December 20, 2023

Why the Moment for Jewish Camp Is NOW

Tracy Levine Director, One Happy Camper NJ

In my 14 years working in the field, never has Jewish camp felt more vital than now.  

Camp is that feeling of happiness of singing at the top of your lungs, walking arm-in-arm with your best friends, playing your heart out for your color war team, and so many other wonderful moments – experienced every single day! But with the war in Israel and rising antisemitism, Jewish camp adds that critical element of providing an environment where our children are immersed in joyous Judaism, connect positively to Israel, and feel immensely proud to be Jewish. The often-described “bubble of camp” is the perfect antidote for this challenging time.  

Our friends at Surprise Lake Camp wrote a wonderful article about how Jewish camp can play an incredibly important role in preparing our kids for the antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment they will most likely face by nurturing Jewish identity, community, and values. Here are select excerpts from that article. 

Jewish summer camps help kids develop a deeper understanding of their identities in healthy, approachable ways. Historically, this has been a question of cultural survival in the US following World War II. Today, it remains an important part of keeping Jewish traditions alive, as just 2.4% of American adults are Jewish and antisemitism has been on the rise. 

Camps accomplish this by facilitating activities and discussions rather than lectures; they foster learning by doing and celebrating rather than through divisive rhetoric. This approach is important because it helps campers connect with their faith and culture in positive, natural ways that emphasize personal agency over passively absorbed dogma.  

One way Jewish camps do this is by providing opportunities for campers to meet Israeli citizens and Israeli Americans. These cultural ambassadors can help kids and teens to get an authentic glimpse into what it’s like to live in Israel and Gaza under normal circumstances, not just in wartime.  

Summer camps also foster a strong sense of Jewish community by welcoming kids and teens who have widely varying connections with Judaism, by providing access to caring adult Jewish role models (including Israelis), and by helping kids build a lasting, valuable network of “camp friends.” In addition, some camps encourage kids to establish a relationship with the State of Israel by way of exploring both the roots of Judaism and global concepts of Jewishness. “Jewish values” as such can represent an incredibly diverse array of concepts and practices, as can the values of any ethnic or religious community. However, some of the most important core Jewish values are rooted in love, compassion, and honoring G-d, and they are especially important to keep in mind during times of conflict.  

Sending your child or teen to Jewish summer camp can not only make them stronger and prouder as Jews, but also more compassionate, knowledgeable, and respectful human beings as a whole. When it’s time to go to college, your child will be better prepared not just to be well-grounded in their Jewish identity, but to offer and consider diverse perspectives in any situation. This in turn can help them to become strong, wise, and empathetic leaders — wherever life takes them. 

I encourage you to read the full article here. 

Give your child the opportunity to be in the place that kids describe as their happiest place on earth, where they can be their truest selves, in an environment infused with the love of Judaism.  

There are so many great camp options – including newer specialty camps – and it is never too soon to explore or too late to start sleepaway camp. There’s an increasing array of session options as well. My colleague Gerri and I are both here to help you find the perfect Jewish camp for your child. Set up a call with us today – we can’t wait to help!