On Thursday, August 10, more than forty campers arrived at Camp Tzadi, the First Fruits of Zion summer camp for Messianic kids ages 12-18. This summer is our first year conducting a summer camp.

As the Director of the 12-21 program, I have an active hand in the camp. My wife, Shannon, and I have been working closely with the camp director, Boaz Michael’s daughter Shayna, in planning the details of this massive undertaking. It was a huge amount of work, and stress levels have run high at times. More than once, I asked myself, “Why did I agree to do this?”


Toby Janicki teaching at Camp Tzadi

When the kids started arriving last Wednesday and Thursday, it all became worthwhile. All my misgivings vanished. These are great kids, and it is a privilege to work with them. Most of them have been raised in Messianic Jewish or Messianic Gentile homes. Messianic Judaism is still a small and marginalized religion. There just aren’t a lot of people who identify with our message and our convictions. That means that many of these kids have grown up more-or-less isolated from other Messianic kids, and they have struggled to find ways to fit in. Here at Camp Tzadi, they discover a peer group with the same religious background and same convictions.


We start each day with Shacharit (morning) prayers from the forthcoming Vine of David Messianic Jewish prayer book. I’m not talking about a long, boring synagogue service. We spice it up with drums, songs, and a lot of fun. Then we get on with a day packed with crafts, activities, games, and serious Bible study. The food is all kosher, and the fun is non-stop. In the evening, we come together around the campfire and share some of the deep stuff we are working on. You would be amazed at the insights and spiritual wisdom that comes out of these kids.


Over Shabbat, we had a sweet time together, enjoying the holy day and using the downtime to connect and get to know one another. Our counselors are fantastic too. We selected strong, mature, young people in their early twenties who were raised in Messianic communities to help us steer the younger kids. They are all volunteers, and they are doing a fabulous job. There is a real spirit of the peace of Messiah among them.

I have to credit my wife for helping me keep everything straight and connecting with the kids. She’s on top of it. Other than my wife and I, FFOZ Camp Tzadi Staff includes Shayna Michael, our camp director who has poured herself into every aspect of the preparations for this adventure. She has amazed us with her boundless energy and attention to detail. Her siblings are also here as counselors. Noach just finished his IDF service before being drafted into service at Camp Tzadi. Miriam Lancaster is here too, keeping everything moving smoothly, behind the scenes, with the kids, and with the counselor team. We also have Jeremy and Hollie Schoenwald on duty. Jeremy ordinarily works on FFOZ’s media team, but his family used to run a summer Bible Camp, so we wanted him involved, and he has been a great asset. He’s also using his camera skills to document the camp.


You can follow Camp Tzadi and 12-21 by connecting through our Facebook and Instagram pages at 1221.ffoz.org. Please keep Camp Tzadi in your prayers. This year Camp Tzadi ends on August 20, but the kids are already making plans for next year.