NEW YORK – A Jewish summer camp in New Jersey has drawn criticism after it released a promotional video on social media, depicting what they called “IDF Training” for campers.
The video from Camp Mesorah, shot in high definition, portrays teenage boys holding paintball guns and running in a forest, through a military-style obstacle course, with music out of an action movie in the background.
The children in the video are dressed in camouflage, and some of them are also wearing masks. One scene depicts an IDF officer screaming as they go through the course.
“This video shows our campers training in our brand new state of the art IDF course,” the camp wrote. “This is one of our many new cutting-edge programs that we have introduced over the years.”
After it was posted on You- Tube, the clip drew much online criticism.
Yehuda Kurtzer, president of the Shalom Hartman Institute in North America, posted on Facebook that he found the video “nauseating.”
“Yes, I believe there is a giant moral chasm between the IDF and Hamas but no – there is not much of a difference between ‘their’ videos, which promote violence and hate to their children and ‘our’ videos, which glorify the same violence to children, especially when such children live in the ‘dangerous neighborhoods’ of Woodmere, Riverdale and the Upper West Side,” he wrote, naming heavily Jewish areas of New York. “I am completely shocked that there are Israelis involved in this who think this is about pride and not a profound insult to the service that they offer to their country.”
Kurtzer said the video is a glorification of weaponry, which he views as “way beyond the sane and reasonable.”
Camp Mesorah officials defended the promotional clip and explained that the purpose of the video was not to stir up a political discussion or promote violence whatsoever.
“Anyone who would come to camp would see that we are all about love and anti-bullying campaigns, showing respect for one another,” the owner and director of the camp, Joseph Stansky told the The Jerusalem Post
on Tuesday. “The last thing we would ever want anyone to take away from this video would be that it is about violence and indoctrinating children to kill. We are not glorifying war, we are not suggesting that the army is fun.”
Stansky said many campers and staff members at Mesorah “have been affected by a tragedy in the IDF and the camp respects them and does not take the issue lightly.”
Josh Nass, who handles public relations for the camp, added that “at its very worst this story is about a controversy that was manufactured by less than a handful of people that misconstrued something.
“But in reality, Camp Mesorah, out of the entire landscape of camps, has incredible educational programming that they institute and implement to teach campers and make sure that no form of violence is ever perpetrated.”
Nass added that the camp has “incredible Zionist roots” and is proud to be supportive of the State of Israel and its army.
“The overwhelming response to the video has been positive,” he explained. “It’s incredibly easy to recognize that this wasn’t about promoting violence.
These are kids playing paintball in an activity that is meant to be about collaborative efforts and team work.
“Any reasonable-minded person would have taken that away from watching the video,” he added.