How American Jews became camp-passionate

Religion News Service | 7/31/2019 | Staff
malik778 (Posted by) Level 3
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Yesterday, as a I got a medium iced latte to go on Main Street in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, I turned around to look at the street scape, and I realized that I first saw that place fifty years ago.

Of course, fifty years ago, lattes had not yet been invented.

Summer - Reform - Movement - Eisner - Camp

1969 my first summer at the Reform movement’s Eisner Camp.Eisner Camp.

1969 was the summer of the moon landing (we all camped out in one of the large program buildings and watched it happen).

Camper - Waiter - Counselor - Counselor - Song

From being a teenaged camper, I graduated to becoming a waiter, and then a junior counselor, and then a counselor, and then a song leader (learning from the gifted and prolific Cantor Jeff Klepper) — and then, years later, a unit head for the teenagers.

Years later, my own sons would follow suit — starting at Eisner in the day camp, then becoming full campers, and ultimately, staff members.

Summers - Camp - Fondness - Nostalgia - Bit

I look back at my summers at camp with fondness, nostalgia, and just a little bit of whimsy. All of my closest friendships emerged from Eisner.

As does some sociological analysis.

Kids - Class - Summer - Camps

First, why do so many Jewish kids, of a certain social class, attend summer camps?

Hunch: perhaps it comes out of summer bungalow colony culture, in which Jewish families learned to escape to the country.

Summer - Camp - Male

Second, what does Jewish summer camp say to us about what it could mean to be an American male?

In those days, Eisner was not very sports-oriented. To the best of my memory, we had one sport — soccer.

Lack - Emphasis - Sports - Boys

Because there was such a lack of emphasis on sports, it meant that non-athletically inclined Jewish boys (OK, me) did not feel intimidated.

We had other outlets to be “real” boys — like Israeli dancing, theater, and playing guitar. For me, this was a welcome contrast to the testosterone zone...
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