BC Jewish Summer Camps

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By the early 1900s, outdoor summer camps for children and youth were becoming popular in North America. In 1927, the National Council of Jewish Women started a summer camp for girls in Vancouver. The Concordia Club of Vancouver ran a boys’ camp the same summer.

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Introduction
Origins: The History of Three
Camp Activities
Focus on Social Justice
Overcoming Challenges
Recent Developments
Introduction

Introduction



By the early 1900s, outdoor summer camps for children and youth were becoming popular in North America. In 1927, the National Council of Jewish Women started a summer camp for girls in Vancouver. The Concordia Club of Vancouver ran a boys’ camp the same summer.

These camps unified diverse Jewish communities by helping young people build lasting friendships with other Jewish youth. Today, Jewish summer camps in BC have taught three generations of young people the importance of continued community involvement while providing a fun and active atmosphere.

Origins: The History of Three Jewish Summer Camps in BC

Origins: The History of Three Jewish Summer Camps in BC



Hatikvah:
In 1937, the Jewish Tent Camp for teenage girls was established by the National Council of Jewish Women at Crescent Beach. After opening its doors to teenage boys and younger children, the camp was bought by the Zionist Organization of Canada in 1946 and renamed, Hatikvah. In 1956, the camp had grown so much that it was necessary to buy a larger site on Lake Kalamalka in the Okanagan. Today, between 250 and 300 campers attend the camp each year.

Miriam:
Camp Kvutsa was established in 1948 as part of the Vancouver chapter of the Labour-Zionist youth movement, Habonim-Dror. Initially, the organization rented the Crescent Beach location that Camp Hatikvah had used previously. In 1951, the camp was renamed Camp Miriam and in 1956 it moved to a larger permanent site on Gabriola Island. Every year, 250 to 300 campers spend sessions at Camp Miriam.:

Schechter:
In 1955, Camp Solomon Schecter was established by Rabbi Joshua Stampfer as the first kosher summer camp in the Pacific Northwest. The camp was initially located in Echo Lake, Washington but would move to Whidbey Island before settling on a site near Olympia, Washington. Because the camp is affiliated with United Synagogue Youth, a youth branch of Conservative Judaism, it is quite observant and prayer services are held daily. As many as 600 campers and staff from Washington, Oregon, and BC come to the camp each year.

Camp Activities

Camp Activities



Activities at Camp Hatikvah, Miriam and Schecter range from outdoor activities like hiking, swimming, and canoeing to religious celebrations and moral education programs. There are also special events at each of the camps. At Hatikvah, campers participate in a three-day competition inspired by the Olympic-like Maccabiah Games held in Israel. At Miriam, theme days involve elaborate decorations, games, and educational programming. Young people at all three camps celebrate Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, by dressing in nice clothing, eating a traditional meal, and participating in Israeli dancing.

Focus on Social Justice

Focus on Social Justice



Jewish summer camps also teach campers about current social issues and the importance of living a charitable life. For instance, in the 1960s, campers learned about the civil rights movement. Today, camps often discuss Israeli history and Holocaust survivors sometimes come to speak about their experiences. Current affairs such as the situations in Rwanda and Darfur are also explored by older campers. Over the summer, there is also a focus on volunteer activities and individual initiative.

Overcoming Challenges

Overcoming Challenges



In the years after opening, both Hatikvah and Miriam underwent major changes to camp organization and educational programming.

In 1977, the Zionist Organization of Canada (ZOC) announced its plan to sell Camp Hatikvah. This news upset the local community not only because the ZOC had stopped funding the camp two years earlier but because the camp site had originally been purchased with locally raised funds. Even while losing significant amounts of money, Hatikvah youth leaders fought for the camp to remain open. Eventually, Hatikvah emerged from debt, allowing members of the local community to challenge the ZOC in court and buy the camp back in 1980.

In the 1990s, Camp Miriam, under the leadership of the leftist Zionist organization Habonim, was forced to re-think its educational program. With the decline of the kibbutz movement, the camp decided to focus instead on promoting urban kibbutz as a means of influencing Israeli society. After the Palestinian uprising against Israeli rule known as the First Intifada (1987–1993), the camp considered the role of Palestinian communities in Israel’s future. It opted for the goal of a two-state solution and has promoted discussion surrounding Palestinian history and culture.

Recent Developments

Recent Developments



Jewish summer camps have continued to adapt and respond to recent developments. In 1995, a report found that attending summer camp increased the chances of continued involvement in the Jewish community later in life. This has lead organizations such as the Grinspoon Foundation and the Foundation for Jewish Camping to provide financial support to camps across North America.

However, with the emergence of special-interest camps that focus on activities like soccer, music, or theatre, Jewish summer camps have seen a decline in attendance. This has left some Jewish camps thinking about how to make their programs more competitive.