Get the ins, outs and lore of Jewish camps on the Web

How do you know if the camp you are considering will be right for your child? The Association of Jewish Sponsored Camps has surveyed its 26 affiliated camps. You can check its Web site — — for information about such matters as Jewish ritual observance, emphasis on sports and arts and staffing ratios. Check out Moment Magazine more camp listings online at

There are plenty of "Jewish camps" out there, and the differences between them can be quite significant. Steve Eller, director of Maryland's Beth Tfiloh Camps, says there are seven key aspects to look out for when choosing a Jewish camp:

*General programming

*Special programming


*Dietary considerations

*Hebrew language

*Israeli culture

*Campers themselves

As for the Beth Tfiloh Camps, while they hold Shabbat services and are "kosher-style," Ed Cohen, the executive director, says at that parents who want their children to have an intensive Jewish camping experience will send their kids elsewhere.

The Cleveland Jewish News has put together a wonderful summer camp resource. Its Web site — — has articles about choosing the right camp, countering cliques at camp; bully-proofing your child at camp, and a Counselors Ten Commandments for creating a safe and fun environment at camp.

Thanks to the dozens of camps scattered around North America, Jewish camping is common on this side of the Atlantic. Every summer, the International Jewish Summer Camp in Szarvas, Hungary, is home to more than 2,000 Jewish campers from more than 20 countries from Europe to India to Israel. The camp run by the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation and the American Joint Distribution Committee gives kids a chance to build pride in their Jewish identity while doing all the activities campers love. You can read more about the camp at the site — — and watch videos created at camp, too at —

?Y1F945C54 (Please note that the video files are huge and will take quite awhile to download even with a fast Internet connection.)

Szarvas is an example of how crucial summer camp is in building Jewish identity. That's why Helen Zelon's article in Moment magazine — — is so interesting. She asks why "Jewish summer camping remains a shy stepchild drifting at the edge of the philanthropic family table." Zelon speaks to major Jewish philanthropists about their reticence to donate to camps. And then she introduces us to Robert and Elisa Spungen Bildner, who created the Foundation for Jewish Camping to address this problem.

For kids lucky enough to get away for the summer, it's not unusual to find summer camps that specialize in waterfront activities or drama or even computers. But this summer, a new Jewish camp is focusing on Jewish genealogy. Forty 11th- and 12th-graders will participate in two, two-week sessions run by the Center for Jewish History and the American Jewish Historical Society — They'll learn about Jewish immigration to America as well as how to conduct genealogical research and create a project about their own family history.

When Rob Dixter went off to Jewish camp at the age of 11, he wasn't preoccupied with genealogy or swimming or even baseball. Rob set his sights much higher. He wanted to meet his future wife at camp — just like Dad did. So for Rob, it became the summer of Mindy. "Mindy Vanksberg, I said. Mindy Vanksberg. Mindy Vanksberg. I thought if I said her name three times it might help me to get over the shock that a nice Jewish girl thought I was cute." To find out if Mindy was Rob's beshert, read his article at

Camp is not only a time for kids to build memories. It's also a time for parents to let loose. But as Pearl Salkin found out, parents usually end up downgrading their wildest dreams — "I did get the chance to do some daring deeds — I added two easy-listening stations to my car radio's presets, and I served chopped liver as an appetizer one night, acts that would have elicited condemnation from the kids. And I went into my recipe file and put together some grown-up menus. But after investing all those hours preparing a special dinner for my husband and then watching him wolf it down in record time, I decided we'd eat out or order-in pizza until the kids came home.

"The three weeks Will was away flew by. When he returned home from camp, he seemed older; while he was away, my husband and I seemed younger. You can't put a price on that."