More than 150 New York public school students enjoyed a week of Jewish pride at the first-ever winter camp run by the National Committee for the Furtherance of Jewish Education's centerpiece Released Time program.

Hailing from the New York City boroughs of Queens, Staten Island and Brooklyn, the boys and girls aged five to 14 spent four days at the Sephardic Jewish Congregation and Center of Queens. They participated in special prayer services, Torah classes, visits to nearby museums and bowling and gymnastics outings. The group also toured the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights, making stops at a matzah bakery, a ritual scribe's workshop and the synagogue at Lubavitch World Headquarters.

Rabbi Mordechai Z. Hecht, co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Forest Hills, which co-sponsored the Feb. 18-21 camp, said that the week embodied the spirit of the Released Time program, which allows public school students to receive religious instruction with their parents' permission.

"It was a tremendous opportunity for kids from public schools to learn about Judaism and have a good time," said Hecht. "It was absolutely amazing. The energy was unbelievable.

"There was a tremendous sense of unity," he continued. "Kids from all Jewish backgrounds and places in New York came together and had fun."

At the conclusion of the winter camp, NCFJE bused a select group of students upstate to the city of Poughkeepsie to spent Shabbat with Chabad-Lubavitch of Dutchess County. For many of the visitors, it was their first traditional observance of Shabbat.