At age 8, when Molly Hott stepped off the bus to complete her first summer of overnight camp, she told her parents she was going to “do this forever.”
The economy is bad. Money is tight. And yet the news isn’t all negative for youngsters hoping to attend Jewish summer camp this year. “The truth of the matter is, most of the summer camps have increased their financial aid,” said Jay Sanderson, president of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. “We’ve increased financial aid. So a lot of the challenges of the economy so far have been mitigated. We invest close to $1 million in summer camps.”
“Early-start” is finally starting. After delaying implementation of a new, earlier school calendar last year, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) will begin classes three weeks sooner this fall for the majority of students.
Summer is a perfect time to share a picnic meal with friends. There is something exciting about eating outdoors, even if you are only heading to the local park.
Each summer, Erica Groten saves money on summer camp for her son, Ethan, by enrolling him in an exclusive program with only one opening: Camp Mom.
Groten takes Ethan, 6, to places like the Natural History Museum and the Los Angeles Zoo, and organizes beach days with other families and their children. She plans to reprise her role as camp director this summer, creating educational trips for her son.
It was a given that Benjy Rabin, 9, would spend part of his summers at Camp Ramah as soon as he was old enough. His father is a Ramah alum, and so are his older brother and sister.
With slight trepidation, the new year stands before us, calling us to dive in and embrace the fall.
After her USY trip last summer, Daniela Bernstein, 16, of Los Angeles is already thinking about returning. "The trip cultivated my love of Israel and the complete realization of how crucial Israel is to Judaism and the Jewish people," said Bernstein. "I am already planning my next visit."
Cell phones are an inherent part of our culture -- why fight that at camp?
Garden fresh food.
My children were unexpectedly away for a week this summer, and I didn't miss them a bit.
This was by far the most spiritual moment in my life. I gazed up at the stars as I chanted the V'Ahavta prayer with amazing new friends, standing around the same rocks that our people had wandered past thousands of years before. My eyes couldn't help but tear up as we moved on to the Mi Chamocha, the song of freedom. At that moment I felt as though God truly was with us.
"Our images of Jewish camping are formed by people who are heavy Jewish campers, but there are lots of people who are light Jewish campers and campers at non-Jewish camps, and this study accessed their views on Jewish camping," Steven M. Cohen, the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion sociologist who authored the study, told The Jewish Journal. "I think we learned that there are diverse incentives and obstacles to participation in Jewish camping."
There is one program in particular that embodies all of the emotionalism and meaning of machon summer: Tza'adah. Tza'adah is a five-day, four-night overnight trip that takes campers far from the boundaries of camp and into the nature of Northern California, where we bond with friends, while experiencing the outdoors.
Like most camps, Hess Kramer, has a staff of Israelis who work as counselors and educators. This summer, 1,400 Israelis, most of them between the ages of 19 and 22, are staffing 200 Jewish day and sleep-away camps, according the Jewish Agency, which coordinates the stays.
"All of us that have kids in Israel are trying to make the best of the situation," said Jules Gutin, international director for USY, the youth arm of the Conservative movement, which has about 50 California teens in Israel this summer. "We want the experience to be worthwhile and positive, as well as safe."
This season brings engaging reading in a mix of genres: literary fiction, comedy, love stories, detective novels, memoirs, historical fiction and books that break genre boundaries; books by veteran authors and others not-yet well-known.
In the beginning of the Nazi era, my father, thanks to his international reputation, was offered various positions abroad, including, oddly enough, at the main hospital in Tehran, but he couldn't conceive of leaving Germany. Like many old-time German Jews, he looked on Hitler as a temporary aberration, which the good sense of the German people would soon reverse.
Heaven, paradise -- choose a synonym: ecstasy, bliss, rapture. We use such words to describe experiences of perfect, supreme happiness, God on earth. The conditions on Sunday merited all such descriptions, especially that immaculately blue sky. Skies like that burn gloom away.
This section of the page is a way for you as kids to sound off about an issue. This month's Kein v' Lo (yes and no) is about camps. Should Jewish kids go to Jewish camps or other kinds of camps?
Witnessing glaciers calving into crystal blue waters, humpback whales fluking their magnificent tails and clouds weaving cottony billows around the tips of waterfront spruce forests are all in a day's work for the average Alaskan cruise-goer.
Josh Fields, 8, of Thousand Oaks, won the "My Amazing Summer" essay contest.
He wins a gift certificate to the store of his choice.
For visitors to Israel this summer, the disengagement from the Gaza Strip proved hard to ignore.
"Everybody's orange," said Rebecca Kaminski, from Berlin, with a laugh, referring to the color adopted by the anti-disengagement activists. "I'm on the blue side, I guess."
Sitting on the beach in Netanya, the 22-year-old was working on her already impressive tan with a group of girlfriends, all students at a six-week summer ulpan, or Hebrew-language immersion course, in Kibbutz Mishmar Hasharon.
They have not been deterred from visiting Israel during its exit from the Gaza settlements and parts of the West Bank.
In the middle of summer, when it is the hottest, we are told that we cannot eat or drink for one whole day.
Have you been having fun this summer?
A team of scouts is scouring the Diaspora for the ideal single Jewish man for a new Israeli reality television show. Once selected, the bachelor, who according to producers preferably will be good looking and "financially secure," will come to Israel for the summer, when 15 young Israeli women will compete to capture his heart.
"We all grow up in Jewish houses and we know the dream of Jewish mothers is that their son finds a nice Jewish girl," said Gadi Veinrib, a producer for the show, to be called -- what else? -- "A Nice Jewish Boy."
After a successful career with the country's top basketball team, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Aulcie Perry, 54, opened summer basketball clinics for children 7 to 14 years old in Tel Aviv. And he's about to open another one -- a camp set up to attract teens from all over the world, especially observant Jews.
One of the biggest dangers for children during summer is drowning.
Teva Adventure offers a variety of wilderness programs enabling Jewish travelers to develop outdoor skills while keeping Shabbat and kashrut. While backpacking, hiking, mountain climbing and fishing, participants learn Jewish perspectives on the outdoor world. Programs for 14- to 19-year-olds include Rocky Mountain Teen Adventure and Derech Hateva in Israel.
I am a big fan of camp. Every summer from 1973 on, I packed my trunk and headed to Malibu. Camp Hess Kramer shaped my teen years and reinforced my Jewish identity. It was my second home from age 12 to 22, and to this day, whenever I catch a whiff of pancakes frying in hot oil on a griddle, I close my eyes and return to camp. My life revolved around those precious summer months. If somebody offered me a job at camp today, I'd roll up my sleeping bag and hop on the bus.
Lately, the tears have fallen easily from Margy Feldman's eyes. It's not that the new president and CEO of Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters (JBBBS) of Los Angeles is frustrated or depressed. Far from it. Hers are tears of joy, a feeling that comes from knowing that her work makes a profound difference in the lives of young people.
When Elizabeth Cobrin goes to Israel this winter break with Birthright Israel, she and her friends have devised a plan to find each other when participants in all the different Birthright trips get together.
For a decade their lives have been lived out solely on our turf. Now we are strangers on theirs.
We are driving to pick up our son from camp. He's been there three weeks, the longest stretch he's been away from us since his birth. In this age of e-mails and BlackBerrys and cell phones, the rule at Camp Alonim at the Brandeis-Bardin Institute in Simi Valley is no e-mails, BlackBerrys or cell phones.
For the Kids
Since they were Orthodox and didn't use appliances on the Sabbath, Oma had an array of simple but wonderful dishes she prepared in advance to be eaten cold. In the Miami heat, her Cucumber Dill Salad was one of my favorites.
"Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle," a stoner grossout comedy about roommates on a burger run, transcends its genre to become a clever spoof on racial stereotyping. (The beleaguered protagonists are Korean American and Indian American.)
Zach Braff's Sundance hit, "Garden State," meanwhile, is a quirky dark comedy about a slacker-actor who is emotionally reborn after returning home for his mother's funeral.
Two local synagogues are offering an opportunity for Jewish scholarship this summer, and a third is offering weekly Hebrew classes at all levels.
For the Kids
Local synagogues, Jewish centers and other cultural organizations are holding day camps throughout the summer months that expose children to Jewish culture, popular culture and even pre-Columbian culture.
Are you traveling to new places this summer?
Travel agent Rina Silverman, of World Express Travel in Tarzana, said that roundtrip tickets to Israel are selling well for late June, when school gets out, with flights for some days already sold out.
Several high-profile cases in recent years -- both locally and nationally -- have helped foster a newfound willingness among rabbis to work with mental health professionals not only to handle crises, but to take proactive measures as well.
This summer, Jacqueline Berlin, 7, will leave her mom, dad
and younger sister to enter the world of overnight camp for the first time.
So this summer, whether by chance or intent, the three best novels I read were all from the other side of the Atlantic, all from Mitteleuropa: "Crabwalk" by Gunter Grass, "Embers" by Sandor Marai and "Azarel" by Karoly Pap.
For the Kids
For the Kids