The time of your life...

Despite the cold weather of February, it’s already time to start thinking about summer camp! Camp is all about fun and real-world learning. Going to summer camp helps kids form their Jewish identities. In addition to being totally fun, Jewish camp is a place for young Jews to learn more about themselves and their heritage, and to explore new aspects of their Jewish identities. Summer camp is often a life-changing experience that helps foster a sense of pride and Jewish identity, but also community.

Jewish camps’ roots took hold in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when camps were being developed to help immigrants acculturate to their new lives in America and expose urban Jewish children to the outdoors. “Camps were agents of Americanization: teaching immigrant kids how to play American sports and encouraging them to develop a taste for American cuisine and enjoy popular American pastimes,” said Jonathan Krasner, a professor of Jewish education at Brandeis University. 

Eventually, different denominations, youth groups, and social identities within Judaism developed camps to promote their own ideologies, cultures, and ideals, yet they all shared a common mission: promoting Jewish life and values. Today, studies show that attending a Jewish summer overnight camp, such as Pinemere, Harlam, Ramah, Moshava, Golden Slipper, and Galil, among many others, is one of the strongest predictors of developing a strong Jewish identity in adulthood. Children who attend Jewish summer camp are more likely to identify as Jewish adults and actively engage with their Jewish community. The experience of living in an immersive Jewish community has a deep and profound impact, making them more likely to practice Jewish behaviors as adults. 

Jewish summer camp options continue to reflect the diversity of lifestyles and identities within the broad American Jewish community, aiming to meet the evolving needs of Jewish children. There are overnight camp, day camp, and specialty camp options, some of which are reflected in our own community. More broadly, summer camp is an opportunity for growth and development for both children and counselors. The camp experience affords participants the chance to build new relationships, foster independence and resilience, develop new skills or practice favorite ones, and most importantly, contribute to the camp’s own community and culture. 

Camp is an opportunity for children and adolescents alike to begin to explore their own identities and blaze their own paths, either by attending as a camper or working as a counselor or counselor-in-training. By attending one of our local community camps, both campers and counselors begin to learn and experience the things that we, the Lehigh Valley Jewish community, value, such as developing and enhancing specialty skills alongside friends; bonding with Israelis who come to work at camp; and celebrating Shabbat together as a community. Our local camp options are a chance for us to introduce the youngest in our community to the richness and vibrancy that our Jewish community has to offer them, allowing them to experience those things and to see for themselves how loved, welcomed, and valued they are as the future of our community.

Jewish day or residential camp experiences enrich the lives of participants and their families now and into the future. Make this a summer to remember!

The Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley is proud to make need-based scholarships available for Israel teen and young adult travel and for summer camp for eligible families. These funds are made possible through the VISIT program, the Elaine and Leslie z”l Lerner Israel Scholarship Fund (for young adults), and the generosity of our donors, who provide scholarship support each year. For more information, visit our website to apply before March 22, 2024.