“Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah,” Allan Sherman’s classic song making fun of Jewish sleep-away camps, isn’t true of today’s camps, if it ever was. But even among the vast array of Jewish camps, New Hampshire’s Camp Yavneh is in a class by itself. While it offers all of the sports, crafts, dance, water activities, education and other programs in an immaculate, updated waterfront environment, Camp Yavneh contributes something else…a pluralistic setting which encourages campers from observant homes, to secular households and everything in between to experience traditional Jewish practices and values in a Shabbat-observant way that’s both accepting and non-judgmental. Camp Yavneh’s method is to immerse its campers in the ideology of K’lal Yisrael—all Jews are one.
On March 9th, Camp Yavneh will honor Debbie Sussman’s service as director at their (sold out) 70th Anniversary Gala Evening, to be held at Temple Emanuel in Newton. This multigenerational event will benefit the scholarship fund. Over 300 alumni, friends and community partners will gather for a celebratory evening, with all proceeds going to the scholarship fund. To learn more about Camp Yavneh and about the event, call 603-942-5593 or visit campyavneh.org70th
“It appears from all the major studies of Jews, that overnight summer camp has a very influential part in a child’s upbringing…how they see themselves as Jews, how they relate to Judaism as adults, even to how they raise their children as Jews.” Director of Camp Yavneh Debbie Sussman has taken this truth as her guide as she celebrates her 25th year of leadership with Camp Yavneh.
“At Camp Yavneh,” Sussman says, “we believe in exposing campers to traditional things their families may or may not do things like Shabbat, Kiddush, candles. We show them that there are different ways to celebrate, and we offer them the opportunity to live in a Jewish way, filled with celebration and daily Jewish learning. They leave with a very positive feeling about being Jewish.”
Campers from all denominations live with and learn from each other. And it must be working. Over 90% of new campers hear about Yavneh through word of mouth recommendations from others. And the entire American staff is composed of former campers, who stayed on to experience special training including a summer in Israel when they’re 17. The rest of the staff are Israelis, whose presence offers a great way to help campers improve their Hebrew and learn about Israel as part of the camping experience.
Because Camp Yavneh believes so strongly in educating Jewish children for the future, no child is ever turned down due to financial difficulties. But, according to Sussman, it’s getting increasingly difficult to find money. It costs over $180,000 a year to fund the scholarships, so they have initiated a “1944 Tribute Fund” to help. The camp was founded in 1944, 70 years ago. The next celebratory event will be an Alumni Shabbaton at Camp on May 30th.
New England based Camp Yavneh is just a 90-minute drive from Boston, in Northwood, New Hampshire. It’s easily accessible to campers and families in its comfortable, familiar setting. Founded by Hebrew College, it reflects Judaic sensibilities while offering a magnificent camping experience for campers of all ages and backgrounds.
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