Camp Lessons - Holocaust Education in Jewish Summer Camps

June 30, 2011

Source: Tablet 


In a piece in Tablet, Dvora Meyers asks: " In between color wars and singalongs, some Jewish summer camps include Holocaust education in their programming. What does that teach campers about Jewish identity?" She answers by describing Holocaust related camp activities in different camps and the message the campers take away with them.


Camp Stone, a Zionist Orthodox camp in Western Pennsylvania, part of the Bnei Akiva movement, possesses an unusual set piece—a cattle car, constructed to look like a World War II relic, which the camp dedicated in 2009. The car rests on train tracks built from German parts, circa World War II. The wooded area around the monument is designed for quiet introspection. A sign leading to the railcar reads “M’Shoah L’Tekumah,” from Holocaust to rebirth. That rebirth is the founding of the State of Israel.


At Camp Sternberg in Narrowsburg, N.Y., the Holocaust was invoked on Tisha B’Av, a day of fasting that commemorates the destruction of the Temple. Since the destruction of the Temple was too distant an event for the campers to connect to, they were told to think about all the calamities in Jewish history, specifically the Holocaust.


If Sternberg presented the Holocaust as a continuation of Jewish history, then Camp Shomriah takes the opposite tack, emphasizing youth action and responsibility. Shomriah, with locations in Perth, Ontario and Liberty, N.Y., is part of HaShomer HaTzair (“youth guard”) movement, founded in 1913. (Mordechaj Anielewicz, leader of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, was a member.) On Tisha B’Av, Shomriah campers watched reenactments from tragic eras in Jewish history, ending with the Shoah and the refrain, “Never Again.”

Updated: Jul. 18, 2011