Enjoy this camp sing-a-long

By Laura Seymour

Dear Families,

Passover is over and we have begun the march to Shavuot (are you counting the omer?). There is so much to do in these few weeks with the days to remember and celebrate Israel, Lag B’Omer (one of the few days you can get married during this time period) and for a very important group of staff and campers, getting ready for CAMP! Jewish camps have been a part of our country’s summer plans since the first Jews came to the States. It was originally a place for children to get away from the city, but it has evolved over time into the most important Jewish identity building institution.

So what are the camp directors doing now? Actually planning for camp begins the day the summer ends. Now is the final drive with the really important details. I won’t make a list but will tell you one of my favorite tasks is getting our camp songbook ready. To all believers, a singing camp is essential to the ruach (spirit) of camp and the memories that will go home with them. Here at the J, parents and grandparents are surprising their campers by singing along with the songs that they remember.

There are camp directors from all faiths who argue about whether “The Titanic” or “The Cat Came Back” are appropriate songs — even though the kids love them. But, what has really changed has been the Jewish songs that are so important to passing on Jewish culture and values. In my songbook collection, is a songbook dated June 6, 1947. Included are songs like “Tumbalalaka” (which I don’t have today) to “Im Ein Anee Lee Mee Lee” (which I do have, but I know we sing it differently). We no longer sing “Oifin Pripitchok” or “Rojenkes Mit Mandlen” but we do a great rendition of “Bingo in Yiddish.” The new sounds of Jewish music are definitely part of our culture and speak to our children. When we sing and dance to “Pharoah, Pharoah” even during the summer, we are telling a story and all great Jewish songleaders will end with, “And you know what happened next?” The campers are wondering and learning.

Writing parodies is always fun yet challenging. The Maccabeats, Six13, Y-Studs and many more groups have YouTube videos galore. I am not in their category, but I got tired of being asked for “The Titanic” one more time, So, I took the tune and tried a little Torah learning with this ditty:

Jacob Takes a Wife

Jacob went to Uncle Laban to find himself a bride.

He wanted a wife to live happily at his side.

But Laban made Jack work for seven years and then…It was sad when they lifted up the veil.

CHORUS: Oh, it was sad (sing twice). It was sad, when they lifted up the veil (And discovered Leah)

Poor Jacob cried, but Rachel only sighed — It was sad when they lifted up the veil

Now Laban had two daughters, both needed to find mates

And Leah was the oldest — She could not wait and wait

Jacob loved the younger girl, yes, Rachel was his choice.

It was sad when they lifted up the veil. 


Seven years were gone and the wedding day was here.

Jacob dreamed of married life with his Rachel dear.

The rabbi said the prayers and pronounced them man and wife.

It was sad when they lifted up the veil. 


If you want to sing along with J campers this summer, let me know, and I can give you a songbook! And, help me as a prepare by sending me your favorite camp songs! 

Laura Seymour is Jewish experiential learning director and camp director emeritus at the Aaron Family JCC.

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