Jewish Camping, Habonim Dror Style

Categories: Personal Stories of Zionism, Israel and Progressive Identity

By Shelly Goldwater

Eagerly anticipating my ninth summer as executive director of Habonim-Dror Camp Tavor, I like to take a step back look at the big picture. And the big picture is: I’m more and more convinced of the crucial importance of what Jewish camps offer.

A story readily springs to mind that exemplifies the beauty and magic of Jewish camping: When seven-year-old Mark came to camp for the first time in June of 2000, he was one of the youngest and smallest kids at camp. I recall Mark’s face on his very first day of camp, wide-eyed and eager as he got familiar with and then participated in a Hebrew version of the hokey-pokey song. Last July, on a sunny Michigan day, this very same Mark, now a tall and beaming 14-year-old, stood in front of a group of our newest kids, with a big glow on his face and led that same lively Hebrew song.

Jewish camping in North America has been around for over 100 years. In the beginning it was a time to get kids out of the cities and be in the “country” with their peers in a safe and healthy environment. It is still a time to get children into the country, but now, it has become a place to develop and create community, to find Jewish roots, to allow freedoms in a safe and friendly environment, to be around children of like roots (but with various ear-round influences) and to help mold the next generation of Jewish leaders.

Recent statistical data add credibility to what those of us in the camping world know from instinct. The informal environment of Jewish camps, which enables kids to have fun and become self-aware and socially conscious while led by older youth – has grown our leaders in the Jewish and secular world of today.

Knowing that our efforts have such a strong impact is an extremely rewarding feeling.

We are in the right time and right place to keep it going

Habonim-Dror Camp Locations:
California (Gilboa)
Maryland (Moshava)
Michigan (Tavor)
New York (Na’aleh)
Ontario (Gesher)
Pennsylvania (Galil)
Israel (post-10th grade)

Program Description: Habonim Dror is a youth movement dedicated to creating Jewish leaders who will actualize the principles of social justice, equality, peace and coexistence in Israel and North America. At seven summer camps in North America, campers benefit from 70 years of Jewish camping experience and traditions forming the foundation for our unique educational and recreational programming throughout each summer. Whether a first time camper or a returning champion, your child will love everything that Habonim Camping has to offer. Each of our camps is a place where children play, sing, laugh, share and grow together in a safe, healthy and encouraging environment. With its emphasis on sharing and social responsibility, Habonim creates a sense of community that is cherished long after the summer is over. Through the year, the Habonim Dror Experience continues as a positive aspect of campers’ lives as they are welcomed to participate in a rich program of fun and educational activities offered regularly throughout the year in both local and regional venues. Friendships created in a summer last a lifetime.

About Shelly Goldwater

Shelly Goldwater is the executive director of Habonim-Dror Camp Tavor, located in Three Rivers, Michigan. She is a long time Zionist, growing up in Young Judea and living on Kibbutz Gezer in Israel.
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