It’s almost camp! Those are magical words for kids, camp staff and, yes, parents! In the Jewish world, camp is part of your growing Jewish identity and connection. The American Camp Association ran a promotion requesting responses to the statement: “Because of camp.…” There are so many of us who could write on and on about who we are, where we are and what matters in our lives with that statement as a starter. Every summer, as parents reflect, I get stories of what camp meant for them and why it is so important for their children.
Let me share the messages from a wonderful book: “How Goodly Are Thy Tents — Summer Camps as Jewish Socializing Experiences” by Amy L. Sales and Leonard Saxe.
• “Jewish socialization involves acquiring the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that enable one to be an active member of the Jewish community.”
• “A community’s unity, strength, and continuation depend on its capacity to socialize new members — to build commitment to the group and to transmit its knowledge and values to each succeeding generation. Socialization is thus critical to the Jewish enterprise, which is based in community.”
• “…at camp, Judaism was ‘in the air.’ We found it in everyday ritual practices, in Shabbat, and in the symbolism that defines the physical environment of the camp as Jewish space. When Judaism is in the air, as it is at camp, children take it in as effortlessly as breathing.”
• “Camp is a mass of contradictions. It is a simple enterprise that does extraordinarily complex work. Camps are rooted in tradition but also excel at creativity and experimentation. Camp is a quintessentially American invention that produces some of the most powerful Jewish experiences in a child’s life. An institution dedicated to fun, it is responsible for the most serious work of the community: building commitment to the Jewish people and transmitting Jewish knowledge and values to the young generation. Out of these contradictions arise camp’s potential as a socializing agent as well as its challenges for the future.”
• “Jewish tradition says that the study of Torah is equal to all of the other mitzvoth because it leads to them all. So, too, is fun equal to all of the other purposes of camp because it leads to them all.”
The phrase we hear today is “now more than ever kids need camp” and it couldn’t be truer. As a “real camp person” I want all children to experience the growth and connections that happen at camp. At the J we are saying it loud and clear: “Believe in the Power of Camp!” Camp brings out the superpowers each of us has inside as we prepare to change the world together. We hope you are ready for a summer of life-changing experiences. You are never too old for camp — join the spirit by coming, by sending your child to camp and by remembering your experiences!
Laura Seymour is director of camping services at the Aaron Family JCC.