Jewish summer camp advocate. Board member of The Canadian Young Judea. Founding advocate for CYJ’s Machane Lev, a summer camp for LGBTQ+ youth. Manager of Wealth Digital Innovation at TD Bank.

“Our mission and belief is that every Jewish child should be able to experience the transformative power of Jewish summer camp.”

Being true to ourselves is the best thing we can be. Daniel Sourani found the truest version of himself at summer camp. 

“Summer camp is a rare example of a place where every part of yourself is aligned, where each camper is embraced for being who they are.”

Today, Daniel sits on the board of Canadian Young Judaea, and is proud to have had a voice in the beginnings of Machane Lev, a one-week Jewish sleepover camp for youth who are LGBTQ+ and/or allies. 

“I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish. While CYJ camps are known for being some of the most progressive and inclusive Jewish summer camps out there, it became apparent that a particular subset of our community was being underserved by our existing camping system. Our mission and belief is that every Jewish child should be able to experience the transformative power of Jewish summer camp, so when there were children out there who didn’t feel like there was a camp out there that met their needs, we created one.” 

The response to the camp’s first summer in 2018 has been inspiring. With 25 campers in their first year, Machane Lev is set to host 50 campers this coming summer from all over North America.

“It’s the letters we receive after camp, the partnerships, and the meaningful experience that makes it worthwhile. Many kids didn’t know how they could keep going before Machane Lev. To be able to show them that there is a way, well, that’s what we’re all about.”

This specialized camping experience is not a one-size-fits-all approach. The personalization in the programming of Machane Lev is what fosters this environment of unconditional love and acceptance. The name itself portrays its goal, as ‘lev’ translates to heart. 

“If you asked me if a camp like this would exist even five years ago, I would say you’re out to lunch. Now we see that it is not just a handful of people’s crazy dream, but a dream shared by many.”

Daniel presses the importance of engaging with the community to make it relevant and accessible to each member. “It’s very easy for our generation to disengage. It is easy to knock our community, but we need to act to help shape it.”

“We must show the community that not everything is about a thousand year old text, but also about what we are today in relation to what we were then and where we will be in the future.”

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4. Last book you read? Educated by Tara Westover

Daniel Sourani grew up in Thornhill and spent his summers at Jewish overnight camp. A proud camper at Camp Shalom, he returned as a staff member for 5 years and now sits on the board of the Canadian Young Judea, advocating for the right of every Jewish child to experience the transformative power of summer camp like he did. Daniel currently works as the Manager of Wealth Digital Innovation for TD Bank in Toronto.