Summer camp is the new black

In the 1990s, it was day schools.

In the 2000s, it was the Israel experience.

In the 2010s, SUMMER CAMP is the new black.  And here’s the infographic to prove it.

(Read the full Foundation for Jewish Camp report later.)

I have big love for summer camp.  I never went as a kid but worked at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin as staff and LOVED IT.

I want my kids to go to summer camp too.  All three of them.  For as much as there is summer.  And more.

But “CAMP WORKS”?  Well, if one bases one’s judgment on it “working” based on the criteria set out, then hells bells, it does work.

But is being a Jew solely based on…

  • marrying in?
  • feeling that being Jewish is important?
  • lighting candles on Shabbat?
  • being emotionally attached to Israel?
  • donating to a Jewish charity?
  • joining a synagogue?
  • donate to the Federation?
  • attending synagogue more than once a month?

Oi.

In-marriage?  It might start one off on more solid ground vis-a-vis “Jewish continuity”, but it guarantees nothing vis-a-vis Jewish identification going forward.  

Feeling that being Jewish is important?  Feeling that Israel is important?  Like the previously alluded-to buzzword “Jewish continuity”, it sounds good to feel Jewish or to be emotionally connected to Israel but how does that translates into concrete action?  (Hint: It’s coming…)

[Concrete Action #1]  Lighting candles on Shabbat!  Ah the great bellwether of Jewish identification… In my house, we light five candles each week, one for each person in the house… so, if I light my five three times a month, and you light two four times a month, do I win?

And of concrete actions #2-5, how many involve money?  If you guessed three, you would be correct.  Three of the measured concrete actions (joining a shul, giving money to a Jewish charity and giving money to the Federation) involve the concrete action of putting your hand in your pocket and giving it to a Jewish organization.  Hmm.  Is this what being a Jew involves in the 21st century?  I hope not.

And last, shul attendance.  I am also a big fan of shul attendance.  But I am lucky.  My shul is great and anchors a wonderful community of deeply committed, egalitarian progressive Jews.   Some shuls suck.  And y’all know what I am talking about…

However, despite the questionable sociology (and its underlying assumptions about Jewishness) behind the meaty section of the infographic, what really drove the point home about summer camp WORKING was the data in the second row.

Jewish summer camp is a hothouse for future Jewish leadership in North America.  

These stats support what I know to be true from my own experience in the field, having met passionate rabbis, communal leaders and educators who point to summer camp as a formative Jewish experience (not to mention a formative sexual experience too…).

So good on you, URJ camps and Ramah and Shomria and Gesher and all the other camps out there who are providing an unadulterated Jewish experience that Jews can love, be nostalgic about and carry forward across the seasons and generations.

But it begs a HUGE question: If Jewish camp works this well, shouldn’t summer camp be every North American Jew’s birthright?  

I’m just saying…

 

 

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