It is true, every single year for over 20 years, I have run a Jewish summer camp. And when I write about sending your kids to Jewish camps, yes, it will sound like I am advertising the JCC’s camps. Let’s face it, I am. A bit. But I spend every single summer at Jewish camp, because I believe in them. The JCC believes in them. We believe they are great experiences for your kids and we believe Jewish camp is an important component of Jewish life. Statistics show that camp experiences are one of the top three indicators that our kids will remain engaged with Jewish life.
Whether it is the JCC camp or not, let me tell you what is so great about Jewish camp: As we can all attest, our contemporary lives are busy and everyday our kids are surrounded by American culture. A Jewish camp experience allows us just a few weeks to enmesh our kids in Jewish experiences and Jewish friends. While our kids are running, playing, swimming, traveling, busy with arts and science and all the rest of the camp fun, they are doing it surrounded by Jewish friends, Jewish values and Jewish traditions.
Shlichim – Real Life Israelis at JCamp:
Many Jewish camps, including the JCC’s, invite shlichim to be a part of the camp schedule. Shlichim are Israeli citizens and trained camp specialists joining the camp staff to forge connections with our children. They live with host families and integrate into our community. They also add Israeli culture to every day’s programming, including Hebrew, Israeli arts, music and dance. They genuinely deepen the Jewish atmosphere that pervades camp.
Jewish Traditions: Jewish Culture: Universally, Jewish camp starts with a raucous rendition of Hatikvah, the Israeli anthem expressing “Hope.” Meals begin with an equally spirited “Hamotzi.” Hebrew, music and dance are integrated into each day. Ga-ga, a high energy Israel ball game, also becomes a normal part of camp’s sports lexicon. The camp motto is “the more players the better!”
Israeli Days are filled with the sights and sounds of our homeland. Jewish camps also take the opportunity to share what Shabbat and life looks like in Israeli homes.
Why is Jewish Camp Different from all others? Culture, values and traditions are equally balanced with fun, friends, learning and exercise. Jewish camps – residential and day camps – fill a fundamental need in our community: providing a positive Jewish environment that serve as a launch pad for engagement in Jewish life. _
Audra Martin has worked with children in the JCC field for over 17 years, she is the Director of Children and Camp at the Merage JCC. Contact Audra at firstname.lastname@example.org.