Yes, it’s almost winter by the calendar; these are the shortest days and the earliest Shabbat starting (and of course ending!) times of the year. It’s dark, it’s cold, and often it’s grim.
And then there’s the news…
So of course it’s time to think about summer camp! What could be more intuitive than that?
Our cover story is a paean to Camp Ramah in the Berkshires in particular, because its longtime director, Rabbi Paul Resnick of Teaneck, has stepped down from that post, and the impressive length of his tenure there demands notice.
But there’s so much more to Jewish camping than one camp and one camp director, and really it’s time to celebrate the whole Jewish camping movement.
No matter how Jewishly rich and full your life is during the year — whether or not you send your children to day school, go to shul every Shabbat, go to minyan every day; whether or not you take off even for the chaggim that your co-workers can’t pronounce; whether all your friends are Jewish, whether someone related to you is part of an interfaith family — no matter how Jewish you are, it’s different for your kids at camp.
Camp is entirely immersive in ways that the rest of life can’t be. Your kids’ relationship to nature is far less mediated, and their relationship to everything else is far more controlled, because there are far fewer variables. Camp teaches kids about all sorts of things. They learn that everyone is different, that everyone has idiosyncrasies, and that everyone is the same, made of flesh and bone and blood and tears and heart. They learn about friendship, about trust and openness, about privacy and its lack. They learn about their ties to their own families; they learn about homesickness and resilience.
If it’s a Jewish camp, they also learn about the rhythms of a Jewish week, the magic of the sun as it sets at the start of Shabbat and then the magic of the havdalah candles, 25 hours later, that usher in the week. They learn about Jewish art and music and dance; they pound the tables to Jewish melodies. They learn that immersive Jewish life can bring meaning and passion; it can give them things to think about, argue about, feel, and love.
It teaches them about being Jewish, and it allows them to learn about being Jewish while having actual fun.
As the Foundation for Jewish Camp, which, as its name makes clear, supports Jewish camping (and whose executive director, Jeremy Fingerman, lives in Englewood), it too makes the point that Jewish camps offer the kind of immersive experiences that schools and shuls cannot; families can, of course, but camp is different.
We’ve seen firsthand how remarkably transformative Jewish camp can be. We wish for other children what ours got.
So it’s cold and dark out now, but camps are open for registration. It’s a good time to start to think about it carefully, to decide what your own child would like best. For ideas, and to learn more about Jewish camping both in general and in particular, take a look at the FJC’s website, www.jewishcamp.org.
Sunny, blue-skied, cloudless days await!