Machane Lev

About Machane Lev

Machane Lev is a one-week, Jewish overnight camp for children and youth who are LGBTQ or who come from LGBTQ+ families/communities. It’s a place where young people can celebrate their Jewishness and their own, and their family identities together, while enjoying camp activities.

CYJ Machane Lev means Camp Heart. It’s a place where you can bring and be your whole heart. There are many ways to be Jewish. There are many ways to be family. There are many ways to be. Yours are valuable, and belong.

Read more about the launch of Machane Lev from our Camp Director and Director of Camper Care in the Canadian Jewish News HERE!

Check out the amazing follow-up article of our first very successful summer HERE!

About the Director


Risa Epstein has been the National Executive Director for Canadian Young Judaea since 1992. As a child she attended Camp Shalom, Camp Solelim, Camp Biluim Canada (1980!), and Biluim Israel. Risa acted as Solelim staff for three years, and transitioned into Camp Biluim Canada Program Director in 1986 where she met her husband, the Israeli Shaliach. As Director of Camp Solelim for 13 years Risa expanded her portfolio on what it meant to be an educator, why it was so important, and how leaders can learn from each and every one of their campers.

In the beginning of 2017, Risa was approached by CYJ's social worker with a conundrum. There is a gap in the Jewish community that needed to be filled. Along with the social worker Gaela Mintz, Risa decided that she needed to create a space within Canadian Young Judaea where children and teenagers could freely express and celebrate their gender identity, and sexual orientation, while exploring their Jewish Identity in a camp setting. Risa is thrilled to be working with such an amazing team to bring Machane Lev to life!

General Information

Date: August 18-25, 2019

Ages: 8-16 Years Old

Location: Camp Shalom, Gravenhurst, ON

Camper Cost: $1000.00 (Scholarships Available)

Manhigim (Counselor-in-Training): $750.00 (Scholarships Available)

Mission Statement

Machane Lev furthers our commitment to providing immersive Jewish experience to all members of Canada’s Jewish community. While our existing summer camp network will continue to open its doors to any and all Jewish campers, we know that the addition of Machane Lev will provide an open space for the affirmation and celebration of all sexual identities, gender identities and gender expressions in a Jewish setting.

Hadracha Program

Canadian Young Judaea prides itself on our leadership, or hadracha, training. Our camps seek to create the leaders of tomorrow. Machane Lev will be no exception, our teens aged 14-16 will have the same leadership development through the LGBTQ+ lens. Our campers will engage in discussion, and personal growth, all while becoming future leaders for the LGBTQ+ community. The Hadracha program is for anyone looking to gain valuable leadership training, while promoting and affirming LGBTQ+ identities. 

Manhigim (Counselor)

Machane Lev’s Junior Manhigim (Counselor) program is designed to give participants a foot in the door of what it is like to be a counselor. The program will train the participants valuable skills to become future madrichim, while becoming role models for our campers. Participants can expect a fully immersive and hands on experience, while still getting to enjoy the programming of Machane Lev.