This One Simple Secret to Raising Jewish Kids

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By Dawn Rosenblum

I didn't grow up Jewish, but did grow up in a largely Jewish neighborhood in Riverdale, NY.  I actually was raised Catholic and went to Catholic school for 13 years - kindergarten through high school.  So, my upbringing was quite different from my children’s.  Despite being raised Catholic, I went to Jewish day camp through our local JCC every summer from ages 4 through 11.  This came in handy when it was time to show off my Shabbat prayer skills to my then boyfriend, now husband, when I was in college.

I converted to Judaism before getting married. My husband, Jonathan, and I have two kids, Max and Sophie, who we are raising Jewish.  Three summers ago we decided to enroll our children in Jewish summer camp, due to the initial scholarship we received for each of them from the Jewish Federation’s One Happy Camper program. 

Both of them loved the community and the Shabbat experience at camp and decided they wanted to continue to go to this camp every summer.  Furthermore, they were open to attend religious school at our temple. 

Camp Mountain Chai has been great for the kids!  It is a place where they are not just the Jewish kid in the group, but all the kids are Jewish.  They have a ton of fun in a place that is very spiritual and very Jewish, but not in a way that is being "forced".  The staff and camp leaders have great ways of incorporating core Jewish themes in very meaningful ways that the kids are excited about.  And, of course, the Shabbat experience at camp is amazing.  The kids have a beautiful outdoor service taking in all the natural beauty and have pretty cool Israeli dance parties after too.  

Probably the best thing about Jewish camp is that the kids connect a great memory with their "Jewishness".  It makes them excited to be Jewish.  My son's friend told him one summer, "Oh darn!  I wish I was Jewish!  Then I could go to your camp.  You're so lucky!" My kids are pretty lucky and we were pretty lucky to get the "One Happy Camper" scholarship for them the first summers they went to camp.  For many families it makes the difference in whether or not they can send their kids to camp.  The kids who get this opportunity have fantastic memories that I believe will make them proud to be Jewish, more likely to continue their Jewish practice post Bar/Bat Mitzvah and will encourage them to seek out the same experience for their own children.

For more information please contact our Camp Ambassador, Brenda Silvers.

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