Some of us went to Jewish camp because our parents wanted us to compensate for all the Hebrew School ditching, while others attended as an intro to Judaism. Others of us spent 100 percent of our lives in Jewish day schools and synagogues, so a camp that wasn't Jewish would have been out of the question. From Ramahs all over the country, to that small place you never heard of but your college roommate swears she attended every summer, Jewish camps have a big presence in the summer lives of American Jews, and we're definitely a proud group.
I know you still have plenty of camp shirts that you sleep in all summer just to fantasize you'll wake up in your old bunk (which may or may not have been named after a kibbutz).
For many summers, I attended Camp Pembroke in Pembroke, Massachusetts, an all-girls nonaffiliated Jewish camp that, along with being the best place on earth, included plenty of mandatory Israeli dancing, Kosher food, Shabbat sing alongs, and Israeli staff, along with the rest of you Jewish camp goers...
Here are some things that only people who went to Jewish camp will understand.
There was no bacon at breakfast
And after every meal you sang Birkat, that good old camp song
Every Friday night meant Shabbat
...and straightening your hair before services was a huge priority.
Your color war was called Maccabi Games
Were you on team kahol or lavan?
And probably had some version of Israel Defense Forces basic training involved
Your camp probably also had an activity called Israel Day
And if you were lucky the dining hall served falafel!
Camp areas had names in Hebrew, like beach (חוף)
and the camp itself was laid out by Israel's geography
It was a big deal when you moved from Eilat to Haifa!
All you wanted was for your Israeli counselors to teach you inappropriate words
In Hebrew. Or English, whatever.
The S'mores were never quite right, thanks those Kosher marshmallows
Your Jewish mother called camp worried that you'd died after a day without a letter
and the camp doctors were parent volunteers
A rabbi was on staff 24/7
Practicing for your Bat Mitzvah was mandatory during your 6th grade summer
There was a library at camp, and it was full of Jewish books
You know a lot of Zionist songs
Your only official camp socials were with other Jewish camps
What athletics program?
Crafts you would bring home from camp included a sticker-decorated Siddur
Or perhaps a papier-machier mezuzah!
The oldest group of campers went on a trip to Israel, and you were jealous
Your counselors mainly came from Brandeis
Or Barnard. Or Emory. Or GWU.
In August, you had the privilege of fasting during Tish B'Av
If you had a regular flag raising ceremony, you sang Hatikvah every morning
And you definitely ended the night by singing Taps in Hebrew
You now know all the Jewish suburbs of New York, Boston, and Chicago
And you probably also know all of their respective malls.
and once you got older it was all about
Hookups definitely happened.