This past summer four new Jewish summer camps opened their doors to offer kids (and parents) new choices. Thanks to a generous grant from four major foundations (Jim Joseph, AVI CHAI, the Foundation for Jewish Camp, and UJA-Federation of New York), visionary camp directors were able to create new experiences to meet the demands of many families looking for unique camp experiences that incorporate Jewish values with a concentration on science, sports, business and health and wellness.
Camp Zeke, located in the Poconos, focuses on health, wellness and culinary. When I learned of this camp I thought it was a perfect fit for my kids. Cooking and healthy eating are central values for my family and I liked the way Camp Zeke was able to weave these programs into a diverse camp experience. We learned about Camp Zeke at our local synagogue and decided to give it a try for their one week Taste of Zeke program.
In the weeks and days leading up to camp, my 10-year old read the entire website and pamphlet, practically memorizing the sample menu and activities list. My 8-year old was excited to go away for the week with his big brother and try his hands at Krav Maga (Israeli martial arts). I of course missed them each day, but followed along with the pictures on Facebook and their website and I could see they were having so much fun. Camp Zeke exceeded our high expectations.
The camp is not affiliated with any Jewish movement, they serve kosher (dairy) food and have a respectful and robust Shabbat program. Every day they have bunk activities, electives and in the evening they come together for a camp wide activity. Activities include Sports, Art and Cooking, but they also offer Strength Training and Yoga.
Before Shabbat, campers work together to prepare a traditional Shabbat meal and they all dress up in blue and white for the evening services and dinner. On Shabbat day, the kids choose between a spiritual walk or yoga services with meditation. It is a time for quiet contemplation and spiritual reflection and my boys loved it!
The goal of Camp Zeke and some of the other new Jewish summer camps is to provide more opportunities to connect kids to their Jewish identity. My children go to a Jewish day school and live an active Jewish life, but the opportunity to fuse food, health and Jewish values at Camp Zeke gave them an even stronger spiritual connection.
Visit CampZeke.org to learn more and take advantage of the Camp Zeke Early Bird Special - Sign up byOctober 31st for $350 off.
Photos provided by Camp Zeke and taken by Netanya Lerner (who just happened to find out about the camp from us)