Sunday, June 5, 2011

You Cannot Go Home Again

A friend posted this promo video about my old summer camp, Camp Airy, on his facebook page:

So much has apparently changed at this place that has meant so much to me.  Most of the activities shown did not exist during my time: model rocketry, zip-lining, skate-boarding, dune-buggies or whatever, monster trucks, etc.  A lot of the equipment and facilities were far more basic in my time.  Lots of investment since then, and apparently much effort to keep up with other camps, I guess.  I wonder what has happened to overall levels of campership in the US.  It seems clear that Airy's apparently peaked at some point, when it was restricting folks from spending the full eight weeks to open up space for other folks.

The promo plays up the Jewish-ness* as well, as it only really meant, in my time, that we didn't have milk with meat (and obviously no pork or shrimp); that we had about 15 minutes of songs before Friday night dinner and about forty five minutes of songs Saturday mornings (wearing white as they did in the video); that we had some Israeli counselors sprinkled among the Americans (and Brits) who taught us that Israelis do not use their brakes much when driving; and that the dating pool at the girls camp was parent-approved (only Jewish girls).  I don't remember that many Israeli flags, which kind of bothers me now since I long ago reached the point where I do not agree with everything Israel does. So, I am very struck by this stance, and must remember that this is a marketing effort.  Clearly, the PR folks behind this think that playing up this identity will play to the parents while the pics of the cool stuff will probably play to the boys.  Of course, I may just be noticing this more given my own discomfort with all things religious.
* There is the view that attending Jewish summer camps is a key part of the American Jewish [non-Orthodox] experience that keeps folks, well, Jewish.  And some social science [logit!]has been applied to this question, suggesting the system works.  Of course, in my family, the two kids that did go to such camps are fallen/lapsed/un/whatever, and the two that did not go Jewish summer camps are observant, more or less.  I could spend all day looking at the results of this one survey, but will just note that Jewish camp had a very small impact on marrying within the faith, which is probably the most important outcome that many (most?) Jewish parents obsess about.

Of course, the real reason I cannot go back* is that the people I was with at the time are no longer there with a few notable exceptions (the executive director held all kinds of positions during my time).  Facebook has allowed me to re-connect with some.  I missed an opportunity last summer for a big alum event in the middle of the summer as I was committed to a family vacation. I am glad that my friends are sending their kids there to keep the experience going.  We send our daughter to a camp much closer to home and much more basic (and cheaper).  This summer, she is going for twice as long, and her first day is exactly the same day as Airy's (and Camp Louise's).  So, I will not need the countdown clock at the bottom of the camp webpage, as my daughter is counting down the days, as I used to do so. 
*  I also cannot go back because I am not sure I could handle the internet-withdrawal.  Notice there is nothing in the ad to suggest that the mountain has wifi.

1 comment:

Spew's oldest sister said...

Well, you have a factual error in this entry -- your oldest sister did spend two years in a Jewish overnight camp -- Camp Cejwin. I distinctly remember that one of the camp instructors was Sidney Taylor, author of the All of the Kind Family books about a Jewish family.