web analytics
August 29, 2014 / 3 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
News & Views
Sponsored Post
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) visits the JewishPress.com booth at The Event. And the Winners of the JewishPress.com Raffle Are…

Congratulations to all the winners of the JewishPress.com raffle at The Event



Home » News & Views » US »

Southern Comfort for Orthodox and Reform Campers on the Fourth

Rainy day in Camp Darom, where some 60 Orthodox kids from the South get to experience the outdoors in a majority-Jewish environment.

Rainy day in Camp Darom, where some 60 Orthodox kids from the South get to experience the outdoors in a majority-Jewish environment.
Photo Credit: Camp Darom online archive

When a Reform summer camp in Mississippi invited an Orthodox summer camp for a Fourth of July celebration, the get-together became national Jewish news. The onslaught of publicity caught both camps off-guard.

“To me it seems like a normal event,” said Rabbi Avichai Pepper, camp director for the Orthodox Camp Darom. “There’s no reason to think this is anything different… Most of the people who work at the camp are used to not seeing a difference: a Jewish child is a Jewish child.”

“I think all of the cultural or practical differences may exist [when] we’re talking about 60 kids coming together,” explained Jonathan “JC” Cohen, camp director of the Union for Reform Judaism’s Henry S. Jacobs Camp. “It’s kids being with kids at camp”

The two camps are roughly three hours apart from each other; Camp Darom, an arm of the Orthodox Baron Hirsch Congregation of Memphis Tennessee, is in Grenada, MI, while the much larger Jacobs camp is in Utica. Cohen said that both camps in the deep South have similar goals.

“You live in the Bible Belt and you get comments by your Christian classmates who don’t know what it’s like to be Jewish,” Cohen explained. Jewish camps offers a place where Jewish campers “get to be in the majority instead of the minority.”

Camp Darom is the only Orthodox camp in the Southeast United States and, with the exception of a small camp in Arizona, the only Orthodox camp in the entire south. The camp, which rents a piece of land owned by the United States Army Corp of Engineers, serves roughly 50 children. The Jacobs camp, which is run by the Union for Reform Judaism, serves close to 230. Both camps were founded in the mid-1970’s.

The day for the get-together was chosen for a specific reason.

“Unlike any other part of our 3,000 year history, the U.S. has really been very good to us,” said Rabbi Pepper. “I can’t think of celebrating a better day. Here we are in the same area as [the film] “Mississippi Burning” and we’ve got a nine-foot Israeli flag hanging under an American flag.”

Cohen said he was cautious about the programming and ensured that no lines would be crossed. Camp Darom would be bringing its own food, since Jacobs does not have a kosher kitchen, but the two camps would be eating in the same dining hall.

“It’s a good Jewish thing for people to eat together,” said Cohen, adding, “We’re not going to pray together.”

There will be a carnival and a parade and a concert by the Jewish musician Dan Nichols. Given the Orthodox prohibition on mixed-swimming, URJ is having separate swimming hours for its water slide. The URJ also ordered a snow cone truck to come in the evening and asked the operator to provide a kosher syrup. Cohen said that an event last year fell through, but this year funding help was provided by the Foundation for Jewish Camps.

“It was a small investment on our part to create this program and we hope this will inspire them to find other ways they can work collaboratively,” Jeremy Fingerman, CEO of the Foundation for Jewish Camp explained. “More of the Jewish world should follow the camps… They’re modeling the way we should act as a community down the road.”

The organization holds a series of conferences for camp directors across the United States from all spectrums of Judaism — from Reconstructionist to Agudah-like camps.

Both camp directors agree that growing up in the South breeds a specific type of Jew.

“There’s not a lot of Jews, and because the Christians in the south are very verbal in their Christianity you have to fight to be Jewish,” said Cohen. “If you’re really fighting for your identity, you generate a more passionate Jew.”

Macy Hart, the CEO of the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, said that Jewish life “isn’t lived in the shadows.”

” Jewish life in the South has been one of true commitment to Jewish identity,” he said.

Hart was also the first director of the Jacobs camp, a camp he said that initially the Reform leadership was not so keen on.

“Never underestimate the determination of Jewish parents in the South to expose their children to a Jewish experience,” he said.

About the Author: Michael Orbach is the Senior New York Correspondent for JewishPress.com. His work has appeared in the JTA, The Forward, The Jewish Week and Tablet. He was previously the editor-in-chief of the Jewish Star newspaper in Long Island. He is finishing up a novel.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

4 Responses to “Southern Comfort for Orthodox and Reform Campers on the Fourth”

  1. Thanks for recognizing the power of Jewish summer camps, including and especially those in the South. It should be corrected to read Grenada, MS, though, not MI (MI is for Michigan, we're MS down in Mississippi!). And at many of the Jewish camps in the South, including Texas, Georgia, etc, even if they have a denominational affiliation, kids from multiple denominations and even unaffiliated congregations will be represented in the camp population, which is also worth noting. Lots of examples of pluralism and community-building, which we love to see and support. Happy 4th!

  2. Larry Brook says:

    It's also the only time I've heard Arizona described as a Southern state…

  3. Sandra Johnson says:

    Children should visit the temples in the Midwest to have more Jewish continuity.
    My shul is in Northwest Indiana. We are partners with the Jewish federation of northwest Indiana585progress Avenue Munster Northwest.

  4. great article. a real kiddish hashem.

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Hamas chief Khalid Mashaal in Gaza
Mashaal Vows Cease-Fire a Step to New ‘Resistance’ War against Israel
Latest News Stories
Netanyahu meets with Congressional House Armed Services Committee member Howard Buck McKeon.

Netanyahu gets support from Congressmen on House Armed Services Committee

Jewish Entertainment 1

Some Chareidi entertainers thrilled the crowd on Jerusalem’s Ben Yehuda Street with some Jewish entertainment.    

Hamas chief Khalid Mashaal in Gaza

Hamas’ supreme leader Khaled Mashaal dashed any hopes of long-term peace with Israel in a speech in Qatar on Thursday in which he shot from the hip at Israel and also at his terrorist organization’s new partner, the rival Fatah movement headed by Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas. His lengthy speech in Qatar, which has […]

Many of the Syrian soldiers were not armed when ISIS captured and then slaughtered them.

Police are still working to confirm the identity of a body that was found by searchers hunting for missing yeshiva student Aharon Sofer.

Iconic pro-Israel comedian Joan Rivers is in critical condition following a throat procedure.

UN troops fled their posts along the Syrian-Israel border after they decided it was too dangerous for them to do their job.

In the wake of a 12th Israel-Gaza cease-fire, Britain’s Jews and Muslims have issued a joint call for peace.

The investigation shed light on the movements of the drug traffickers operating under Hezbollah’s direction in Lebanon and Israel.

Drug dealers suspected of aiding Hezbollah make inroads into Israel; smuggling attempts also included Jordan, Syria

No longer the Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan was sworn in as President of Turkey today. As a result, Erdogan will continue driving Turkey down his Islamic path for another 5 years, as Erdogan consolidates the power under the presidency. His foreign minister and ally, Ahmet Davutoğlu, will be taking over as Prime […]

IDF soldiers fired warning shots at a group of Gazans who approached the border fence near Nachal Oz. The group distanced itself from the fence, and there are no reports of injuries.

Only time PLO seems interested in justice for Palestinians is when Israel is involved

The United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) has come under increasing fire in recent weeks for aiding Hamas in the terror group’s war against Israel, with one advocacy group lodging a formal complaint against the organization. As evidence seems to continue to emerge of the use of the agency’s schools and clinics as Hamas storehouses, […]

Jews in Mariupol, Ukraine are trapped as rebels, Russians and Ukraine forces advance towards their city to fight for control.

More Articles from Michael Orbach
f110414ns13

“Fourteen hours a day in yeshiva but [a student] doesn’t learn a single word of English, math, history, science, geography, music art, nothing, nothing, nothing.”

Illustration image

A high-number of Haredi women responded to the survey. Haredi women suffering from eating issues also face a particular set of challenges.

When a Reform summer camp in Mississippi invited an Orthodox summer camp for a Fourth of July celebration, the get-together became national Jewish news. The onslaught of publicity caught both camps off-guard. One camp director explained that in the deep South, Jewish camps offers a place where Jewish campers “get to be in the majority instead of the minority.”

If there’s any story inside the Jewish community that closely parallels the sexual abuse cover-up inside the Catholic Church, it’s the story of Avrohom Mondrowitz.

An Ultra-Orthodox man reading the Talmud on the subway from Underground NY Public Library. The photo blog is a project of acclaimed street photographer, Ourit Ben-Haim. In an interview, Ben-Haim said that when she takes a photograph of someone reading she sees “people who are contemplating description of new possibilities. In this way, every book […]

Jews are the least of Elmo’s problems. Four days after a man dressed in an Elmo suit was forcibly ejected from Central Park for spewing anti-Semitic propaganda, an article revealed his frightening past. “I hate those [women],” he told a news reporter in 1999.

It looks like someone went up to Charles Barron and slapped him. The former member of the City Council and the Black Panther party was handily defeated by Hakeem Jeffries for the newly redrawn 8th Congressional District. The new district is mainly African-American, with a significant percentage of Russian Jews and Hispanics. Jeffries won in a landslide with more than half the precincts reporting, taking 75 percent of the vote.

Andy Statman says the time of Klezmer has passed. Having just received the NEA National Heritage Fellowship in June for his work in bluegrass and Klezmer music, Statman admits Klezmer used to be his substitute for Jewish observance. Now that he is an Orthodox Jew, he no longer feels the need to play the music.

    Latest Poll

    Do you think the FAA ban on US flights to Israel is political?






    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/us-news/southern-comfort-for-orthodox-and-reform-campers-on-the-fourth/2012/07/04/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: