All your questions for Naomi Adler answered! This week’s question:
I heard you recently visited summer camp. How was it?
You heard right: Last month I took a daylong trip with Jewish communal professionals and educators to explore two Jewish overnight camps in full swing. Both of them really showcased the creativity, diversity and sheer joy of Jewish camping today — and why Jewish camp is so important.
Our first stop was Camp Galil, in Bucks County, where we ate breakfast with the campers in their chadar ochel (dining hall) and listened to morning announcements in Hebrew and English. Founded in 1946, Camp Galil is a traditional Zionist secular overnight camp, where life revolves around the kibbutz-like combination of Israel, Jewish culture, and activism, with an emphasis on youth leadership. Shortly after breakfast, the Galil campers scattered to do gardening, scouting and ropes courses, all while chatting in two languages. But not before they first stood in a semicircle for their daily flag raising — accompanied by a shticky role call — that brought a smile to my lips and a swell of pride to my heart.
We then visited URJ 6 Points Creative Arts Academy (CAA), in West Chester, which is celebrating its very first summer. It’s one of a half-dozen new specialty camps in which Judaism is tied with a specific sphere of interest — like sports, environmentalism, surfing or, in this case, the arts. CAA uses Judaism as a foundation for artistic expression, and we saw kids making music, acting, painting and dancing. One group of songwriter campers was even writing their own tune for Birkat Hamazon (grace after meals). The campus was crackling with creativity and spirituality.
The research is clear: Children who go to Jewish camp are more likely to grow into adults who value their heritage, are engaged in their communities, support Jewish causes and take on Jewish leadership roles. At the Jewish Federation we support Jewish camp, primarily through scholarships and grants to campers, as an investment in our strong, vibrant Jewish future. After my day of visiting camp, I can tell you that our commitment is paying off.