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

(page 2 of 2)

I wanted a camp that would be inclusive of all kinds of Judaism — secular, Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, unaffiliated. I wanted a kosher camp with healthy food. I wanted a camp with a culture of kindness rather than air-horn-encouraged competition. And I was certain that this kind of camp didn’t exist — until I found it at this parlor meeting in my own hometown.

Jewish camps are very different from how they were when I was a kid. Back then, it was either Jewish camp as in daven-and-call-the-dining-room-[aruchat-ochel or Jewish camp as in the-campers-are-all-Jewish-but-it’s-not-a-Jewish-camp-if-you-know-what-I-mean. Perhaps now that Jewish camp is not necessarily a given for many families, Jewish camps have gone out of their way to be more diverse.

Back then, not many Jewish camps were transdenominational. And back then, camps were less specialized and more generic. These days, the options are almost endless. You can send your kids hiking in the mountains with a group that will still do morning prayers, and you can send a child with cancer to a Jewish camp for children who have life-threatening illnesses.

As it turns out, my search had been too “old-school”: Rather than visiting camps, my search would have been easier if I’d simply made a list of all the things I wanted in a camp, no matter how esoteric. Since there are so many camp options out there, chances are that the option does exist — or that someone is about to start such an option.

Eden Village Camp director Yoni Stadlin’s pitch was down to earth — literally. The camp, a comparatively new one in the Hudson Valley, is a Jewish environmental overnight camp. Kids work in the farm, doing everything from making challah and grape juice for the Sabbath to helping cook the food they eat. The campers milk goats and collect eggs, and when they want a snack, they pick it from a garden, not from a vending machine.

The director’s enthusiasm was contagious, as were the ringing endorsements of other campers. “It’s going to be so cool,” my younger son said, almost bouncing up and down with excitement at the thought of Eden Village Camp. When I asked him why, he said: “Because it’s going to be so much fun. We’re going to do planting and hiking and swimming and rock climbing. It’s all that and it’s kosher and Jewish, and we’re going to have Shabbat with new friends.”

Yes. He and his brother, after all, are all those things: fun, caring, interested, kosher and Jewish. And now, their camp will be, too.

Now that the decision is made, I can use the months ahead to savor our time together, all the sweeter because of our impending separation — and perhaps to sneak the occasional thought about whether it is too “helicopter mom” to put prestamped, pre-addressed postcards home in their backpacks when they go.

Jordana Horn is the former New York bureau chief for The Jerusalem Post and a contributing editor to the parenting website Kveller.com.


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!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • 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.