In late July, Netflix revived the movie Wet Hot American Summer, turning it into an eight-episode series. The series, “Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp,” is a prequel to the original film and set during the first day of camp.
Set at a Jewish summer camp in the summer of 1981, the series parodies clichés seen in other classic camp movies from the 1980s.
As a child and teen, the director and writer of the original Wet Hot American Summer, David Wain, went to Camp Modin in Maine, and suggested that the film is a caricature of some of his experiences. According to Wikipedia, Camp Modin was founded in the 1920s as “The Summer Camp with a Jewish idea” and was notable for its Jewish pluralism, welcoming children across the religious spectrum. By mixing recreation with religious and cultural education, Camp Modin has been described as “the prototype for camps sponsored by every branch of the community, from socialist Zionists to Orthodox Jews.”
As a Camp Director, I shudder to think that the hijinks of the film and series represent the “real world” (they do not!). But with loudness and ruach (spirit) unique to camps, the film and series do capture Camp Modin and our camps’ essential values of pluralism and inclusiveness. Values by which we raise our next generation of leaders.
Are they any different from the values we espouse during the rest of the year? Of course not, but only camp provides such an intense immersion in those values. It’s what Benjamin Franklin had in mind when he said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” _
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 email@example.com.