Are you ‘Camp-Passionate?’ Jewish summer camps change lives

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(RNS2-MAY11) A young Bob Dylan, as seen in his book ``Chronicles.''  Dylan's 64th birthday is May 24. See RNS-BOB-DYLAN, transmitted May 11, 2005. Photo courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

(RNS2-MAY11) A young Bob Dylan, as seen in his book ``Chronicles.'' Dylan's 64th birthday is May 24. See RNS-BOB-DYLAN, transmitted May 11, 2005. Photo courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

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At the entire meaning of these camps is to create and to model Judaism -- in worship and in social values. Generations of Americans show their impact.

  • Rabbi Harry Rosenfeld

    I’m an alumnus of Massad, the URJ camp in Indiana and Kutz. They made me who I am.

  • Jay Levine

    Jeff Salkin another thoughtful piece. One of the activities at URJ Kutz Camp this weekend was a Town Hall – You must have been telepathically connected because so much of what you said was expressed by alumni on how the Jewish Camp experience changed their lives. People ranged from Clergy to Jewish educators to congressional lay leaders to just people that care. Everyone felt a connection whether they were there in the 70s or just a few years ago. The songs may have changed (some of them) and kids names have changed but the spirit and magic that happens when you set foot on the special grounds of 46 Bowen Road stay the same.

  • Garson Abuita

    The possible Conservative corollary to the Eisner-Sandler legend is that Bob Dylan (Robert Zimmerman) attended Camp Ramah in Wisconsin, though Buzzfeed (always authoritative?) cites him as going to Camp Herzl. Also, if you’re going to put Wolf Blitzer on the Ramah alumni list, please also list Jake Tapper.
    My few Shabbatot in Jerusalem were certainly spiritual, but in my view, the best place to spend Shabbat is camp. No more spiritual experience have I had than Friday night services next to a calm, quiet lake, watching the birds fly and the sun go down..

  • Gwynn Russler

    Saratoga which only later became Swig was the center of our lives and made hundreds of us from SCFTY & CAFTY, and from Arizona, Oregon & Washington State, who we are today. An incomparable time in our lives, in our case, the mid to late 60’s, and especially because we attended year after year for five or six years in a row, in many cases. For a kid like me who was often the only Jewish child in the public school class, it was beyond eye-opening to see so many Jews in one place. We are the ones who influenced our parents to light candles on Shabbat, and to do everything we could to continue to feel as Jewish at home, as we did at camp. Many of us became rabbis, educators, cantors. It all started at camp!!!

  • Until July 3, 2013, I would have agreed with everything you have written. My brother, Mark Rittenberg, and I are both camper/staff alumni of Camp Swig – in addition, I attended Camp Tel Yehudah, the national Young Judaea camp, and I was a staff member at the local regional Young Judaea camp in my area. My beloved niece, Annais Rittenberg, was serving as staff at Camp Tawonga – she loved it there – and she lost her life there. The website I have listed – will describe the horrible tragedy and the aftermath of how our family and most especially her parents and brother have been treated by a camp that espouses Jewish values. Because she was an employee, under California Workman’s Compensation law, the employer cannot be held accountable. So Camp Tawonga and its leadership gets to walk away as though nothing happened. I urge everyone to read the documents on the website for the truth. I truly hope no other family has to endure this kind of tragedy.

  • Jack

    You should consider doing a sequel to this article if you’re able to interview some of the famous alumni of these camps — Dershowitz, Larry King, etc — asking them about the impact on their lives.

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  • Jeff Klepper


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  • As the mother of the only child killed when an untended oak tree fell on the eating and meeting area at camp tawonga a Jewish camp in Yosemite two years ago I am seeking an explanation from Jewish leaders, artists, parents and educators as to why our family has been treated so cruelly by the Jewish leaders, rabbis, educators in San Francisco. Instead of support we have experienced only the isolation of silence. Our family is doubly devastated. Please read for the documentation that shows the camp’s accountability or lack of it regarding their actual practice of tree safety. Beyond this, is the appalling desecration of basic human decency towards my daughter and our family. Including halachic law. I don’t understand why this is condoned. We are Jewish. Thank you.

  • Tina Fein Dinitz

    Bravo, and agreed. Another way in which Jewish summer camp changed my life was that I found my bashert at Kutz. It was a place where kids like us (jazzed about being and doing Jewish, musicians, dancers, readers) could find each other.

    And thanks for being my unit songleader at Eisner in 1973!

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