My friend Joel Grishaver once wanted to make a documentary about summer camps. He wanted to spend a summer going to every different kind of camp he could find-religious camps, sports camps, YMCA camps, weight loss camps, computer camps-you name it. He wanted to interview the kids in each place on film, asking them just one question: “What is the best thing about this camp?” He never made the movie because he was certain that he would get the same answer in every place, no matter what the camp’s core values were:
“My friends, man. My friends.”
I believe he is right. Every camp does the basics well-sports, aquatics, drama, and yes friendships. Camps are pressure cookers that encourage their young charges to relate to others. Some have specializations that make them stand out to those seeking those unique aspects. If your family is all about soccer, then a soccer camp may be the way to go. If a career in dance is in your child’s future, then a dance camp may be the right move.
Our congregation is part of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), which sponsors a series of camps across North America. Crane Lake and Eisner Camps, both in the Berkshires, serve our region. Fifteen B’nai Israel kids and I spent part or all of last summer there. I would like to talk to you about what is unique about them.
Yes they have sports, aquatics, drama, and opportunities for friendships. You get all of the usual things you expect from an overnight camp. While you are at home this summer and your son or daughter is at one of our camps, you can be confident that they are also developing their values and Jewish knowledge. In short, they are working on bulking up the part of themselves that make them menschen (humans-good, kind, decent, and honorable).
Yes, they will make great friends. I can show you my phone bill reflecting all of my son’s friends from all over the Northeast. They can act in plays, make beautiful art, compete in a variety of sports, or just play non-competitive sports and games. Every child leaves camp swimming a little better than they did before.
I believe that sending your child to one of these Jewish summer camps is THE best thing you can do for him or her this summer. We and the camp have funds available for partial scholarships. Watch your mail for information about when Louis or his staff will be coming to our community to talk about camp. Send your child to Eisner or Crane Lake this summer.
Ira J. Wise, R.J.E.
Director of Education