With Chanukah barely over, it might seem premature to be talking about summer, but enrollment for most sleep-away camps is already underway. This year, Temple Emanuel members have a special opportunity that will make this tradition more affordable. Thanks to our member Steve Krichmar, co-chair of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies 2014 campaign, members of Temple Emanuel who will attend a Jewish overnight camp for the first time (summer 2014) will be eligible for a $1,000 incentive grant in our newly inaugurated “One Happy Camper” program.
According to sociologist Steven Cohen, a Jewish summer camp experience is one of the most effective tools to ensure Jewish continuity. A positive religious school experience is critical and participation in a Temple youth group is important, but, according to Cohen, Jewish camping leads to adults who have “an increased inclination to practice Jewish behaviors in their lives and who seek out the experience of Jewish community, whether in the immediate sense of joining other Jews in prayer or in the more abstract sense of identifying with fellow Jews in Israel.”
There are many advantages to overnight camp. The experience gives our kids a feeling of independence and teaches them to make decisions without our constant supervision and, at times, overzealous intervention.
A Jewish summer camping experience is particularly valuable. For a month or two, young people have the advantage of living in a setting in which Jewish values and rituals are practiced in an informal and joyous environment.
Frequently the people that kids meet in summer camp remain their closest friends through shared high-school journeys to Israel, the move to college and long into their adult lives. The benefits of attending overnight camp, particularly a Jewish camp, are immeasurable!
Although the snow has barely begun to fall, it is not too early to make plans for next summer. If you need any information, call my office or drop us an e-mail. We have a list of Jewish camps in the area as well as all information for the “One Happy Camper” grants. I have seen firsthand with my own children the benefits of a Jewish camp experience. And over and over again, I hear wonderful stories from our Temple kids who attend camp. I hope you will consider sending your own children to a Jewish camp this summer. I have no doubt the experience will stay with them their entire lives. ………… Rabbi Robert S. Goldstein