Early Jewish Camping
Over time, camps became a setting for Jewish socialization and identity formation. Various camps developed different levels of Jewish programming, ranging from purely secular activities for Jewish campers, through cultural expressions of Judaism, to different levels of religious practice (different denominational camps followed or ignored kosher, held fewer or more Sabbath services, and included more, less, or no formal Jewish education). The 1940’s saw a boom in Jewish camping as US anti-Semitism and the Holocaust led many Jews to turn to summer camps as a way to foster the future of Judaism in the face of adversity.
Jewish camps could be private, like Camp Walden in Maine (lower middle and right), or run by city organizations (particularly, YM and WHAs) for working class families (botton, middle and right). They might teach the Hora, or good old-fashion American Baseball. Yet all these camps brought together young Jews to socialize and explore their identity.
At top left, councilors practice for a performance of Gershwin’s Of Thee I Sing, a secular musical about American politics composed and written by Jews, which allowed a camp to blend secular and Jewish identity.
Trails to bungalows hidden in the hills at Ray Hill Camp, circa 1920
Jewish youth dancing the hora at Camp Wel-Met, October 1948
Camp Hofnung. 1947. A summer camp in Pipersville, PA sponsored by the Workmen's Circle. Rehearsal for Gershwin's ""Of Thee I Sing."" Left to right, Leon Lubeck, Jerry Barsky, Shirley Wasserman, Murray Ancharov, Sonny Yankowitz, Milt Simpkin.
Baseball game, Y.M.H.A. camp, Detroit, Michigan, 1929
Camp Walden. Denmark, Maine. Ethel Katzenstein attended the girl's camp in the 1920s. Postcard of girls hiking in a field.