Believe it or not, summer is right around the corner. And for local families, happy memories of summers spent at local Jewish day and overnight camps abound.
Summer camp is about so much more than campfires and color war. Kids get the chance to explore who they are — and who they want to become. Campers are bunkmates and team players, creative problem-solvers and blossoming leaders. They develop independence and learn life skills, and they forge deep and meaningful connections to Judaism that are key to building Jewish identity.
For many families in the region, Jewish camp is a cherished memory, passed down from generation to generation. Many of our local camps are welcoming third generations of campers, children who revel in the opportunity to take part in their parents’ and grandparents’ treasured experiences.
Two local families generously shared their family’s rich and personal connections to Jewish summer camp with us, and we’re pleased to pay tribute to them here.
The Moshe Family: Camp Harlam
Camping is where the Moshe family found their Jewish community. Jaimee Moshe and her sister always knew that Camp Harlam would be a part of their lives — their mother was one of the first campers at Harlam when it opened in 1958.
Her sister adored camp: “She never left,” Moshe said with a laugh. Her sister was a camper and later a staffer and now works for the Union of Reform Judaism in New York.
Jaimee Moshe’s connection wasn’t as strong as her sister’s, but Camp Harlam certainly played a huge role in her life. While working as a staffer one summer while she was pursuing her graduate degree, she met her now-husband Shavit, an Israeli who was working there on exchange.
“After we married, we became a part of a larger camp family that grew up and met their spouses there,” she said. “Camp has an extremely strong and important place in our hearts.”
They now have twin boys who will be embarking on their third trip to Camp Harlam this summer. It’s incredibly meaningful for the couple to watch their two sons share in the experience that started their family. Camp has connected them as a family, and has given the boys a new way to connect with their Jewish identity.
“Camp Harlam has done an incredible job finding ways to make sure that all the kids have the opportunity to participate and be a part of a wonderful experience,” Moshe explained. “It’s a place where they feel at home.”
The Ufberg Family: Pinemere Camp
When you talk about a Jewish camp family legacy, it’s hard not to picture the Ufberg family.
Mickey Ufberg attended Pinemere Camp from 1947 to 1955. His five children all attended Pinemere as well, and now 14 of his 15 grandchildren are spending their summers at the camp (the 15th is a toddler but will be attending Pinemere in a few years).
With so many opportunities available, and the fact that camp remains a mostly low-tech experience, it’s remarkable to see an entire family agree to spend their summers at the exact same place. Amy Ufberg, whose husband Jacob was a second-generation camper, said that family history and the connection to the camp is important, but that’s not the only reason why the entire third generation of Ufbergs has chosen to spend summers there.
“Pinemere is just a really well-run, well-managed camp with a strong commitment to Jewish values,” she said. “It truly has something for everyone. On a given day, one kid is on the soccer field while the other is setting up for the camp play. It allows each kid to spread their wings and find their own way to fit in.”
David Ufberg, whose four kids spend every summer at Pinemere, agreed.
“I love to come up and see the end of summer awards ceremony, where each kid is recognized equally for the progress they’ve made,” he said. “Camp is a great place for the cousins to bond and connect but also to find out who they are as individuals.”
Thanks to a plethora of scholarships and stipends, Jewish camp is increasingly accessible for all families. Both need-based scholarships (for day and overnight camp) as well as $700-$1000 incentive grants for first-time, overnight campers are available through the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. (Deadline for need-based, day camp applications is March 4.)
One Happy Camper, a program of the Foundation for Jewish Camp, is funded locally by Jewish Federation and the Neubauer Family Foundation. Campers can receive $1,000 for a first-time camp experience of 19 or more days or $700 for a first-time overnight camp experience lasting 12 to 18 days.