26 things only Jewish summer camp alumni would know

We asked directors from Jewish summer camps to share what they consider to be the most memorable camp experiences!

1. An hour at camp felt like a week in the city

They say (or maybe I say) that an hour at camp feels like a week in the city. The bonds built at camp cannot be replicated anywhere else. It is a group of individuals with unique contributions, with one collective and shared experience. Camp is a foundation that allows for communities with shared values full of menchlechkeit to be built successfully. -Simon Wolle, Director at Camp Northland – B’nai Brith

2. Your A&C creations made you feel like the next Picasso

Creativity, memories, and all the little chachkees that the campers bring home are born here. No right or wrong. No marks or grades here at A&C. Instead, it is a forum for kids to be kids – to express themselves and find that inner superstar. -Simon Wolle, Director at Camp Northland- B’nai Brith

3. The excitement of spotting the camp sign on the drive up to camp was always one of the best parts of the summer

While there is nothing more magical than driving the northern highways heading up to camp, the true highlight is when campers see the camp sign and know they are back at their summer home. The cheers explode, and the summer begins. -Simon Wolle, Director at Camp Northland – B’nai Brith

4. Lake jumps were one of the most exhilarating things you could do

What beats jumping into cool water on a sweltering, summer day? Doing it while holding hands with your best friends! The lake jump is a metaphor for the strong bonds built at camp: when you take a leap of faith, your camp friends are always there to cheer you on or hold your hand through the deepest of waters.

-Shauna Waltman, Director at Camp Solelim

5. Shabbat at camp was an out of body experience

The smell of fresh baked challah from the dining hall. Watching the sunset from the beach with your arms around your best friends. Losing your voice singing Hebrew songs at the top of your lungs and then dancing until you can't feel your feet anymore. Taking the time to reflect on all you accomplished in the past week and looking forward to what lies ahead. Shabbat at camp is about forming your own special traditions and feeling part of something bigger. 

-Shauna Waltman, Director at Camp Solelim

6. Receiving letters from home will forever be more exciting than receiving 100+ likes on an Instagram post

Unplugging during the summer is the best thing for our campers and makes receiving a hand-written letter in the mail way more meaningful then any text message, Facebook message or social media comment! -Hanna Levy, Acting Manager at Camp Shomria

7.  You never thought you could cry as much as you did on the last day of camp

We all know that while the last day of camp is the hardest, the last night of camp is one of the most exciting. A special evening program, staying up all night, saying farewell to your friends, and reminiscing about the best days of summer almost make up for the fact that the summer must come to an end. -Hanna Levy, Acting Manager at Camp Shomria

8. You left camp with a whole new set of hobbies and skills

As I grew up and returned summer after summer, camp became a place where I was able to try for the first time, many things that continue to bring joy to my life. From my first musical performance to my first portage, camp allowed me to explore my interests and expand my comfort zone. -Michael Marks, Assistant Director at Camp George

9. Camp gave you an appreciation for your surroundings and the outdoors  

Being active, strengthening our bodies, being mindful of our surroundings, finding peaceful moments, have always been a part of the camp experience. While we might be quick to consider these as unintentional elements of camp, they are all very intentional parts of the camp experience. It’s so important to take a break from our everyday life and dedicate time to live differently, focus on the wellness of our bodies, minds, and relationships. -Karen Kollins, Associate Director at Camp George

10. The biggest secret of each summer was the theme of Olympics/Maccabiah

During Maccabiah/Camp Olympics, campers are divided in teams and battle it out from start to finish in challenges like relay races, tug of wars, sports and water competitions, and most importantly… RUACH!! The day would be nothing without teamwork and sportsmanship. -Adam Shulman, Director at Camp Shalom

11.  The kickoff to camp always started with cabin assignments

As the busses roll into camp, staff line the roads, cheering with excitement. The bus doors open, and campers emerge with smiles on their faces in anticipation of the summer ahead. Once cabins are called, it’s time to start bonding with fellow cabin mates and staff…your family for the summer. -Adam Shulman, Director at Camp Shalom

12. Your arms were always covered in homemade friendship bracelets

You were an expert friendship bracelet maker and mastered box, zipper and cobra stitch with supreme ease. -Cindy Presser Benedek, Camp Director at Camp B’nai Brith of Ottawa

13. You looked up to your counsellors 

Our counselors work tirelessly to help campers grow. They model positive behaviours including being a good team player, a good listener, and a caring and enthusiastic leader. This has a positive effect on campers as they inevitably try to emulate the positive traits set by these young leaders. -Cindy Presser Benedek, Camp Director at Camp B’nai Brith of Ottawa

14. Havdalah service at camp could not be replicated anywhere else

Every camper of every age gets up on the benches, singing in unison as they get ready to start a brand-new week of camp together. -Vicky Shizgal, Director at Camp Moshava Ennismore

15. A day at camp without Mifkad just didn’t feel right

Camp wide Mifkad every Friday night is a sea of blue and white and a site to be cherished. Every Eidah (group) gets to cheer as the sun sets, while the Canadian and Israeli flags are raised. -Vicky Shizgal, Director at Camp Moshava Ennismore

16. Climbing to the top of the rock climbing wall was one of the most exciting moments in your life

It’s your first time going rock climbing at camp, and the only thing going through your mind is the thought of not making it up to the top. You stretch your leg longer than you thought you could to step up on that last rock and pull yourself to the top. Your cabin mates and staff celebrate and cheer your name as you are brought back down and are greeted with high-fives and hugs. -Evan Roth, Director at The Jack and Pat Kay Centre Camp

17. You never laughed and smiled so much anywhere else

When you look back at all your camp photos, it’s hard to find one where you’re not smiling or laughing with your friends. Every time you look at a camp photo or video, you can recall exactly what you were laughing about, and why that moment brought such a big smile to your face. There’s nothing like looking back at old photos and recalling how much fun camp is for campers, staff, and camp professionals. -Evan Roth, Director at The Jack and Pat Kay Centre Camp

18. You found creative ways to pack for camp

Fitting your whole life into one duffel bag was always a tricky endeavor. As a result, airline weight restrictions got nothing on you. -Shoshi Lipschultz Associate Director at Camp Gesher

19. The countdown to camp began right after camp ended

As soon as the school year started, all you can talk about was how excited you are for your next summer away. -Shoshi Lipschultz Associate Director at Camp Gesher


20. Deciding what to get from the tuck shop felt like the most important decision in the world

Campers always look forward to their opportunity to select a few treats from the tuck shop! -Sarah Atkins Director at Camp Kadimah

21. You challenged yourself and performed on the mainstage in front the entire camp 

Lights, Camera, Action! From belting out songs, to rehearsing lines and creating props and sets, working on a camp production is no easy feat but the rewards are always immeasurable -Sarah Atkins, Director at Camp Kadimah

22. BBQ day was the best day

Nothing says summer more than eating BBQ lunches outdoors with your friends -Sarah Atkins, Director at Camp Kadimah/p>

23. Your camp T-shirts made up most of your wardrobe

No matter if you wear your shirt to school, the gym or to sleep, you always wear it with pride. -Camp Ramah Professional Staff

24. You could create a costume out of anything 

Regular items like garbage bags, paper towel and aluminum foil transform into costumes worthy of an Academy Award -Camp Ramah Professional Staff  

25. Camp truly became your home away from home

Camp exposes kids to Jewish role models, friends, and programming, and connects them with the community - a feeling that stays with them well into adulthood. -Yudit Timbo, Manager of the Silber Family Centre for Jewish Camping

26. No summer would be complete without writing your name on your cabin wall 

It was your badge of honour, an accomplishment for finishing a summer, and a way to show the impact of being a part of camp culture and sense of belonging. The memories at camp are everlasting. Writing your name on cabin walls gave hope that the next person would have the same connection with camp and want to leave their legacy and start their own camp history.

-Yudit Timbo, Manager of the Silber Family Centre for Jewish Camping

To find your own wall art, view your camp’s album below, tag your camp friends, and comment on the album with your favourite camp memory/story!

Authored by Ontario Council of Jewish Camps (OCJC)

What is OCJC:
In partnership with affiliated camps. UJA Federation established the Ontario Council of Jewish Camps, which brings together camp directors and other key stakeholders to develop a Community of Practice.