Living Judaism: The Vibrancy of Jewish Life at Camp

March 11, 2024

Thanks to the generosity of the Diament Family as well as the Helen and Jerry Stern Grandchildren’s Fund, we are excited to introduce a new learning curriculum focused on Jewish and Israeli life, culture, and history!

The curriculum includes several new programs which will focus on strengthening our camper’s Jewish identities, and ensuring that they return home proud to be Jewish after each session. Now more than ever, understanding the importance of Jewish and Israeli life, culture, and history is critical in fighting anti-Semitism around the world. Our vision is to continue to lean into and deepen the immersive Jewish experience of camp, celebrate Jewish and Israeli life, build a shomer tefillah community (observant of prayer), and create an atmosphere of joyous kehillah (congregation).

A History of Judaics at Camp:

Camp Solomon Schechter is the only camp in the Pacific Northwest that is shomer tefillah, shomer Shabbat, and shomer kashrut, and at every moment filled with joyful Jewish life! Campers don’t just learn about keeping kosher – they keep kosher. They embrace it, sharing the experience of a kosher lifestyle that extends beyond the theoretical. They don’t just learn what a mensch is, they live it. The ethos of menschlekeit – those moments of kindness and consideration – is a daily practice, not just a lesson, as campers earn points for embodying the essence of being a mensch. As the aroma of baking challah and chicken soup wafts through the air on Friday afternoons, they are transported into the kitchens of their ancestors, forging a connection to Jewish heritage that spans millennia. They don’t just learn about challah, they braid it, bake it, and eat it! Camp Solomon Schechter is a Jewish community, where principles are not just understood but lived. The heart of camp is not just learning about Judaism, but living Jewishly.

Ilana and Matt Lipman

In the summer of 2019, Ilana and Matt Lipman, our Jewish Life and Learning professionals, played a pivotal role in elevating our camp’s Judaic programming. Their transformative impact echoes in every prayer, every lesson, and every joyful exploration of our shared heritage. Under their dynamic leadership, Judaic programming ceased to be mandatory, but instead became elective, and popular! Ilana and Matt’s seamless integration into our camp culture embodies values rarely experienced with other Jewish educators. With the rise of anti-Semitism as much as 400% globally, we understand that now more than ever our campers and staff ALSO need the Jewish history and knowledge to support and deepen their understanding and love of living Jewishly. We hope to build upon the programming the Lipmans brought to camp, and strike a balance between immersive Jewish experiences, knowledge acquisition, and the joyous atmosphere of Camp.

Camp is a wonderful place where we focus on Jewish identity and Jewish ritual. We focus on what Jews do, the how to be Jewish the “living” Jewishly. Especially in light of the rise of anti-Semitism around us, a shift to also include Jewish history will be very helpful in arming our campers with knowledge, especially as they work up toward living on college campuses. Additionally, in the social media age most of our campers from a certain age (say 10+) are exposed to anti-Semitism that is often based on inaccuracies and lies. They need tools and knowledge for college, and also they need tools and knowledge for now.

We propose 4 new program elements this summer that will do just that.

Program 1: “The Jewish Living and Knowing Project”

Recognizing the importance of balancing Jewish living with acquiring knowledge, we propose a transformative project-based learning initiative. This would be a shift from ritual acquisition alone to both knowledge acquisition and ritual acquisition. This will be done in camp appropriate ways that are engaging and project based. In this program, campers will delve into the timeline of Jewish history, and update the Beit Knesset timeline (which currently ends 30 years ago!). Each cabin will immerse themselves in learning about a specific period, gaining an in-depth understanding of their time period while creating their segment of the timeline.

Campers will gain an insight into the truly remarkable history of our truly remarkable people. Campers will understand that Jewish life and culture began in Israel and after the second exile Jewish culture and practices adapted to the new societies, climates and environments that they lived in. The development of the curriculum for this project will involve creating different tracks of learning for each of our aidot, our villages by age group. The project will culminate in a camp-wide inauguration of the updated timeline, fostering active engagement and a deeper connection to our shared heritage.

Program 2: “Jewish History Evening Program”

To supplement the core curriculum and broaden perspectives, we propose a comprehensive exploration of Jewish North American history. So many of our campers do not know their own history. We will explore questions such as how did Jews get to North American? How did they get from Silverbovitz in Romania to Silver in Seattle? What is the diaspora? What was the experience for Jews when they first got here from Europe and made choices about whether to assimilate or stay separate?

They will explore these questions during a special evening program. This interdisciplinary program, integrated with the art program, will touch all age groups. Older campers will engage in a Jewish history symposium, delving into text and exploring the complexities of Jewish experiences in America. Younger campers will have age-appropriate activities, fostering a comprehensive understanding of diaspora and assimilation. Curriculum development, execution planning, materials, and staff training will ensure the success of this enriching program.

Program 3: “Talmud and Tea”

To encourage a deeper understanding of Jewish philosophy and text, we propose fun optional morning Talmud groups. This program, accompanied by pastries and tea, or alternatively, after dinner with an extra dessert, will cater to the interests of campers. These small group sessions, focusing on Torah, Mishna, and Talmud in English, will provide a developmentally appropriate exploration of the development of Jewish ideas through the ages. Campers can voluntarily signup, committing to regular attendance, and celebrate their achievements with a siyum at the program’s conclusion.

These three programs align with our vision by striking a balance between immersive Jewish experiences, knowledge acquisition, and the joyous atmosphere of Camp. Funding for these initiatives will contribute significantly to the realization of our vision for Camp Solomon Schechter.

Program 4: “Exploring the Story of our Homeland”

Israel has a rich, beautiful, and complex history. This program aims to provide campers with a comprehensive understanding of the stories, sacrifices, and history of our land and its people. We understand that there is a wealth of information available, and it is essential to navigate this vast terrain in a way that resonates with and engages our campers.

The primary goal of this program is to foster a deep love and connection to Israel by delving into its multifaceted history, exploring pivotal moments, and celebrating the resilience and vibrancy of our people. We aim to empower our campers with knowledge that goes beyond headlines and social media snippets, providing them with a nuanced understanding of Israel’s past, present, and future.


  • Storytelling: Through engaging and interactive storytelling sessions, campers will embark on a journey through Israel’s history. From ancient times to the establishment of the modern state, they will hear tales of triumphs, challenges, and the enduring spirit that defines the Israeli narrative.
  • Heroes: This segment will spotlight the remarkable individuals who have played pivotal roles in shaping Israel’s history. Campers will learn about the sacrifices and achievements of leaders, innovators, and everyday heroes who have contributed to the nation’s development.
  • Israeli Art: Campers will engage in a series of arts and crafts workshops inspired by Israeli culture and history. From creating traditional Israeli crafts to designing modern artistic expressions, this will be an opportunity for campers to express their creativity while deepening their connection to Israel. The fair can culminate in a showcase where campers proudly present their creations, fostering a sense of accomplishment and community pride.
  • Combatting Anti-Semitism: In response to the rise of anti-Semitism globally, this program element equips campers with the knowledge and skills to combat prejudice through education and advocacy. Campers will delve into specific historical events, exploring instances of resilience, contributions, and achievements of the Jewish people in Israel. Through discussions, interactive activities, and guest speakers, campers will learn how to counteract misinformation, stereotypes, and anti-Israel sentiments. This program empowers campers to be informed advocates and ambassadors, equipped to engage in conversations about Israel’s history and address anti-Semitism with confidence.

To ensure a balanced and age-appropriate exploration of Israel’s history, we will tailor the content to different age groups within our aidot. By incorporating multimedia resources, group discussions, and experiential learning, we aim to make the learning process engaging, meaningful, and memorable for all campers.