Jewish overnight camps have evolved tremendously over the years. There are now many styles and specialty options, including science and sports camps. More importantly, these camps have a proven track record of strengthening children’s Jewish identity and connection to the Jewish com-munity.
Did you know that one out of three Jewish profes¬sionals (rabbis, cantors, teachers) started out as counselors at Jewish camp? Did you know that one out of five Jewish educators cited Jewish camp as a key experience that caused them to enter the field (jewishcamp.org/campopedia).
Jewish overnight camps create an immersive environment where children can explore and celebrate their Jewish identity together.
Camp Laurelwood Director Louis Lasko named a few examples of their Jewish activities. “We keep a strictly kosher kitchen, sing Hebrew songs, have Shabbat every Friday and read stories from the Torah on a weekly basis,” he said.
“Jewish camp provides an incredible, informal opportunity of engaged Jewish life,” Rabbi Farbman of Temple Emanuel of Greater New Haven said. “This is something that is difficult to replicate in a day-to-day environment.”
Describing the entire experience as “organic,” Rabbi Farbman used a metaphor of “The Bubble” to explain how camps work. “You see, overnight camping experience is a bubble that is driven not only by Jewish practice, but it is also driven by Jewish values every moment of every day,” he concluded.
“A Jewish overnight camp provides a warm and celebratory community where children do activities that they really enjoy in a Jewish framework,” said Rabbi Levy, Ramah Sports Camp’s director. “This is extremely powerful and a real gift that Jewish families are able to give to their children.”
Speaking to Stacy Dworkin, a mother of two campers, it became clear that overnight Jewish camp provided her children with a means to develop long-term friendships with other Jewish children. In discussing her now teenage daughters Aliya and Maya, Dworkin exclaimed how, “Their camp friends are their ‘forever-friends.” Despite being out of camp for years, Dworkin personally speaks to her camp friends three or four times a week.
If you are interested in your child learning what it is like being an active, ethical Jew in today’s world, then overnight camp is the perfect place to start. You can also learn more about Jewish overnight camps online through the Foundation for Jewish Camp. The Foundation, with the support from the Jim Joseph Foundation and the AVI CHAI Foundation, has successfully established new business models for Jewish camps. It has created a forum to pilot new educational models by integrat¬ing Jewish learning with activities that kids are pas¬sionate about, including the environment, perform¬ing arts, science, sports and outdoor adventure.
For more information on camp scholarships, to: jewishnewhaven.org/scholarships. To find out about 195 different Jewish overnight camps specializing in science and technology, movement, adventure, travel, special needs, and more, visit onehappycamper.org.