Jewish Summer Camps Ditch Cell Phones But Embrace Tech

Balancing Need for Gadget-Free Outdoor Fun With Education

Camp No-iPhone: Many Jewish summer camps are embracing technology, like this Georgia camp that live-streams its services. But many of the same camps are seeking to make sure campers set aside their gadgets and have outdoor fun.
Courtesy Camp Ramah Dorom
Camp No-iPhone: Many Jewish summer camps are embracing technology, like this Georgia camp that live-streams its services. But many of the same camps are seeking to make sure campers set aside their gadgets and have outdoor fun.

By JTA

Published March 09, 2013.
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As a way to appeal to campers seeking a more digital camp experience, Ramah in the Berkshires recently added digital filmmaking to its electives alongside traditional camp activities such as arts and crafts, cooking and nature courses.

Jodi Fleisig of Atlanta, whose two sons attend Camp Ramah Darom in Clayton, Ga., said live streaming of the camp’s Havdalah service was a highlight of her summer. Through its Facebook page, Ramah Darom invited parents and alumni to celebrate the end of Shabbat virtually alongside campers singing by candlelight.

“Watching my son during the live Havdalah service was like watching him through a peephole – giving him the freedom and independence I want him to have while still getting to see him look so free, so happy and so engaged,” said Fleisig, who hosted a viewing party at her home for the service. “It’s amazing to see your normally shy kids who don’t sing, don’t dance, literally come alive at camp.

“Technology can be a wonderful vehicle to watch your kids grow, and to know that they are getting out of the camp experience what you were hoping they would gain without interfering with their independence.”

Ramah Darom is looking into other programs to live stream this summer, including the camp play.

At Beber Camp, parents can connect through an app created last summer by staffer Brad Robison that gives parents access to camp videos, social media, schedules and activities. Beber also uses a web management company, CampMinder, to enable kids to write letters home that are then digitally scanned and uploaded to a portal parents access through the camp website. A unique barcode on the back of each letter ensures that it goes to the right account.

Camp OSRUI, a Reform camp in Oconomowoc, Wis., where teaching Hebrew is a top priority, began using the language program Rosetta Stone last summer. Campers responded so well to the program, enjoying the activity as a game while learning Hebrew at a swift pace, that OSRUI is expanding its media center for this summer, according to camp director Jerry Kaye.


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