This past week, myjewishlearning.
com posted a piece titled How Summer Camp Became a Jewish Thing by Jeri Zeder. As we are frantically and enthusiastically getting ready for camp at the Aaron Family JCC, this article brought me back to our history. Here is a short part of the article:
“Turn of the Century: The first Jewish camps sprouted up amid the larger organized camping movement in America, led by 19th-century social reformers seeking to give a reprieve to children living in the squalid conditions of industrializing cities. These fresh-air programs blended spiritual, educational and recreational components. By the mid-1920s, hundreds of camps had opened in forested, lakeshore spots around the United States.
“The early Jewish camps were motivated by two concepts: Bring inner-city kids out to the country, and ‘Americanize’ the children of Eastern European immigrants. What made these camps Jewish was their demographics, not their programming. Their campers were Jewish, and the camps were run under Jewish auspices.
“Acculturation at Camp: But beginning in the 1920s and through the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, a trend emerged that ran counter to the emphasis on acculturation at many Jewish camps: the growth of camps with consciously Jewish cultural and educational missions. Among the first were the
Cejwin Camps in Port Jervis, New York, which were founded by the Central Jewish Institute, an independent Jewish community center on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and Camp Boiberik, a Yiddish camp near Rhinebeck, New York.
“In addition to Yiddish camps, camps with Zionist, Hebrew and socialist identities came into existence. While sporting different cultural and ideological missions, they all offered in common Jewish experiences inextricably linked to the pleasures of friendships forged in outdoor summer fun.”
We are still going strong and continue to recognize the impact that camp has had on generations of children. Each summer at our camp orientation, I ask parents who were past campers and counselors to stand. I am not only amazed at the numbers standing, but also to see the pride that they feel sending their children off on a journey that is still with the parents.
I hope all of you who have camp memories take time to remember how camp impacted your life — especially those of you coming to the J to exercise or for meetings. As you wait in the carpool line to get in, as you listen to laughter and are bombarded by children coming down the hall, remember that we are giving to our future.