Jewish Summer Camping and Civil Rights: How Summer Camps Launched a Transformation in American Jewish Culture

By Riv-Ellen Prell

Jean and Samuel Frankel Center for Judaic Studies, University of Michigan, 2009

Scholars of American Jewish life have produced a small, but growing literature on Jewish summer camping that documents the history of some of these camps, their cultural and aesthetic styles, and the visions of their leaders. Less well documented is the socialization that their leaders envisioned. What happened at camp beyond Sabbath observance, crafts, boating, music, and peer culture? The content of the programs and classes that filled the weeks, and for some, the months at camp has not been systematically analyzed. The author’s study of program books and counselor evaluations of two camping movements associated with the very denominations that flowered following World War II has uncovered the summer camps’ formulations of some of the interesting dilemmas of a post-war American Jewish culture. What was the relationship between being an American and a Jew? What were Jewish ethics? How should young Jews react to the political events of the time? Interviews with participants, counselors and directors of camping from that period only emphasized how vital many of these questions were.

Topic: Programming, Black-Jewish Relations, Morality, Reform Judaism, Civil Rights, Jewish Camp, Youth, Masorti Judaism, Ethics, Conservative Judaism, Camp

Name of Publication: David W. Belin Lecture in American Jewish Affairs

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Genre: Speech/Address

Coverage: United States

Language: English

Copyright Holder: Author

Copyright Information: Download for personal use, freely distribute link

Bibliographic Information:
Prell, Riv-Ellen. Jewish Summer Camping and Civil Rights: How Summer Camps Launched a Transformation in American Jewish Culture. David W. Belin Lecture in American Jewish Affairs. Jean and Samuel Frankel Center for Judaic Studies, University of Michigan. 2009: http://www.bjpa.org/Publications/details.cfm?PublicationID=6800


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