Jewish Sleepaway Camp: Why is Everyone Obsessed?

January 24, 2023
Leah Berger

Calabasas, California, United States

Class of 2024

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When coming back to school after a fun, long summer, and you have to write a 1000-word essay on what you did this summer and how it made an impact on you, how do you possibly explain how walking a mile to get from your bunk to breakfast at Camp Alonim in California “changed your life?” 

I constantly ask myself this: “Why do I keep going back to camp”? What’s so special about this place that I chose to spend the whole summer here instead of going on a trip to Europe? It’s really hard to put my finger on it, but all of the reasons I could think of fall under one umbrella, and that is community.

This summer, I spent eight weeks as a CIT at my camp. I had a lot of time to take in all of its beauty and think about why this place is so important to me. The first thing I thought about was the friends I made there. I have a group of five best, best friends that I’ve gone to camp with for the past four years, who have truly enabled me to find my true self. When I see them outside of camp, I am automatically reminded of all the millions of memories that I’ve made with them at camp with no other cares in the world. 

Not only have these five close friends of mine done amazing things for me, but also, the whole camp community  helps each other constantly. After my CIT summer, I automatically made 61 new best friends for life. We made a group chat that we always text in and send memories in to lift each other up and remind each other that no matter what, you will always be a CIT of 22, through good times and bad.

This summer, I watched the CITS of 2012 have their ten-year reunion Shabbat. I saw them hug and cry as they reunited with their best friends. When living with so many similar-aged people for eight weeks, you get to build strong and deep bonds with such like-minded people. I know that in 2032 when my ten-year reunion comes around, I will still feel as welcomed and at home as I have felt there for the past nine years.

Another reason camp keeps so many teens and kids in love is the way that they are removed from the outside world. Most Jewish sleepaway camps (at least that I know of) are “unplugged,” meaning that no phones or other electronics are allowed there. Personally, this has given me an escape from reality, anxiety, and pressures from the outside world. Older people like to claim that social media and phones ruin us, and we like to roll our eyes and disagree. But in reality, if you think about it, being unplugged keeps you away from any drama, politics, and other scary things that we just don’t need to know about as kids. Without electronics, we get to live in our little, sheltered Jewish bubbles for just a little bit.

As much as Jewish sleepaway camp is so hyped up, I really do think it is worth the hype. The memories created and lessons learned are like no other and truly unforgettable. Hopefully, you can understand why your best friend cries about “missing camp” every day now. 

Leah is a BBG from D'vash BBG #956, Pacific Western Region, and her favorite color is pink.

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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