a winter camp in central Europe, but we spoke with the Rabbi in Copenhagen, who had a plan: we could stay at a hytta (lodge) owned by the Oslo community and would use the opportunity to bring teens from Scandinavia together over their winter break.
In the end, we had about 12 teens in total. Finland brought three boys, all excited by the prospect of a ski trip with other Jewish teens.
Upon our arrival in Oslo, we stopped at the Jewish community to take party in their BBQ night. Unfortunately we were a little late to the festivities, but we had our own private dinner before heading to the hytta. We spent the evening doing introductions and icebreaker activities before getting ready to ski in the morning.
The ski facilities were small, but we were lucky to have some snow on the base. There was also no chairlift, so we had to use a tug rope to get to the top of the steeper hill! I have been skiing since I was young, so I spent some time teaching some of the teens (and staff) to ski on the small slope, and also playing some card games inside the lodge for those taking a break. We spent the second two days out on the slopes, and a few hours at laser tag, but in the evenings we returned to the hytta, cooked dinner, and had some fun and meaningful activities–including a game show night and a speed-dating cafe, where teens were given thought provoking questions to discuss while the staff served as waitresses. Of course, each night the Finnish boys made time to go in the sauna.
Since we’re used to year-round cold weather, we hate to be inside all day when the sun is shining! We also played some outdoor games and explored the surroundings. The hytta is an old, cozy building and has been used by the Oslo community for conferences and camps for many years. It’s even rumored that Jews were hidden there during the Holocaust.
Winter camp took place during Hannukah, so we lit the candles together each night and even made a video for an Israeli TV station! Another one of our activities centered on the theme of Jewish identity and assimilation, which is an important part of the Hannukah story.
For the teens, it was an incredible opportunity to create connections and learn from each other. As staff, we were excited to find the teens playing games together, telling stories and playing guitar during their free time. I also was glad I had the chance to meet the shlichot from Oslo and spend more time with the JDC fellow and shlicha from Copenhagen. We shared experiences and advice, and created a framework to continue cooperation in the future.
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