Future camper Arielle with a feathered friend (Photo/Courtesy BIJC)
Future camper Arielle with a feathered friend (Photo/Courtesy BIJC)

New summer camp in Petaluma inspired by local Jewish chicken farming history

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They say “kuku riku” means “cock-a-doodle-doo” in Hebrew, but we’ll have to defer to the Petaluma chickens on that. In any case, it’s the name of a new summer day camp under the auspices of the B’nai Israel Jewish Center, in which the local fowl will play a central part.

Inspired by the Petaluma Jewish history of chicken farming and Jewish agricultural history, the weeklong Camp Kuku Riku will feature farm animals and outdoor activities for children entering grades 1-8 at Live Oak Farm in Petaluma.

Co-directed by Janet Rae Jorgensen and Sarah Borchers, the camp counselor team also includes Jewish educators, musicians and farmers. The camp will allow children to engage in farm life, tend the earth and connect Judaism with nature. Cooking from the garden, music, games and a beach trip are also planned.

Jorgensen believes children are way more capable than most grown-ups give them credit for, and is an advocate of unstructured free play for children. She holds a bachelor’s degree in theater and a master’s in early childhood education from Mills College.

A garden specialist, she and her husband biked through New Zealand for seven months, while working on organic farms. After their return to California, they found a home on Sonoma Mountain, where they tend a flock of chickens and a few sheep.

She created a garden program at Mark West Community Preschool, which she guided for three years, and ran her own nature camp, “Twigs,” in Marin County.

She is active in the Sonoma County Jewish community, leading children’s services at Ner Shalom, organizing family Shabbat hikes and dinners, and making Judaism accessible to the young through story, song and drama.

Borchers is a recent graduate of the Bay Area Center for Waldorf Teacher Training with a certificate in early childhood and grades education. After moving from New York’s Hudson Valley to Petaluma in 2014, she affiliated with the B’nai Israel community and has combined her love of farming, food and community working in local synagogues, community centers and after-school programs.

Applications are now being accepted for the day camp, which runs June 11-15. Camp tuition is $300 per child with a 15 percent discount for siblings. Scholarships are available.

“This is going to be a very fun and affordable camp for families,” Jorgensen said.

There are also CIT and counselor opportunities for eighth-graders and above.

Register online. Payment options can also be arranged by calling the BIJC office at (707) 762-0340.