Jewish Life At Camp
Immersive Jewish Environment
At CSS, all aspects of life are enriched by Jewish values, traditions, and ruach (spirit). CSS is an open place for children to explore Jewish texts, spirituality, rituals, and history so that they may form their own unique Jewish identities. For many of our campers, attending CSS is their only Jewish experience of the year. For others, camp supplements their already active Jewish lives.
Our daily chuggim (activities) are enriched with Jewish content and values. For example, our sports chuggim teach campers about great Jewish sports heroes and the value of shmirat haguf (caring for the body), and our nature chuggim teach about shmita (letting the ground lie fallow) and bal tashchit (not destroying or wasting resources). All camp programming is designed to instill a sense of derech eretz(respect) and kehilla (community). Additionally, we run camp-wide limmud (learning) events, where we take a deeper dive into Jewish historical events or texts.
Dynamic Jewish Leaders
At CSS, campers don’t just learn about Jewish leaders — they live with them and they become them. We look for staff who lead by example and inspire ahavat Yisrael (love of being Jewish) in our campers. We know that the camper/staff relationship can be foundational to a camper’s Jewish identity, and have a lasting impact on their involvement in Jewish life. We love nothing more than to see our campers grow into Jewish leaders and become the next generation of CSS counselors!
We serve three healthy kosher meals each day, and provide snacks if campers need a little nosh in between meals. Meals are served buffet style, except for Shabbat and special occasions, which we do family style. We have vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options at every meal. Campers are always able to help themselves at the salad bar, and fresh veggies and fruit are always on the menu. We sing blessings of gratitude before and after every nosh!
Shabbat is the most joyous time of the week at CSS. From the moment we parade down to the amphitheater for our Kabbalat Shabbat (welcoming of Sabbath) service, dressed in our “Shabbos whites”, singing and dancing as we go, there is a palpable sense of community and joy. Shabbat at camp is the most restful time of the week, but also overflows with ruach (spirit). We slow down to savor our meals and rituals, and we sing our hearts out, often late into the night.
On Friday night, we listen to a Shabbat story told by our Jewish educator or visiting Rabbi, dance while we pray, and eat freshly baked challah, matzo ball soup, and delicious brisket or chicken. During the evening, we welcome a special guest, the Chehalis Rebbe and his donkey Shmuly! (Not sure what that last part means? You’ll have to come and see for yourself!)
On Shabbat morning we sing shacharit (morning prayer service) and have alternative service options as well. Afterward, we eat babka, listen to the Torah being read, and embark on our first free time of the day. We come together to make kiddush (blessing over the grape juice) before lunch, and sing beautiful Israeli folk songs. We have an hour-long menucha (rest time) to sleep off a big shabbos lunch, and later, come together as an entire camp to watch the counselors act out the Torah portion as we eat cupcakes, before heading to our second round of free time!
We end Shabbat with a moving Havdalah service — all camp gathered together on the hill under the stars, arm in arm — to mark the separation between Shabbat and the rest of the week. Campers and staff hug each other and try to draw out Shabbat as long as possible. Afterward, we head up to the big screen to watch a video recap of the previous week’s highlights and get excited for another week at CSS.
CSS embraces a celebratory Shabbat environment. Campers are encouraged to follow Shabbat observances in public spaces and are allowed to follow their own traditions in private.
At CSS, services are a spirited part of the day, where campers come together as a community to sing, take time for personal reflection, and familiarize themselves with traditional prayer rituals. We strike a balance between keva (fixed routines) and kavanah (personal meaning), so that campers can find ways to create their own spiritual moments, while also connecting to their Jewish heritage. We hold one prayer service a day, either in the morning (shacharit) or the evening (maariv), as well as alternative service options (e.g., yoga, mindfulness, art, nature, music), and we sing blessings before and after every meal. On Shabbat we hold Kabbalat Shabbat services on Friday evening, shacharit and a Torah service on Saturday morning, and end the day with a moving havdalah service to bring in the new week.
Love Of Israel
At CSS, we have a deep connection with, and love for, the State of Israel. We sing HaTikvah (Israel’s national anthem) every morning in our degel (flag) ceremony and run educational programs about Israeli culture, food, music, and history. We love to dance along to current Israeli pop hits over the loudspeakers, and sing classic Israeli folk songs around the campfire. Every summer many Israeli campers and staff, including tzofim and shlichim (Israeli Scouts and Emissaries from The Jewish Agency) join us at CSS!