Community of Kindness: Frisch Hosts Friendship Circle Camp

January 5, 2018

Yeshivat Frisch was delighted to host the Friendship Circle Winter Camp, sponsored in memory of Bonnie Hartman, z”l, during the last week of December. The Friendship Circle of Bergen County, which aims to provide hours of fun and friendship for Jewish children and teens with special needs, began running the winter camp to provide these students with structure and enjoyable activities while off school.

Every day during the camp, the Friendship Circle campers went on a fun trip and enjoyed different types of entertainment within the Frisch school building, from science shows and sports, to drumming and dance. Approximately 40 Friendship Circle students between the ages of 5 and 21 attended the camp this year.

Frisch has been hosting the winter camp for seven years. What makes the partnership between the two organizations so unique is that Frisch’s entire 11th and 12th grade volunteers with the campers over the course of the week, during different time slots.

“Partnering with the Friendship Circle Winter Camp is the ultimate expression of our community of kindness,” said Rabbi Joshua Schulman, a member of the Talmud faculty and director of chessed programming at Frisch. “It’s an opportunity for our students to be totally selfless, to give of themselves in ways that the don’t necessarily think about on a day to day basis and to walk away feeling enriched and changed by their experience. I think it has a profound impact on the culture of Frisch and on everyone in this building.”

Bergen County Friendship Circle Director Zeesy Grossbaum said that Frisch’s model of chessed and inclusivity can serve as an inspiration to other institutions. “It’s so incredible for the families of these students that their kids have a program that’s affordable and to know that the kids have something to do for the day and have a schedule,” she said about the camp. “Frisch has been amazing; They get us whatever space we need and whatever volunteers we need.” According to Grossbaum, the fact that Frisch teachers and students accompany Friendship Circle activities “shows that the whole mindset of chessed starts from the top.”

Parent Debby Adler, whose son Zachary is a sophomore in Frisch and whose son Jacob is a Friendship Circle participant, couldn’t agree more. “One of the most impressive things about Frisch is the way that its students are naturally driven by the attitude of the faculty to want to do chessed and be involved in activities that benefit our own community, as well as people beyond our community,” said Adler.

Adler said that she has been moved by the way Jacob has been embraced at Frisch. “The way he’s welcomed by not only the volunteers but even passersby in the hallway is genuine,” she stated. “It’s not because their parents or teachers are making them, or for their resume; they’re interested in building relationships not just because they have to, but because they want to.”

Many Frisch students also volunteer with the Friendship Circle throughout the year. Frisch senior Mika Ben Arbon has been volunteering at the Friendship Circle for three years, and now serves as club’s president at Frisch. “The thing that I liked most about it was the environment and how happy everyone was,” said Ben Arbon about her first volunteering experience there. “I think the most important thing about Friendship Circle Winter Camp is to know that each kid there just wants to have fun. Whether talking or going on trips to Bounce, the kids leave the camp having a day filled with fun and each student at Frisch was able to help with that.”

“The relationship between Frisch students and Friendship Circle is cherished by both parties,” she added. “So many volunteers show up Wednesday night at the Friendship Circle’s Teen Scene and keep coming back each week. And before you know it, valuable relationships have been developed.”

“At Frisch, our commitment to chessed is not just directed inside the school but also outside,” said Frisch Principal Rabbi Eli Ciner about the fruitful partnership between the Friendship Circle and Frisch. “We welcome the opportunity to host the Friendship Circle Winter Camp at our school and help these students and their parents over their winter break.”