Michael M. Lorge and Gary P. Zola, A Place of Our Own: The Rise of Reform Jewish Camping (University of Alabama Press, 2006)

Jan. 18, 2008

Source: Journal of Jewish Education, Volume 74, Issue 1 January 2008 , pages 103 – 106


A Place of Our Own: The Rise of Reform Jewish Camping is a welcome addition to the incipient literature on Jewish residential camps. By providing an historical look at the rise and development of the first Reform Jewish camp, Olin-Sang-Ruby Institute (OSRUI), this volume of essays expands our knowledge of varied aspects of Reform Jewish camping. But its primary value is to demonstrate how historical knowledge can add nuance to our understanding of Jewish camping.


Editors Michael Lorge and Gary Zola wisely focus this volume on a single camp, but allow their authors to reflect more broadly about Jewish camping in North America. This volume celebrates Reform Jewish camping, while also contributing to the growing scholarship on Jewish camps. Much more is needed. Not one essay in this volume, for example, addresses the impact of Reform camping on the campers who attended. 


Summer camps - more than schools which are regulated by statute and shaped by long traditions - are dynamic, changing institutions. No one captures that dynamism more powerfully than Jonathan Sarna in his essay "The Crucial Decade in Jewish Camping." 


Judah M. Cohen provides a fascinating look at the emergence of camp music in "Singing Out for Judaism: A History of Song Leaders and Song Leaders at OSRUI."

Michael Zeldin, in "Making the Magic in Reform Jewish Summer Camps," asks what explains the magic of camp, the capacity of a camp like OSRUI to have had such a rich history and deep influence on those who participated. His answer is the multi-dimensional nature of learning at camp.

Zeldin captures the magic that so many of us remember from that period. Future scholars will need to discover how the magic works in today's Jewish camps, and how, in the ever-changing world of camping, Jewish educators make their mark on the campers of today.

Updated: Mar. 26, 2008