A Jewish Summer Camp That Doesn't Feel Like One

Children Milk the Cows, Plant a Garden and Cook Kosher Food

By Jordana Horn

Published February 02, 2013, issue of February 01, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

‘Please can we go to this camp?” my older son asked me after a parlor meeting in my town with the director of an overnight camp.

ALExIS SILVER

“I really want to go!” my younger son said.

I wasn’t ready for this.

Sure, one could argue that when you go to a parlor meeting about an overnight summer camp in the dead cold of January, you’re in the market to send your kids to, well, an overnight summer camp. But for me, this meeting was just another stop in a yearlong exercise in due diligence, for that far-off future day when we’d possibly, eventually, send the kids to overnight camp.

My husband, baby daughter and pregnant self had visited camps over the summer as part of our research. We went to an all-boys camp in the beautiful Adirondacks where my husband spent many summers as a child. We went to an arts camp in Connecticut where kids were learning how to blow glass. We visited a camp in the Berkshires that seemed much smaller than when I’d last been there, 30 years ago. And we left each camp more confused than when we started. Each camp could give our kids a great experience: How were we supposed to choose?

We took a break for a few hours at a luxurious resort in the Berkshires one afternoon, letting our 1-year-old happily toddle in the grass while we sipped lemonade on the lawn. The gorgeous quiet was suddenly punctuated by multiple soundings of air horns, whistleblowing and boys yelling. Apparently, there was a camp nearby that my tour planning had missed — a well-known, “fancy” (read: expensive) camp where the boys would compete in sports from morning till night.

Look, I’m a Jewish mother: I’m proud of my kids. That being said, my particular kids are not exactly pro-athlete material. So did I want my kids to spend the summer trying to win, or trying to beat the other kids in whatever competition was that day’s schedule? Games are fun, but I found myself also wanting something else — something more substantive. I wanted camp to be their opportunity to experiment with training-wheel independence, but also, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was important for me to have them do so within a Jewish context.

Being Jewish is an essential part of who we are as a family — and that’s not going to stop being true over the summer. Camp is an opportunity for kids to see and test out who they are as individuals, without parents peering over their shoulders. And Jewish camp does one better by allowing kids the chance to see who they are, or could become, as Jews, independently and with kids from all over the country and world.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.