Jewish camping has longstanding roots in Greater New Haven. As early as 1931 community leaders felt that Jewish camping experience was of paramount importance. It was then that Women’s Auxiliary group of the Young Men’s Hebrew Association of the Jewish Community Center (JCC) sat forth to find a location for what would one day become Camp Laurelwood.
Camp Laurelwood initially started as a day camp. Children were transported by car to the camp site and food was prepared at the JCC and brought to the camp by volunteers. It is only at 1935 that Laurelwood became an overnight camp. With $500 down payment which was paid by the Jewish Community Center, Laurelwood purchased the 180 acres on which it resides to this day. The Laurelwood name was chosen for the many laurel bushes located on the property.
Camp Gan Israel was founded as Camp Tiferet Gan Israel in 1949 by Rabbi Dr. Moshe (maurice) Hecht of New Haven. It was originally founded in order to attract children to the New Haven Hebrew Day School, which proved to be successful. The Camp served 100-120 children each summer in its first decade. Markeitng materials from the late 1970s and early 1980s promised “ a unique blend of fun-filled, action-packed summer enjoyment in an atmosphere of meaningful Jewish Experience”. The camp, now known as Camp Gan Israel, has relocated several times since its inception and even operated for two years out of the JCC. It is now located at Barnard Magnet school in New Haven.
JCC Day Camps has operated for more than 65 years. Known for its inclusiveness and diversity, JCC Day Camps has always been open for children of all faiths. The Jewish experience at JCC Day Camps has been emphasized through Shabbat and Havdalah services, Israeli emissaries, and Hebrew language which is interlaced throughout the camp lingo.
If you remember these early days, you may have participated at camp as child and even sent over your children or your grandchildren. You understand the value of Jewish camping experiences because you have experienced it first hand and you know it played a part in building your Jewish identity. Our camps have flourished for 80 years and counting! You can help ensure Jewish camping continues for decades more through a charitable bequest or other planned gift. For more information on how to Create your Jewish Legacy, please contact the Jewish Foundation of Greater New Haven.
Lisa Stanger, Executive Director
Jewish Foundation of Greater New Haven
(203) 387-2424, x382,
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