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Jewish Summer Camp Was Awesome/Sucked

When you begin attending Jewish summer camp at around age 10, you’re a wide-eyed, bushy tailed young buck, hoping to make some cool friends and maybe live the Jewish dream of hitting a game-winning shot in a basketball tournament. By … Read More

By / June 29, 2010

When you begin attending Jewish summer camp at around age 10, you’re a wide-eyed, bushy tailed young buck, hoping to make some cool friends and maybe live the Jewish dream of hitting a game-winning shot in a basketball tournament. By your second and third summers you’ve hopefully created an identity (athlete, expert bug collector, rico suave), and by your teenage summers you’re just taking singular pleasure in messing with the kids you cant stand and hoping to catch a girl swimming naked in a lake.

My first sleepaway experience was at a militant Zionist camp whose idea of a thrilling group activity was throwing pieces of paper with information about the founding of the State of Israel high in the air and having campers run around collecting them in the hopes of making a bingo board with the right ones. Needless to say my friends and I usually decided to boycott these.

Other notable experiences?  The head of camp wouldn’t allow us to sing the star spangled banner on July 4th, so the leader of my group marching us partisan-style into the woods to defy that ridiculous order. Sports were scarce, girls who could put themselves together for a good shabbos walk even less so. One of my friends, had a scar on his chest and refused to go in the pool for fear , and for reasons I can’t remember I decided to join him as we baked day after day in the blazing sun. But it was also here that I stole my first kiss, locked a much maligned counselor in a trunk during a game of capture the flag, and spent countless hours with my best friend on our porch (him on guitar, me on vocals) doing rousing renditions of the entire (What’s the Story) Morning Glory album to a solid number of groupies. It was the best of times, and the worst.

I left that camp when I was 12 and headed to the other frying pan: a sports camp that attracted some of the most vainglorious, dick-headed adolescents I have ever had the pleasure of sharing a bunk. This camp was run by a nutty Jewish businessman who charged parents a fortune and proceeded to make camp a day shorter every couple of years. Every kid there had been told by their parents that they were Hashem’s gift to humankind and should constantly strive to let people in on this secret. I often woke up to the sound of kids ‘shottying’ what cereals they would receive at breakfast (If you weren’t a quick draw with a groggy eyed ‘I got fruit loops’ you were dead in the water). We played sports all day, which was great, save for the heavy amounts of bitching and moaning that came from kids who felt their talents were not being utilized fully.

Visiting day consisted of staring awestruck as kid after kid had 24 packs of Snapple, mountains of Doritos and chocolate bars brought into the bunk by the truckload — needless to say they were usually disappointed with their parent’s efforts.

With all those memories, when I read today about a new Jewish eco summer camp, I’ll admit a tinge of jealousy shot through my being.  It sounds like a pretty solid alternative, and one I would have loved to have had the option of going to. Although the raids we conducted to various bunks of the opposite sex did sometimes require a good hike. I’m not sure how eco-friendly throwing beds into the lake would be, and the emissions from campfires might not be up to standards. I thought to myself: ‘damn kids today, they have all the cool stuff.”

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