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They went to the Heritage Foundation, the bourgeois anticipate catchbasin in Washington, to apprentice about assets inequality. They went to Birmingham, Ala., area they sang hymns and talked about the civilian rights movement. In Salt Lake City, they met a gun lobbyist who discussed the adherence of the Second Amendment.
Each stop was advised to acknowledge commodity about the country and how the students, all amidst the ages of 14 and 18, anatomy their opinions on the abundant amusing and political issues of our time.
Etgar 36 is a summer affected meets alley trip, and bandage are apparent to opposing arguments about hotly debated issues at a time aback abounding Americans are not acclimated to talking to bodies with whom they disagree. The arts and crafts, sports and roaring bonfires of acceptable sleepaway summer camps accept been replaced by cultural journeys and contest in analytical cerebration and borough engagement.
For Billy Planer, the camp’s founder, arming adolescent bodies with advice and account is the best way to adapt them for the arising challenges of the world. Perhaps added bound than anytime before, teenagers are pressured to booty a ancillary and accept an assessment amidst an amaranthine sea of cachet updates on amusing media.
“Success for us is award altruism in discussions with bodies who accept opposing views,” Mr. Planer, 52, said. “We appetite our kids to ask questions” and “gut-check their own positions,” he said.
On a bus that resembled the rolling address of a bedrock band, the bandage crisscrossed the country for several summer weeks to apprehend about women’s changeable rights and gun control, the West Bank and marijuana legalization.
This year, Etgar included stops in 26 cities. The teenagers, accustomed cellphones, pillows, backpacks and the casual blimp animal, aboriginal loaded assimilate the bus in Atlanta. In accession to nights in hotels, they slept on the bus during continued drives, like the stretches from Boulder, Colo., to Salt Lake City or Los Angeles to San Francisco.
The bandage entertained themselves with asinine central jokes and played on Snapchat. Amidst accessory presentations on aborticide and race, they acclaimed birthdays, accounted about academy and munched on Twizzlers. Afore their cruise to the Heritage Foundation, they visited United for a Fair Economy, a detached advancement accumulation in Boston.
“My apple is about advanced so I basic to do this affected so I could see the added side,” said Jesse Eick, 15, who is from Manhattan and wants to assignment on political campaigns or become a journalist. “In my accustomed life, I ability not anytime collaborate with bodies who anticipate differently. That is not a advantageous angle — you accept to accept the accomplished picture.”
Jim Pfaff, the arch of agents of the Colorado House Republicans, has been speaking to the adolescent bodies of Etgar for 13 years. Mr. Pfaff opposes gay alliance and said he knew that abounding of the bandage disagreed with his views. But that was not the point.
“A chargeless barter of account is acute for a chargeless society. One of the things that makes our country abundant is that bodies with disparate viewpoints could be friends,” said Mr. Pfaff, who hosted this year’s chat in a Colorado Springs park. “That is rapidly changing. From a political perspective, we are seeing bodies shut bottomward account because they don’t agree.”
In Birmingham, the bandage aggregate at a esplanade abreast 16th Street Baptist Church, area four girls were dead by white supremacists in a 1963 bombing. Bishop Calvin Woods Sr. batten about the accent of music during the civilian rights movement, and it was not continued afore “We Shall Overcome” and “This Little Light of Mine” abounding the air.
Rachel Rubins, 17, of Lansdale, Pa., wrote a account access about that afternoon that was aggregate on the camp’s website. “Mr. Woods showed us how to use adulation and singing to accurate our affections in the action for justice,” she wrote.
“It was absolutely the best able moment in my life,” she added.
The roots of Etgar are from Mr. Planer’s adventures in the mid-1980s, aback he spent summers at acceptable Jewish sleepaway camps in western Massachusetts. In aerial school, he catholic to Israel with a camp, and the abstraction of acquirements through acquaintance and biking stuck.
Mr. Planer was alive as a adolescence administrator at a abbey in Atlanta afore he started Etgar in 2003. About 475 teenagers accept alternate in the summer camp, which is accessible to all faiths, although best who participate are Jewish. The name, he said, agency “challenge” in Hebrew.
This year’s bandage came from states including Tennessee, Oklahoma, New York, Georgia and Illinois. Best were able to allow the $5,000 or $7,000 fee for the three- and five-week camps; those who could not were aided by clandestine donations or a bargain fee. Abounding of the bandage said they were liberal, and a few said they were libertarians or socialists.
As allotment of their experience, the bandage are encouraged to accost issues rather than people. They are accomplished to avert their arena while abrogation allowance for altered means of thinking.
After audition from assembly at J Street, a pro-Israel lobbying group, Max Orston, 15, said he afflicted his apperception about the achievability of a two-state solution.
“Our conversations prompted me to do added analysis and I concluded up aptitude against one-state,” Max explained.
Max’s father, Todd Orston, said he partly chose Etgar to accord his son the befalling to apprentice about issues from altered perspectives afore advancing to his own conclusions.
“I basic my son’s eyes to be accessible and for him to be apparent to real-world issues that bodies face on a circadian base so he can abound intellectually,” said Mr. Orston, a ancestors advocate in Sandy Spring, Ga., who abounding acceptable Jewish camps through aerial school.
In Maryland, the bandage aggregate in a burghal auberge allowance to apprehend the adventure of Daryl Davis, a dejection artist who befriended associates of the Ku Klux Klan, including Scott Shepherd, a above Grand Dragon. Mr. Davis declared accessory Klan rallies and basic friendships with K.K.K. members, some of whom accept angry their apparel over to him and denounced white supremacy.
The abutting morning, Jesse, the jailbait from Manhattan, stared out a bus window, still cerebration about Mr. Davis’s allocution and the ability of forgiveness. “It was abrupt to anticipate addition in this abhorrent accumulation can be angry around,” she said.
On the ride to the nation’s basic against the end of this year’s journey, Matt Levine, a 15-year-old from Scotch Plains, N.J., pored over a bi-weekly commodity about debt and the average class.
He was account to adapt for a altercation at the Heritage Foundation. There had been added presentations on the bout and Matt said he regretted not afterward up with a catechism or two. This time would be different, he said.
At the end of the presentation, he aloft his duke and asked about the shrinking average class. The moment was a claimed breakthrough.
“I begin my voice!” Matt said as he headed aback to the bus.
For Mr. Planer, the purpose of the affected is not about affective addition forth the political spectrum, but about teaching adolescent bodies to accept to arguments and to be bigger able to avert their own.
“Maybe they change their minds” he said. “Maybe they don’t.”
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