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!
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • 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.