Incubating Summer Fun

From sports to technology and business to ‘wellness,’ Jewish foundation will offer campers new specialty camp experiences for 2014 season.
Associate Editor

So, your son is too busy with his startup ventures to bother with color war? Your daughter is happier in a science lab than in front of a campfire? The idea of your organics-only child exposed to S’mores and bug juice makes you queasy?

That’s no reason not to send the kids to Jewish overnight camp.

Or at least it won’t be as of June 2014, when four new programs are slated to hatch from the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC)’s second “specialty camp incubator.”

The URJ's Six Points Academy is one of the most popular of the five specialty camps launched in 2010.

What 13-Year-Old Boys At Camp Taught Me About Inclusion

One of my primary responsibilities as the inclusion coordinator at URJ Camp Harlam, a Reform Jewish summer camp in Pennsylvania, is to make sure that campers with a disability (or a “different ability”) are set up for success at camp. We provide them with similar accommodations as the ones they have at home and at school, allowing them to experience camp to their personal best, in keeping with their abilities. This can often take careful planning, thoughtful conversations among partners, and communicating the right information in the right way to our counselors.

Tikvah Family Shabbaton: Not Merely Accommodated, But Accepted and Nurtured

I am filled with the overwhelming feeling of gratifying exhaustion from running Ramah New England’s second Tikvah Family Shabbaton.

Tikvah Family Shabbaton Participants. Courtesy of Tali Cohen

Learning To Be Independent

Editor's Note: We are delighted to share this blog, written by one of the participants in Ramah New England's Vocational Education program about her experiences.

My name is Gabriella Levi. I am 20 years old and this was my first summer in the Vocational Education program at Camp Ramah in New England. I am currently a student at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. I am studying to work in a preschool.

What I loved about Voc Ed was learning to be independent. I liked that I was treated as an adult more than a camper. For example, at Ramah I had a lot of choices for how to spend my time.

Who's Your Aaron? Finding A Community of Support

Editor's Note: This blog post originally appeared on the URJ Sci-Tech Blog.

Last week I had the good fortune of serving as a part of the pioneer faculty for the URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy. I’m not quite sure where to begin in describing all of the significant moments that I observed and experienced there, so if you have not been following their inaugural season on the blog, I urge you to catch up!

At Sci-Tech they have seamlessly blended science and technology with living Jewishly. Here, campers are deeply exploring, creating, and discovering while experiencing the true magic of Jewish camp. It is a specialty camp like no other, and I have no doubt that many of these children would not have otherwise had a Jewish summer experience. Point in case, on Shabbat morning I taught two of the youngest campers how we honor the Torah during hakafah (Torah procession) as they had never participated in a Torah service before.

And, as is my nature, I enter into experiential learning spaces with an eye toward inclusion.

Campers at URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy. Courtesy of URJ

From The Bunk: Facilitating Inclusion At Camp

Editor's Note: Thanks to our friends at the Foundation for Jewish Camp for coordinating this series of blogs from camp. More voices to come!

Being a counselor in a sleep away camp for the first time is always a daunting job. In the days leading up, you wonder how in the world did these children's parents entrust us, a bunch of 16 and 17-year-old high school kids, to look after their precious cargo for 4 week? I don't know the answer to this question but I do know that despite this, parents keep sending their kids every summer; and for the right reasons.

In camp you learn a tremendous amount. You learn about yourself, other people or even a specific theme. Something Camp Moshava IO teaches is inclusion and I am a first hand witness of this. In my first year as a counselor, my fellow co-counselors and I had the privilege of having a very special camper in our bunk. She was a 10 year old girl, excited to start camp, just like everyone else.

The author at camp. Courtesy of Atara Friedman

Dispatch From An Inclusion Coordinator: What Brings Me To Camp

Last week, I found myself wearing an oversized camp T-shirt, sitting on the back of a bus headed up to the mountains for a field trip with a bunch of squirmy but excited campers. It was a bit of an "How did I get here?" moment. After all, I am a full time occupational therapist working in early intervention, not an educator looking to bring in a summer salary. I paid my dues working as a junior counselor, then a counselor at numerous camps … but that was 18 years ago. I have two children of my own now, both campers themselves. 

It is my commitment to inclusion for Jewish children with disabilities and differences of all stripes in all aspects of religious life that led me to pack my own water bottle and sunscreen and venture onto "the field," so to speak. 

Jaime Bassman

New Camp Program Provides Supports For Boys Who Are Deaf

It was everywhere. Madrid, Paris, New York, Moscow - everyone was watching. I’m talking about the FIFA World Cup, of course. According to statistics, a full 1/9 of the planet watches the proceedings of this tournament. We’re talking here about hundreds of millions of people. From distant corners of the globe, people watch the same ball bouncing on the screen and cheer for their favorite teams.

Well, there's another global event coming up, though not on the scale of the World Cup. Next month, boys are flying in from Israel, from Russia, from Germany and from all over the United States to New York City. What for, you ask? To participate in a Jewish camp. For many of them, it will be their very first time living and experiencing Judaism among their peers.

I am proud to be behind the planning of this unique program for Jewish deaf boys between 8-16 years old.

'My Life With Autism By Ben Sc., Bunk 20A'

Editor's Note: Ben Schorr is the son of Rabbi Rebecca Schorr, a regular blogger here at the New Normal who writes about Ben, his autism and the highs and challenges of family life on the spectrum. This summer, Ben wrote the below article for his camp newspaper, The Round Lake Times. He gave us permission to reprint it here on the blog.

Ben Schorr

A Place To Find ‘Other Kids Like Them’

Suffolk Y hoping to start day camp for children of cancer patients.
Staff Writer

What’s the best way to tell a 3-year-old that his mother just had radiation treatment for cancer and that as a result her doctors have advised her not to lie down with him that night?

Adam Bendeson, second from left, is putting together a camp for children of parents battling cancer.
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