By Michael Jacobs | mjacobs@atljewishtimes.com

More than 150 teenagers are expected to travel back to the Roaring Twenties for one night to help poor elementary school children travel out of Atlanta for a great camp weekend in the near future.

KEFTY, Temple Kol Emeth’s youth group for eighth- to 12th-graders, is holding its 11th annual KEFTY Kasino on Saturday night, Jan. 24, to raise money for Camp Jenny. It’s a fundraiser organized and run by teens for teens to benefit a Memorial Day weekend camp experience organized and run by Jewish teens across the Southeast.

“We support Camp Jenny because it gives these kids in Atlanta an opportunity and an experience they will never forget. It really does change their lives,” said Caroline Weinstein, 15, a Walton High School sophomore who is co-chairing KEFTY Kasino as the youth group’s social action vice president. Caroline, who succeeded her older sister Katie as social action VP, cited an incident when a group wearing Camp Jenny T-shirts stopped at the Varsity in Midtown for lunch, and one of the cashiers who proved to be a camp alum jumped over the counter and sang the camp song.

Camp Jenny, held at the Reform movement’s Camp Coleman, is a project of the North American Federation of Temple Youth’s Southern Area Region and Southern Tropical Region. Teens from Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and Florida staff the camp under the leadership of the social action vice presidents from each region.

The NFTY-SAR social action VP is Kol Emeth’s Zoe Light, 16, a Walton junior. She helped pick the camp staff of about 130 teens out of 177 applicants.

Zoe said part of the value of the camp is that it makes potential campers behave better. They have to meet the CAMP requirements: come to school with an awesome attitude, make an effort, and have parental involvement. “Camp Jenny inspires kids and teachers and parents to work hard.”

Be Your Own Superhero is the camp’s theme this year, Zoe said. “They have powers within themselves to create an incredible community.”

The camp has a capacity of 150 campers, and the youth groups must raise $500 per camper to ensure the weekend is free to attend. KEFTY Kasino is one of the top Camp Jenny fundraisers, bringing in $10,000 each of the past two years to send 20 campers to Jenny.

This year’s goal is $15,000, or 30 campers, 20 percent of the total who will attend Camp Jenny.

Those numbers became possible after Justin Blake became Kol Emeth’s youth director several years ago and pushed the kids to solicit donations from congregants and the community.

David Ostrow, 17, a North Paulding High senior who is this year’s KEFTY president, came up with the idea of selling glow-in-the-dark “I Love Camp Jenny” bracelets for $5 last year. Casino attendees bought more than 300 of them, and each camper got one as well.

KEFTY is offering $15 Camp Jenny T-shirts this year to help boost the fundraising.

“I’m just really proud that my youth group is able to do this with the support of our temple,” David said.

Paige Firester, 17, a Walton junior, said she ran for KEFTY fundraising vice president so she would get to co-chair KEFTY Kasino. “I can’t even put into words how much I personally enjoy how much work I put into it.”

Paige said one of the strengths of the event is its inclusiveness. Jewish and non-Jewish teens may attend, and, with an optional lock-in after the play gambling, some teens are coming from out of state to participate.

Caroline came up with this year’s “Great Gatsby” theme, for which Kol Emeth teens will transform the synagogue social hall into a speakeasy.

“It’s really cool that we get to have this kind of casino for a night,” she said.

 

What: Casino night for teens

Where: Temple Kol Emeth, 1415 Old Canton Road, East Cobb

When: 6 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 24

Cost: $20 for admission, $15 for the poker tournament; all proceeds go to Camp Jenny, and additional donations are being accepted for the camp (contact Justin Blake at the email address below)

Info: www.kolemeth.net/A-KEFTY-Kasino-547.aspx or justinblake@kolemeth.net