Jewish Philadelphia’s Summer Camp Album

Elliot Miller, top row, second camper from right, at Silver Arrow Day Camp in 1957. Miller is vice president of Beth Sholom Congregation. Courtesy of Elliot Miller

The first Jewish summer camp in the United States was opened in New York by the Jewish Working Girls Vacation Society in 1893.

The early camps grew out of a larger social reform movement, which held that children needed to be taken out of their newly industrialized, smoke-choked cities to enjoy the fresh air of the country.

Today, 128 years later, Jewish summer camp has become a central plank of institutional Jewish life in the United States. More than 80,000 Jewish children attended a camp in 2018 and, for many of them, the connections they have to their camps are multi-generational, deeply-held and central to the formation of their Jewish identity.

There are Jewish camps for every affinity, denomination and region. They model kibbutzim, educate on Zionism of this or that stripe and even take their campers to Israel. A 2013 survey found that one third of American Jews had attended Jewish overnight camp.

Sisters Molly Wernick, left, and Arielle Wernick during their first summer at Camp Galil in 1998. Molly Wernick is community director at Galil, and Arielle Wernick is business project manager at Vanguard, as well as the immediate past president of the Galil board of directors. Courtesy of Molly Wernick

Last summer, the pandemic prevented many of these camps from functioning as they typically did; for some, the summer was canceled altogether. Now, as mass vaccinations continue and public safety measures are relaxed by the week, 2021 might look a lot closer to normal.

To celebrate the return to something-like-normalcy for a key portion of American-Jewish life, we asked Jewish Exponent readers to send us photos of their camp days. They responded with gusto.


Edward Levy, top row, far right, at Camp Arthur in 1931. Courtesy of Suzanne Levy
Camp Ramah in the Poconos, 1986. According to Melanie Kron, front row, yellow shirt, many of the girls in this photo became lifelong friends. Courtesy of Melanie Kron
Camp Reeta, possibly in 1970. Courtesy of Sheryl Neckritz
Undated, unnamed photo from Camp Galil. Thought to be the late 1940s. Courtesy of Molly Wernick
Rabbi Charles Sherman and Leah Hurowitz Sherman at Ramah in Glen Spey (now called Camp Ramah in New England) in 1970. They were engaged that summer at camp. Courtesy of Leah Hurowitz Sherman
Haim Klimoff at Camp Galil in 1947. Courtesy of Dodi Klimoff
Jay Steinberg, seated, second from right, at the now-defunct Camp Sun Mountain, in 1964 or 1965. Steinberg, 69, is a longtime Philadelphia Jewish community professional who lives in Phoenixville. Courtesy of Jay Steinberg


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