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Ten years through a Jewish lens

TAG, you’re 10! And the signature JCC Association program of activities designed to explore daily issues through a Jewish lens, is taking that milestone in stride.

As it hits the decade mark, TAG: Jewish Values Through JCC Camping®, will celebrate in a variety of ways even as it moves beyond the campground and into programming throughout our JCCs.

The program, funded by the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Jewish Education, will be celebrating in January with a month of TAG, in which all JCCs will be encouraged to do something TAG-related in their programing. TAG will also be showcased at the JCCs of North America Professional Conference in March, even as this year has seen the roll out of TAG-tivities, in which the many of the 55 TAG units have been broken into stand-alone activities.

“We are celebrating the impact that TAG has had in the field,” says Matt Abrams Gerber, assistant vice president, the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Jewish Education at JCC Association. “We want to extend and broaden its influence.”

And in 10 years, TAG has worked its way from offering counselors and educators at day and overnight camps a way of working Jewish learning experiences into each day. Aimed primarily at third through eighth graders, TAG offers a variety of activities grouped around a theme or topic. They are easily accessible for both Jewish and non-Jewish campers and staff, offering fun ways to introduce Judaism, Israel, community service and community building, environmental issues, welcoming guests, sportsmanship, as well as the weekly Torah portion and other stories.

From Pirkei Avot, or Ethics of the Sages, we learn that the world rests on three pillars – on Torah, or learning; on avodah, or service; and g’milut chasidim, or acts of loving-kindness. These elements not only comprise the acronym for TAG, but also form the building blocks of TAG.

I thing TAG is a phenomenal programmer’s resource. I’ve used it from early childhood through staff educational programs.

“The impetus was to create materials that could be used out of the box by any camp or JCC staff person, Jewish or not, even while it offers lessons on some important issue of daily living,” says Dr. David Ackerman, senior vice president and director, Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Jewish Education at JCC Association.

The first activity was about lighting Shabbat candles; the activities now number more than 400. Today they are used primarily in camps, but JCCs have incorporated the units into their after school and early childhood education programs as well. Along the way TAG Tales, a story collection to accompany the units, was published in 2008; and today there is a effort to connect with PJ Library, the Harold Grinspoon Foundation’s free monthly Jewish book program, in order to better reach preschool age children.

Tracey Agronoff, the youth and family enrichment coordinator at the St. Paul Jewish Community Center in Minnesota, appreciates the adaptability of TAG, as well as its ability to reach a broad range of ages, from the youngest children in her early childhood programs, through JCC employees, who enjoy participating in the activities she uses at monthly staff meetings. As well, the materials are easy to use, she notes, and so while she has participated in and benefited from TAG training, they are still approachable for those who have not.

“It is very flexible,” she says. “The materials are provided in a very clean, easy to use format. I love that it provides all things in one kind of space – it will give you art activities and games and drama…You can pick and choose the different kinds of elements from each different guide and you don’t have to use the entire guide.

“I thing TAG is a phenomenal programmer’s resource. I’ve used it from early childhood through staff educational programs.”

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