It often begins with a discussion and a decision. “Do you think we are ready for our son/daughter to go to sleepaway camp? Can we handle it emotionally? (We probably say it as: “Is he/she ready?” but we are pretty sure we are the one’s who are worried, not them.) Once we get to the acceptance stage we need to choose a camp.
Here in the Education Center, we promote Eisner and Crane Lake, two wonderful camps sponsored by the Union for Reform Judaism, of which our temple is a member. They have all of the usual stuff—sports, drama, arts and crafts, swimming, boating, hiking, nature, adventure ropes courses, 50’ foot climbing tower and 65’ climbing wall, etc. Both are close to our community – a 90 minute drive for Eisner and another 20 minutes for Crane Lake in the heart of the Berkshires. Go to necamps.urjcamps.org to get the details on each camp.
Unlike other camps, however, our Northeast camps provide an experience of living Judaism. We don’t beat the kids over the head with it. Instead, Jewish values and ideas suffuse every part of the day. I spend two weeks at Eisner along with many other educators, rabbis and cantors. Our role is to serve as teachers and role models.
This summer our younger son will be an overnight camper for the first time. Currently in Kitah Bet (2nd grade), he has been waiting for this for five years, since his brother started.
He (and we) can’t wait. A sibling going to camp is the next stage of the camp family life cycle, which for us will include two weeks at home with no children.
As for the next stage, it is the driving stage. Since the end of last summer, we have been driving our older son to Long Island, New Jersey and Albany to help his camp friends celebrate becoming Bar or Bat Mitzvah. I think Boston is on the schedule as well. Last month, a dozen of his camp friends came to us for Ethan’s Bar Mitzvah celebration. We had 18 kids sleeping all over the house that Saturday night!
I invite you to make our camps a part of your family’s life cycle. We have forms and videos in the office and will be happy to speak with you about camp. We can connect you with the parents of one of the thirty kids from our congregation who attended camp last summer to hear their thoughts about camp.
Oh, and down the road is an exciting phase of the camp family life cycle. My sister met her husband at camp, as did hundreds of other couples I could mention. You never know…
Ira J. Wise, R.J.E.
Director of Education