Camp day draws 1,100 to Los Gatos for sun, fun

Kids rotated between basketball and soccer shootouts, two inflated jumping domes and a swimming pool. Some honed their golf swings on a pint-sized putting green. Older kids networked with Jews from other Bay Area towns.

Eleven hundred campers and counselors converged on Los Gatos Wednesday for a day of sun, fun and ruach (spirit). Held at the Addison-Penzak Jewish Community Center of Greater San Jose, the sixth annual All Camp Day attracted youth from as far away as Contra Costa and Marin counties.

Representatives from nine camps attended. They met under the blistering sun to play, meet and mingle.

It was "the most fun I've had all summer, the only time I get to play with the kids," said camp director Rachel Yellen, who served a stint on the hot seat of the dunk tank. Campers threw balls at a target. Direct hits dumped her into a barrel of cold water as the crowd cheered.

"I think it's great for the community. The kids get continuity and see campers and counselors from other centers," added Marcy Lifter, director of youth and camp services at the Peninsula JCC in Belmont.

While campers swam and played water polo in the pool, Frisbees flew overhead on the field, where young people grooved to an eclectic mix of the B-52s' "Love Shack," "David Melech Yisroel" and the infectious "Macarena" blaring from speakers.

The culmination of the "Coins for Kids" campaign, All Camp Day also had a serious note. Organizers hoped to raise $500 for the Ailyn Children's Rehabilitation Hospital in Jerusalem. Campers were urged to drop coins into an inverted 5-gallon water bottle serving as a makeshift tzedakah box.

The event was a reunion of sorts for counselors and staff who had met at training workshops and on trips to Israel. Counselors learned activities and songs from their compatriots.

"It's interesting to see how counselors from other camps deal with their kids; we're learning from each other," said Adam Ferson of Camp Kadima in Sunol.

Camp directors, who meet monthly, pooled $1,500 to launch the successful event, which was coordinated by Jme Tanawitz, project director at the APJCC summer camps.

Next year, organizers plan to return the event to its Golden Gate Park origins, in part to minimize commute times for West and North Bay kids. Pronouncing the day a profound success, organizers pledged to add more team competition and arts and crafts activities in future.

"One of the counselors came up to me and said, `This is so cool, it's a Jew-fest,'" said Tama Goodman, director of Camp Kadima, which has grown 400 percent in four years. "Jewish camps are growing because parents want to give their children a Jewish identity, and camps are the number-one way to give their kids a great Jewish experience."

While enjoying the jumping domes, 6-year-old Molly Scher chirped, "I'm having a great time. I really like the jumping thing."

Kenny Gold preferred the pool. "The pool is best; I can do flips!" added his brother Sam, 9. Adam Katz, 7, voiced his approval for the dunk tank. When asked if he had sunk his camp's director, he replied, beaming, "No, but I'm gonna."