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Introducing the Elaine and Michael Serling Israeli Camper Program!

By: Lee Trepeck, CEO, and Michael Cooper, President

We are thrilled to share that Elaine and Michael Serling have provided a substantial endowment gift to help secure the future of the Israeli Camper Program! With such excitement and gratitude, the program will now be known as the Elaine and Michael Serling Israeli Camper Program.

Since 2002, in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Detroit’s Israeli Camper Program (ICP), Tamarack has welcomed over 1,600 Israeli campers from the Partnership2Gether region and connected with approximately 500 host families. This program is a community gem that will endure for generations to come.

Growing up, both Elaine and Michael developed a passion for Judaism and learned the importance of a Jewish state from their families — and, as newlyweds, they lived and worked for a year in Israel. It was through this profound experience that they set a life-long intention to give back Jewishly.

As Tamarack camper parents, grandparents and Bubbie Zaydie participants, Elaine and Michael’s shared involvement and philanthropy have fostered the love of Judaism and Israel within their own family, throughout camp, and in the community.

During many years, they have provided significant camper scholarship support, contributed to the Farber Farm (through the Serling Harvest Pavilion) and aided the Shinshinim program. 

The Serling Israeli Camper Program has never been more important. Born out of a need to provide a safe respite from the Second Intifada 22 years ago, this summer, the program will once again assume an even greater meaning as we prepare to host approximately 150 Israeli children — all of whom are feeling the effects from October 7. Thanks to Elaine and Michael, the Jewish Federation, and so many generous individuals, these campers will benefit from the resources they need and a camp community ready to embrace their arrival and experience.

Photo of Elaine and Michael Serling. Michael, on the right, is wearing dark slacks and light shirt, and has an arm around Elaine's shoulders. Elaine is wearing a white shirt that says "love" in black and dark pants. She is holding a white sweater.
“Over the past several years, Michael and I have personally met many of the Israeli campers and counselors who come to Tamarack during the summer. We have watched them interact with their newfound Detroit Jewish friends, including our own granddaughter, who still stays in contact with the Israeli friends she met through Tamarack. This melts our hearts. The dark days of October 7 have only served to enhance our passion about the importance of these connections. We are thrilled to be a part of this program.” –Elaine Serling

​”Our hearts have always been with Israel since both of us were very young. For years, we have wanted to fund a program that connects the Detroit Jewish community with Israel. Our friend, Bob Aronson, the former head of the Detroit Federation, connected Detroit with their sister region in Migdal Ha Emek decades ago. He also led the way in connecting Detroit Jewish and Israeli youth about 22 years ago by establishing the Israeli Camper Program. We have worked with Tamarack for seven years, learning more and more about the very successful Israeli camper program and other wonderful things about Tamarack. Recently, the time was right and we signed a major endowment gift to ensure that the Israeli Camper Program will last for generations to come.” –Michael Serling

Each year, this program is the largest contingency of Israeli campers outside of Israel. “It is the envy of other Jewish camps across North America,” said Camp Director Carly Weinstock — and it cannot happen without the strong partnership between Tamarack Camps and the Jewish Federation of Detroit and its great leadership through CEO Steve Ingber and Senior Director of the Israel and Overseas Department Jennifer Levine and her talented staff and lay leaders.

But mostly, it is made possible by our generous community, who values the important bonds the program has built over the past 22 years. With the Serlings lead gift to sustain this iconic program, the Elaine and Michael Serling Israeli Camper Program will continue to strengthen the kesher (connection) between Jewish Detroit and Israel!

“Elaine and Michael represent the very best of our Jewish community, and their foundational support for this program exemplifies their visionary commitment to making a difference,” said Steven Ingber, Federation CEO. “Thanks to the Elaine and Michael Serling Israeli Camper Program, a new generation of Israeli youth will have an experience that enriches their entire lives—while kids from our own community deepen their relationship with Israel. The impact of this gift is extraordinary.”

Now, as we move forward, we can’t wait to honor Elaine and Michael as the 2024 Community Leaders during our Send a Kid to Tamarack event on May 8. And, shortly afterward, we are so excited to open camp with a full community of campers — from down the street, around the state, throughout the country and from Israel!