At a young age I fell in love with Jewish Identity — not just the services where I used to count the light bulbs in the sanctuary or the religious school classes where I went primarily to socialize. And not even the rabbis whom I admired greatly. Rather, I fell in love with the whole package, an identity that stretched beyond the walls of the synagogue or the JCC to the entire world.
I became a rabbi to inspire the next generation of Jews and to deepen their Jewish Identity, a goal that dominates everything I do. Although this can be a daunting task, research has shown us the single most effective way to boost our kid’s Jewish identities is at a Jewish summer camp. Children who attend a Jewish camp are more inclined to raise Jewish families as adults and are more likely to remain actively engaged members of a Jewish community.
We are blessed to live in Sonoma County with Camp Newman in our back yard. What a perk to be so close to a camp that people travel to from all over California and the US and as far away as Israel. Camp Newman is an oasis in time where, instead of being the Jewish minority living on a secular calendar, Jews can actually live on Jewish time. Campers are excited to describe camp as their “second home” a place where “everyone is nice” and “people understand each other.”
Camp is “where we connect to Judaism through everything we do, literally everything!” The entire week is packed with fun Jewish activities. The camp culture is richly filled with Hebrew names for every location, group, activity and staff. The pinnacle is Shabbat, when everyone in camp dresses up and comes together for a musical service before a delicious dinner followed by songs and dancing. If you have never experienced a camp Shabbat, you must! Words can’t describe the jubilation of praying with our next generation.
Since we know that Jewish camp is so effective in building a strong Jewish identity, we are now putting enormous resources into our summer camps. And families are reaching deep into their pockets to send their kids off for a fun filled summer. One parent who was visiting proudly said that her daughter “tolerates home for 11 months so that she can enjoy camp for the 12th.”
Every child deserves this Jewish experience. If you want to get involved with Camp Newman, there are many ways to do so. If you have passed your camp days, you can volunteer to help welcome new campers next summer or sign up for our Shomrei Torah Camp Shabbat. And, hopefully in the near future, we will have another family camp weekend when you can once again enjoy the joys of camp living.