Jewish Community for Kids

Kids at the JCC East Bay Summer camp

Kids at the JCC of the East Bay summer camp 

Last week I talked about Jewish community as a bit if an oddity sandwiched inside American culture. If you put on your anthropology hat and look at the many cultures that you encounter everyday it all begins to make sense. But for a child it’s not so clear. Kids’ brains are still growing. They don’t understand all the nuances that you do. They learn by experience that which you may learn through words. If you want to give them an experience of Jewish community – why not try camp?

Jewish Community for Kids
Summer brings a terrific opportunity for children — SUMMER CAMP!

Camp offers something that is rarely experienced in America – Jewish emersion. Doing Jewish all day! I have had adults from interfaith families tell me that camp is one of their happiest memories. It’s where it all comes together and you just get to BE.

Do kids from Jewish – Jewish parents say it’s terrific too? Sure. I just want to assure you that kids from multicultural, interfaith families feel right at home.

Occasionally a parent will tell me that they want to be sure their child experiences the diversity of American culture and doesn’t grow up thinking that there are only Jewish people. Unless you live in Crown Heights – no worries. Is your child allowed to walk around your neighborhood? Watch TV? Listen to the radio? This is Christian America – even if much of it is not religious, it is a Christian culture.

So don’t be afraid to give your child a taste of Jewish life. At camp they will observe a rousing Shabbat with songs, dancing, food. They’ll have a Jewish flavor to all their activities AND it will still be camp – kids hiking, swimming, making things from wood and clay.

What Camps are Out There?
All around the bay there are summer camps getting underway this month.

The JCC of the East Bay has:

Camp Tzofim
Our Oakland-based summer camp starts up June 23. In our summer program kids-ranging from those entering kindergarten to tenth graders-explore nature, make friendships and engage in arts, sports, and social activities. Our camp also emphasizes Jewish culture, designating a Jewish topic each week, around which camp activities and projects are based.
Contact camp director Josh Kramer at or 510.530.9222 for more information about Camp Tzofim.

Other JCCs around the bay are:
Albert L. Schultz Jewish Community Center, Palo Alto
Osher Marin JCC, Marin
Peninsula JCC, Foster City

San Francisco JCC

JCC of Silicon Valley, San Jose

An example of a regional sleep away camp is:
Camp Tawonga
Office: 131 Steuart Street, San Francisco,CA 94015
(415) 543-2267
Contact: Ann Gonski
At Tawonga, the focus is on group-building. Next to Yosemite National Park. Grades 2-12. Backpacking, Judaic programming, ropes course, arts and crafts. Teen Travel quests go all over the West, Canada and Israel. CIT program. Family camp weekends.

Camp Kee Tov is the summer camp of Beth El Congregation in Berkeley.
Camp Kedima in Pleasanton is associated with Beth Emek. See them at:
Each of the Jewish synagogue movements have summer camps as well.

Some camps have a Family Camp Week. That’s a great time to give the kid in you a class on drumming or painting, to refresh your s’mores making skills and to tell stories by a campfire.