Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Jewish Kids Carry on a Rich Camp Tradition

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Jewish Kids Carry on a Rich Camp Tradition

Article excerpt

It was the perfect location for Ethan Miller's bar mitzvah -- Surprise Lake Camp in Cold Spring, N.Y.

"I've never really enjoyed Judaism until I went there," the eighth-grader from Franklin Lakes said of the Jewish summer camp he has attended the last three years and where he celebrated his bar mitzvah last year. "I only enjoy it when I go there."

Winter continues, but parents across North Jersey are thinking right now about July and August, searching through camp brochures and options and possibly debating their child's readiness for an overnight experience.

Miller is one of many area kids who already know where they will be summer. They will happily head off to their favorite Jewish camp again -- seeing old friends and making new ones in the freedom of hundreds of acres of nature in scenic locations far up the Hudson or in the Berkshires, Catskills or Poconos. Many of the older campers will stay for the entire two months.

It is an annual tradition and an important step in growing up for many kids.

"Camp is a safe environment where children really can gain some independence," said Adam Weinstein, former executive director of the American Camp Association N.Y. and N.J., and now executive director of Berkshire Hills Emmanuel Camps. "We live in a world where in a lot of good ways kids are incredibly connected to their parents -- everyone has cellphones and lots of electronic connection. Camp's really a way kids can find their own space and have that independent experience."

The Jewish camps also offer a sense of cultural community and religious identity.

"Summer camp is vital for Jewish identity building," said Englewood resident Jeremy Fingerman, CEO of Foundation for Jewish Camp, an advocacy organization for 150 nonprofit overnight Jewish summer camps across the country.

"It is really a chance for kids to discover what being Jewish means to them and how they would go about expressing that and internalizing that and ultimately how they would go about living that throughout their lives. …

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