By: Karyn Zimerman, Cincy Journeys Grants Manager
So what’s the big hype about overnight Jewish camping and how it is different from “camp with Jews?”
For your child, overnight Jewish camping is just plain fun. But it’s also so much more than that—it’s camp with a soul.
Overnight Jewish camp isn’t just filled with Jewish campers. It is mission driven; weaving Jewish values, culture, and traditions into the fabric of overnight camp; and helping campers to connect to their own identity and the larger Jewish community. Spirited and dynamic staff members use experiential learning to reveal what makes Jewish religion and culture so unique in today’s world. At camp, Jewish and Israeli culture are celebrated through song, food, art, and dance.
Each camp is designed to be accessible and enjoyable for all campers. Whether they’re telling stories in their bunks, learning about the environment, or playing tennis, campers explore what Judaism means to them in a safe, nurturing, and fun environment.
Overnight Jewish camping does not equate to extended religious school in the summer. The 24/7 environment of camp creates a venue to celebrate Judaism in unique and vibrant ways not offered in traditional settings.
Because our community recognizes the undeniable importance of overnight Jewish camping, we have invested heavily in this area, offering two grants per child funded by The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati available to Cincinnati Jewish children through Cincy Journeys. The benefits are long lasting, and the impact of overnight Jewish camp is immediate too—campers return home connected to a community and lifelong friends. And it doesn’t stop there.
Maryann Moore’s son, Aidan, attended overnight Jewish camp last year for the first time.
“I cannot say enough about my son’s camp experience last year. He really enjoyed it, and since camp has ended, we have noticed a change in our son,” Moore said. “He feels really connected to his faith and not shy about expressing it. Now, he feels good about Jewish traditions as his own—not just part of what we do as a family. It has opened the door for him to not only relate to tradition but to inquire about the meaning behind the traditions. He feels bonded with others from camp and has taken on a new sense of responsibility.”
The Moores are not members of a congregation, showing that—regardless of your level of observance—there is a Jewish camp where your child will have fun, be comfortable, and love being Jewish. Some camps are focused on Zionism and the role of Israel in Jewish life. Some camps are non-denominational, and focus on providing positive Jewish identity-building experiences through Jewish culture. Other camps are part of specific Jewish movements such as Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative, and Orthodox.
Take the time to look at individual camps so you can see the differences. At certain camps, Hebrew immersion is an option. At others, the celebration of Jewish culture is subtler, infused into a Friday night Shabbat meal and joyful service. The full list of approved overnight Jewish camps can be found online at www.cincyjourneys.org.
The magic of overnight Jewish camping is rooted in its 24/7 atmosphere. Jewish values, connection to Israel, and the culture of Judaism are entwined with outdoor adventure, basketball, sports, arts and crafts, and swimming—creating a community of campers who are proud to be Jewish.