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Every summer, millions of young Americans pack their bags and go to sleep-away camp for weeks or months at a time. Among them are hundreds of thousands of Jewish campers and counselors.

Whether they know it or not, they are participating in a 100-year-old American Jewish tradition, following in the footsteps of the pioneers who first embraced camping in the early 20th century as a way of escaping the city, preserving tradition, and forging a Jewish identity.

This program explores the fascinating history of Jewish summer camps, moderated by Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism. Rabbi Jacobs is in conversation with Dr. Gary P. Zola, the Executive Director of The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives and editor of the 2006 anthology A Place of Our Own: The Rise of Reform Jewish Camping (co-edited by Michael M. Lorge).

Watch the program below.

This program’s original recording transcript is below. This transcription was created automatically during a live program so may contain inaccurate transcriptions of some words.

Ari Goldstein: i'm Ari Goldstein Senior Public programs producer at the Museum of Jewish heritage, a living memorial to the Holocaust and it's a pleasure to welcome you to today's very timely program on the history of American Jewish summer camp be.

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Ari Goldstein: Coming just as some of you have just dropped off your kids or grandkids at summer camp for the season, or perhaps some of you are spending the summer.

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Ari Goldstein: Finally, remembering your own camp experiences from many years ago we're glad you're here.

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Ari Goldstein: it's not just a topic that's fun and timely also want a real enduring relevance for the American Jewish community as we think about how to sustain Jewish identity across generations we're lucky to have two very distinguished guests with us this evening to explore the topic.

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Ari Goldstein: rabbi rick Jacobs is President of the Union for reform Judaism, which leads the largest and most diverse Jewish movement in North America, with more than 1.5 million people and 15 overnight camps.

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Ari Goldstein: before his tenure at you rj rick spent 20 years as a visionary spiritual leader at West Chester reform temple in scarsdale answer just the rabbi at the brooklyn heights synagogue rekha study for two decades at Jerusalem sholom heartland institute where he's a senior rabbinic fellow.

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Ari Goldstein: we're also welcoming Dr Gary P Zola the Executive Director of the Jacob greater Marcus Center of the American Jewish archives.

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Ari Goldstein: And the Edward and ackerman family distinguished Professor with the American Jewish experience and reformed Jewish history at Hebrew Union college Jewish Institute of religion in Cincinnati Ohio.

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Ari Goldstein: I titled it is just as prestigious as it is long Gary edits the market centers award winning semi annual periodical the American Jewish archives journal.

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Ari Goldstein: In 2006 he co edited a collection of essays on the history of reformed Jewish campion titled a place of our own the rise reformed Jewish campaign which you can find at the link in the zoom chat.

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Ari Goldstein: We were hoping to be joined this evening by Dr jenna Weissman jocelyn is a terrific scholar with real expertise on Jewish summer camp, but she was unable to join us, due to a family emergency.

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Ari Goldstein: As rick and Gary explore the history of Jewish summer camps over the next hour, please feel free to share your questions in the zoom Q amp a box and we'll get to as many as we can.

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Ari Goldstein: Since there are so many Jewish summer camps in the United States, please try to keep your questions, focused on the general topic at hand, rather than on the history of a specific camp.

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Ari Goldstein: We are recording this evenings conversation and we'll send out the link tomorrow, as well as making it available on the museums website, without further ado warm welcome to both of you rick and Gary feel free to get started.

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Rick Jacobs: Thank you, sorry and it's a pleasure to be with my colleague rabbi back to gary's Zola who is just an inspiration, one of the most brilliant American Jewish historians, that we have.

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Rick Jacobs: And someone who is himself a part of sin of Jewish summer camping and it's a treat to be with you Gary and all these nice people who, on this.

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Rick Jacobs: Wonderful summer day have said, this is where they want to be i'm going to guess that almost everyone who wants to be on this webinar.

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Rick Jacobs: is here, because there is a personal connection and we're seeing an unbelievable litany of I think almost every Jewish overnight camp in North America, and some of them multiple times.

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Rick Jacobs: But I also think you have on this webinar in our audience people who are part of multi generation families connection to a summer camp and they're across the waterfront of camps, so it is really.

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Rick Jacobs: An honor and it's timely because we're not just having this conversation in November or January we're having this conversation at a moment when.

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Rick Jacobs: Our camps, thank goodness, are once again filled with the joyful sounds of of kids learning and celebrating and having fun and being Jewish in the most natural and transformational ways.

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Rick Jacobs: I would just say personally I would not be here as a rabbi if we're not for my experience as a camper and a staff member.

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Rick Jacobs: At our reform movements camp in northern California, which back in the day was called camp swig today it's camp Newman.

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Rick Jacobs: And i've just got one personal story remember my mom signed me up when I was nine to go to camps swig and I was so upset I said to my mom, why did you sign me up for Jewish summer camp.

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Rick Jacobs: I said I don't want to go to Hebrew school in the summer and I imagined that we got the camp they're going to sit us in deaths.

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Rick Jacobs: in classrooms with chalkboards and we'd have like you know basically a a hot version of Hebrew school, well, it turned out that my mom was right about everything, and she sure was right to sign me up.

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Rick Jacobs: Because it was one of the most engaging and inspirational experiences of my life, and I know today we're going to have a chance, not just to talk personally.

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Rick Jacobs: But the zoom out and think about what is this incredible incident institution of Jewish overnight camps which has frankly been something that has really shaped American Jewish life it's it's shaped a whole generation of leaders.

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Rick Jacobs: And at this very moment it's doing it's very magic I want to say that just we'll talk about maybe a little later, but after coven.

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Rick Jacobs: there's never been a more challenging summer to open camp, no matter where you are.

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Rick Jacobs: But are remarkable staffs across all the different camps are doing it they're doing it safely they're doing it brilliantly and really we must just say now, we thank you, but color code.

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Rick Jacobs: To all those who have been working overtime, to bring the magic back, but rabbi Gary rabbi Dr Gary Zola I mean to me that's a mouthful but you've earned each of those titles.

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Rick Jacobs: rasool Allah can you talk give us give us historians take on this not not our personal tape but can you tell us where did they come from, why do they matter and just give us a perspective that only you have.

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Gary P. Zola: Well i'd be happy to do that before I do that you know we both got very lavish introductions rabbi Jacobs, but, but the most important.

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Gary P. Zola: fact about our biographies was left out, and I want to make sure we begin that way, I am honored to be in the same ordination classes rabbi Jacobs, and the great class of 1982 so.

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Gary P. Zola: You know, in their head, I always say to rabbi Jacobs, there has to be someone at the top of the class which is rabbi Jacobs who's leading our reform movement and and, as always, always at the bottom, but nevertheless it's great to be here with you and I love your story i'm going to.

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Gary P. Zola: i'm going to resist the urge to tell a similar story about myself and just you know respond to your question, because it is important, I want to say that about 1520 years ago a sociologist for Brandeis.

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Gary P. Zola: Really began to study the the extent of how reform how Jewish camping has impacted the North American Community Jewish community and at that time, this is already almost two decades ago they said that there's nearly 200 bona fide summer camps in in in North America.

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Gary P. Zola: And that serve approximately 80,000 young people every year.

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Gary P. Zola: And that doesn't include another 15 or St 18,000 young adults who are college students and so forth, through serving the staff, but are also participants in the program and I think we all know, and maybe we'll get into this a little later that the extent of.

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Gary P. Zola: Jewish camping and its its impact on on Jewish life is.

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Gary P. Zola: Is is really almost defies description and and and and when you think about its beginnings I don't know that we would have imagined this just a few points because we, we have to do this quickly, but you know, one of the important points is a camping what we call summer camping or.

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Gary P. Zola: Multi week camping is really an American innovation it's something that really began in the United States and has been exported all around the world.

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Gary P. Zola: Believe it or not, camping begins during the civil war and i'll show this if I have time a little later, I have some illuminations of this begins during the civil war and the the.

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Gary P. Zola: Smoke the inspiration of a man who, by the name of gun.

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Gary P. Zola: Frederick gun who who believed that he was too old to go to fight and so he took these young people, they were teenagers he brought them together.

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Gary P. Zola: to emulate what the Union soldiers were doing and and that continued on after the war.

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Gary P. Zola: And it was from that militaristic beginning where they lived in tents and they cook their own food and they.

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Gary P. Zola: Add discipline and so comes from that that American camping begins so by the 1870s we begin to see a new innovation that that that occurs, and that is the idea of building up character and education.

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Gary P. Zola: camps are begin this way and they begin to serve both a wealthy clientele and very poor clientele people who lived in the inner cities and.

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Gary P. Zola: A part of what it was called the fresh air movement and it's at this time in the 1890s 1880s 1890s that some Jews begin to acquire camps, they begin to purchase camps and they begin to go into the camping business.

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Gary P. Zola: But it isn't until the 20th century that what you might call intentionally Jewish camps are begin to take shape and i'll spell this out to a few of the specific leading names, but.

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Gary P. Zola: These are camps that the Jewish community actually begins to organize different parts of the Jewish community, and they have different purposes.

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Gary P. Zola: And then the final two steps come after World War one or perhaps during World War one and, right after one is when the idea of actual Jewish education is infused into the camps and that begins.

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Gary P. Zola: In the teens of the 20th century and followed by a whole series of what you might call.

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Gary P. Zola: educational initiatives that take place in camping and the very last phase is when the religious denominations begin.

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Gary P. Zola: To create their own camps at using that this idea of educational camping and the educational experience to actually teach the religious experience from the perspective of the specific denomination and, of course.

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Gary P. Zola: This is the first religious denomination to to create such an effort was the conservative movement which.

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Gary P. Zola: camera MMA began about five or six years before the reform movement began its camping program so that's the overview, in other words to summarize rabbi Jacobs.

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Gary P. Zola: What you really have is an American institution, and as I always teach my classes if it's American.

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Gary P. Zola: it's going to be American Jewish and so out of out of this American institution, some of the themes that were a part of the camping movement of America begin to inspire first.

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Gary P. Zola: People to own camps and to run camp then Jewish institutions begin to take on the camping idea, and then you begin with the educational initiatives for various ideas Zionism Hebrew and so forth, and finally.

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Gary P. Zola: you end up with the denominational camps and the impact that this entire apparatus has had on our Jewish community I think many people would say it's one of the greatest.

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Gary P. Zola: Innovations of American jury and it has been just like American camping has been exported around the world, so to has Jewish camping then export it around the world, we have similar what you call American Jewish style camping all over the globe today.

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Rick Jacobs: Great very helpful and I think you already helped us to know some of the diversity of these camps, you know you're talking about the denominational camps, then there's a whole group that are really Zionist in their.

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Rick Jacobs: organization and in their program you also have the GCC in the Federation that Community as you described, we also have private camps.

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Rick Jacobs: Private Jewish camps and I, you know I think of one i'm doing a wedding next weekend.

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Rick Jacobs: And the the groom told me that every one of his groomsmen he met at one of these private Jewish camps where 80% of the campers were Jewish.

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Rick Jacobs: And the only Jewish practice was that the Friday night candles were kindled.

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Rick Jacobs: Services new educational program but the bond of creating a Jewish committee that has now been decades for this group, this cohort.

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Rick Jacobs: it's had also a very powerful impact So are we missing any one of the buckets of the different types of camps that we just make sure we got the the waterfront identified.

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Gary P. Zola: yeah no I don't think so the in terms of the camps, you were just describing I typically categorize them into into sort of pockets.

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Gary P. Zola: meaning, you have the camps in which the clientele and the owner are Jewish and identifiably Jewish and.

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Gary P. Zola: Therefore, they are viewed as Jewish camps, very often, these are for places where you have a high demography, abuse and the assumption is that everybody who goes is Jewish, but you really don't have anything else other than.

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Gary P. Zola: Everyone seems to come from a Jewish home and our Jewish background, the second division is like you say where the there's no specific educational program but there may be.

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Gary P. Zola: One or two rituals that are performed during the course of the summer, you know typically, as you said, it's lighting candles on Friday night at maybe even I remember, for example.

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Gary P. Zola: Before I began to go to the reform camp.

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Gary P. Zola: On Friday night we sang not the Multi at this Jewish camp that the first one, I went to but we saying the Lord is good to me.

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Gary P. Zola: And so I thank the Lord for giving me the apple tree the sun, the rain and whatever it is, and that was it that was not that wasn't the mochi but we said that.

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Gary P. Zola: In a sort of a prayerful way, and so there are those two notions, in a sense, and these were the first camps in a way, these were people.

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Gary P. Zola: who bought camps, who got into the camping business and who wanted to eat you don't to create it was it was only after a few decades that you begin to get into the purposeful mission of the camp for for the Jewish community.

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Rick Jacobs: beautiful and we're seeing lots of great comments, as well as a few questions mixed in, in the chat.

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Rick Jacobs: But, of course, you know we have Yiddish speaking, we have socialist, we have the entire you know diversity of our Jewish community reflected in their own camps and some of them have been going strong for a century.

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Rick Jacobs: Some you know we're strong and our lesson today and, yes, orthodox conservative reform reconstruction is in all of the different stripes when we talk about denominational it's across everything.

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Gary P. Zola: You know it's it's very interesting what you just said rabbi Jacobs, our colleague from Brandeis university.

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Gary P. Zola: Professor Jonathan krasner has written on this and is very fine book on Samson bender Lee, why is it that some of the camps.

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Gary P. Zola: have not been able to continue on whereas some have lasted for 100 years or more, and he he argues that.

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Gary P. Zola: And and it's it's worth thinking about I I don't want to say i'm persuaded completely, but if he argues.

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Gary P. Zola: That the camps that have not continue to upgrade their facilities.

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Gary P. Zola: To offer the kind of quality that camping needs to offer, just like classrooms and schools have to continue to improve and provide the kind of high level a facilities that those camps that were you know really rundown and rustic lost their luster and people then began.

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Gary P. Zola: To you know not want to go to those camps and go to higher end camps and and that the Jewish camping moment has followed in that footsteps I know, for example, i've been being.

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Gary P. Zola: Someone who went to one of our camps in the reform movement, I can say without question that the the level of the facilities has grown over the years, remarkably and and and so have the programs.

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Rick Jacobs: Beautiful beautiful I love also that people are just basically putting things on our discuss list so we'll keep them there.

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Rick Jacobs: rabbis older, you are obviously the director of the amazing American Jewish archives I would love for you can you share some of the riches of the archives in terms of Jewish summer camping would really help maybe give a face to some of what we're talking about.

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Gary P. Zola: Absolutely I i'm delighted to do so and i'm just going to share a few and one of the one of the amazing things that I hope everyone can Can you see my my starting side great.

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Gary P. Zola: The one thing I do want to say, because you know i'm sure this is everyone who is on this massive a webinar there's no way friends that I or rabbi Jacobs can mention every single camp and i'm about to show some documents.

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Gary P. Zola: Know archives has a record of every single camp, and so, but I do want to stress that the American Jewish archives even know it has its strength in.

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Gary P. Zola: in preserving the records of the liberal Jewish community we have many, many records from beyond that i'm going to begin by showing you that so first of all.

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Gary P. Zola: I mentioned earlier.

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Gary P. Zola: Mr gun Frederick gun, and this is a rare picture from the library of Congress of.

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Gary P. Zola: His cappers in the year 1861 on the green in Washington DC where he marched them to, and you, you see that there was even a girl, if you look all the way to your left.

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Gary P. Zola: As a part of of of that group, and that this man is considered by the American camping association to be the founder of American camping because of this initiative.

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Gary P. Zola: here's the scheduling of.

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Gary P. Zola: We don't have any pictures of the scheduling of Camp choco.

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Gary P. Zola: choco was started by Ernest balls in 1881 and.

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Gary P. Zola: He was a Dartmouth student and a very religious episcopal who had the idea of building up character for people who would waste away their summers.

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Gary P. Zola: sitting in their houses and so forth, and he's often credited with a providing camping with this idea of spiritual mission of making people better by being at Camp together in community.

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Gary P. Zola: When I mentioned earlier that.

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Gary P. Zola: That Jews began to acquire camps here's a great example of it rabbi Bernard Aaron rife there's several articles on this man rabbi Jacobs and rabbi Aaron ranks a graduate of the Jewish theological seminary and he purchased the campus ultimately in Canada it's a very famous camp and.

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Gary P. Zola: fits that bill, you were just describing it doesn't necessarily have what you would call a Jewish program but my many, if not most of the campers have been Jewish and there's a certain Jewish flavor to it and here's.

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Gary P. Zola: The name of that camp that he started his camp co Agha, and this is their bulletin, you can see a little picture of what things to call the Doc that's Aaron rice on the on the mantle and listed.

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Gary P. Zola: On the mantle is one of his famous things that Dr rabbi Aaron Ryan as God gave us the fire so gave he us the warmth of friendship.

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Gary P. Zola: Aaron rifles famous also for.

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Gary P. Zola: saying he knew how to define God G O D, the great outdoors.

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Gary P. Zola: So.

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Gary P. Zola: That when I when when when I said that Jewish institutions begin to take root and and start their own camps, one of the oldest camps in America.

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Gary P. Zola: Jewish camps is surprised like camp, which still is going on, to this day was established by the educational alliance, its purpose was to reach out to the immigrants who were sitting in the inner cities, then, and so forth in that camp has had a distinguished history.

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Gary P. Zola: And I don't have time to go into it, but the whole idea of native American culture and camps was very, very important in terms of building character and, believe it or not, before we do today is our camps.

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Gary P. Zola: Many of our camps, it had this what we would call native American culture and here is surprise like camp an Indian pageants from the 1930s, these were Jewish Native Americans, I guess, so.

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Gary P. Zola: You mentioned and it's very important, now we these documents that i'm showing you right now we have at the American Jewish archives and I, I must say I don't know she's listening if she's in the crowd but.

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Gary P. Zola: A woman who wrote an outstanding volume on the Yiddish camps and on the Yiddish culture in America freedom, freedom right.

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Gary P. Zola: After she published her book and I commend it to everyone, she gave a whole collection of her materials to the American Jewish archives so.

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Gary P. Zola: If you're looking for materials on Camp boy brick or can hinder land or or or some of the socialist camps, we have that material So you see it here, you know find the calendar.

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Gary P. Zola: camp boy brick, and here is a rare picture from her collection that's at the American Jewish archives of Camp boy breck it it's very early years.

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Gary P. Zola: And and here's another picture that came from freedom collection camp kindred land kindler land was a Socialist camp and still exists today it.

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Gary P. Zola: was run by the arbiter ring and today it's a still exist, but not as a Jewish camp, but as a.

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Gary P. Zola: Multi cultural camp.

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Gary P. Zola: right here is the workmen circle camp very.

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Gary P. Zola: They wrote on the picture impressive flagpole ceremony from the workman's circle campaign, you would begin with flag.

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Gary P. Zola: flag raising, which is, I remember as a camper I don't know about you rabbi Jacobs, we used to begin with the flag raising.

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Gary P. Zola: And then you have this this is often viewed as the first educational camping experience the feds when camp and torture of as sense when camps, I saw some people were indicating they grew up at the set when camps that's great statue in camps.

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Gary P. Zola: were started in New York was out of the central Jewish agency in New York, which was.

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Gary P. Zola: aimed at educational purposes to strengthen educational purposes and created a camp in 1919 which ran until I believe the.

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Gary P. Zola: 80s or 90s if i'm not mistaken, and that camp is often viewed as the first attempt to actually teach about Judaism in the new what you call the in a creative and experiential educational mode.

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Gary P. Zola: and

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Gary P. Zola: We talked about some of the specialty camps sampson bender Lee the great Jewish educators started camp asked by.

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Gary P. Zola: In 1927, which was a Hebrew speaking camp and a Zionist camp and there were so many of those I know some of the people are going to want me to talk about camp mo D and so forth.

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Gary P. Zola: Here here's a photo of a baseball game with you can see in the background they've got it all covered by CS they've got all the Hebrew spelled out in in the background and.

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Gary P. Zola: Finally, we get to the denominational camps, and this is a picture from the first summer.

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Gary P. Zola: camp, Roma and cut over Wisconsin and there's a whole history of ramadi Thank God there's a volume on it and.

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Gary P. Zola: I could talk about it, but I know where we're short of time, so i'm just going to finish up with of course the crowd will forgive me, how could we have the President of the Union for reform Judaism here, I have to talk about the reform movements camps.

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Gary P. Zola: The first camp established in 1952 was cardamom in a kind of mark Wisconsin, and here I am showing you something I don't know if you.

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Gary P. Zola: ever seen because it's not only photos that are important it's documents you're looking at a picture that rabbi your predecessor rabbi eyes and draft wrote.

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Gary P. Zola: To Johan ackerman ackerman was in Chicago a lay person he was a manufacturer of auto parts and he was very active in the Chicago region, and he was T lay leader.

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Gary P. Zola: to establishing the camp, with the Chicago rabbis and once the Chicago travis had purchased the camp, there was a deal that was worked out and the Union became the owner of the camp and i'm just going to blow up for the for the audience this one paragraph that rabbi.

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Gary P. Zola: eyes address rights that's so moving to me, he says, I cannot tell you what a tremendous thrill I received when I read your letter.

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Gary P. Zola: And I held in my hand the actual certificate of ownership in the first Union Institute of the EU a HC.

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Gary P. Zola: ever to be officially and actually establish and then I go to the second paragraph rick because it says, this is indeed a historic document which is going to be focused added and forward to the American Jewish archives, so this is how we are connected.

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Gary P. Zola: And this is the famous Arc that the first campers built at that camp, and this is from one of the early brochures, you can see that we play you see the canoe and one of the buildings in the background.

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Gary P. Zola: People reading Torah, these are all from early brochures advertising the camp.

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Gary P. Zola: I said earlier, rabbi zalman chapter salome came to the camp, there is, we have documentary evidence that's from our collection and Cincinnati and he spoke to the campers he was still wearing his hasidic guard in those days.

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Gary P. Zola: And of course we could talk about too and we'll probably talk about the tremendous impact that camping music camping prayer has had on our entire religious life around the world and debbie freeman, of course, launch that from our camp in Wisconsin.

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Gary P. Zola: The last few things i'll show i'm almost done is you mentioned rabbi Jacobs, you were the head of the Hebrew speaking program at the second camp in.

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Gary P. Zola: camp swig in in California, in saratoga and, and this is a newspaper from 1968 you people can see it says call Ha ha ha loots the voice of the pioneer camp, this was the Hebrew speaking camp.

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Gary P. Zola: In Wisconsin at the at Union Institute.

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Gary P. Zola: And 1968 rabbi Jacobs, is when Gary Zola was a Hollywood scene Member, and this is from the eat on, if you look down at the bottom, those of you who read Hebrew you'll see it says gear Sean and since we were in Israel together.

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Gary P. Zola: rabbi Jacobs those that's my Hebrew name carefully, and this is the 10 commandments for the Madrid and for the camper and it's you can see my humor which falls flat in the Hebrew but one day out.

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Gary P. Zola: i'll probably do a show you're on that are less than on that the last two things I want to show you is, this is a picture that means a lot i'm going to ask rabbi Jacobs, to talk about this picture right now.

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Rick Jacobs: Well it's.

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Rick Jacobs: amazing moment that's actually the summer camps wig when Avi tell Sharansky she was on the cover of Time Magazine her husband not Tom was in prison.

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Rick Jacobs: Soviet Union, and she came to our camp and I had just come back from my junior year.

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Rick Jacobs: But he university and she was going to speak in English, she got in front of 500 campers and staff and all kinds of journalists and she began speaking Hebrew.

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Rick Jacobs: And the director of the camp motion to me like get up there Jacobs, and start translating and, to be honest.

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Rick Jacobs: You know the Hebrew was was was not hard to translate the emotion was impossible this woman said her first words were.

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Rick Jacobs: My husband is in prison because he can't do what all of you can do today and tomorrow here at Camp speak Hebrew and freely practice or Judaism.

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Rick Jacobs: I tell you that, because you know it's one of those moments that really helped to shape me but it's shaped all those I know I saw in the list of parents will present is here.

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Rick Jacobs: All of us who remember that it was one of those shaping experiences so I must say to to you, Dr Zola, thank you for this incredible history lesson.

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Rick Jacobs: Can we can we dig down in a couple of key areas you've given us, I think some of the wonderful framing I know that some of the questions have been.

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Rick Jacobs: What has been the impact of Jewish summer campaign on Jewish life, and I want to show the picture of Bibi Friedman.

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Rick Jacobs: I have a deep belief, I think many of us, if not all of us that are experiences that camp reshaped the Jewish community and reshaped prayer it reshaped Jewish learning.

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Rick Jacobs: The idea that informal learning was experiential it was both delightful.

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Rick Jacobs: And impactful can can you just help us understand this was not just a summer vacation where we got to sort of you know, be outside.

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Rick Jacobs: It also was a way for us to for some of us, the first time prayer.

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Rick Jacobs: Really spoke to us and we brought those experiences back, and I think our rabbis must have been unhappy when many of us came in and said.

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Rick Jacobs: This is not what we want, we need, we need the music and the spirit and the creativity, we also need to go outside and you know smell the trees and the beauty of nature.

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Rick Jacobs: But I do believe that this experience, including there's one comment from a colleague who said that Dr Marcus your mentor and the mentor of all of us who love Jewish life in America.

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Rick Jacobs: said that the summer camps redeemed reform Judaism from itself, I don't know if that's an exact quote there was put in the chat just speak to the impact and again, not just in reform, but in conservative and an Orthodox and in design this camps, how did they reshape how we live as Jews.

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Gary P. Zola: i'm going to do that, I just want to make sure that we took down did I take down the the images okay.

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Rick Jacobs: Yes, thank you.

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Gary P. Zola: My pleasure, so I I think you're you're absolutely right that we could touch upon a series of individual.

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Gary P. Zola: impacts that that the camping movement has had on our North American Community and it's, not just in liberal Judaism, but really across the board, because the hasidim.

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Gary P. Zola: That the hasidic courts have their own caps and and also the reconstructions movement has started its camping and so and and that and, of course, so let's just begin to list we started with debbie Friedman debbie Friedman.

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Gary P. Zola: You know, it was really marks i'm not going to say she was the very first but growing out of and people, by the way, are studying this now.

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Gary P. Zola: Meaning music colleges growing out of the introduction of folk music into the camping me, you know, seeing out of that grows at what you might call Jewish folk music and that introduces a new liturgical tunes.

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Gary P. Zola: That that include not just Hebrew but also English words and those words will be carried that music will be carried back to the Community during the regular part of the year, and that has its impact that's number one number two is the whole topic of education.

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Gary P. Zola: The formality of education, which was borrowed from the public school system into the Jewish Sunday schools and the afternoon schools suddenly the.

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Gary P. Zola: In formality of education, the whole notion of experiential education is translated into the educational experiences back home be, in other words, why, why do we have to sit at desks it during Sunday school or in the afternoon, schools, why can't we.

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Gary P. Zola: You know, try to recreate the kinds of experiences we had at Camp number three is liturgy itself.

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Gary P. Zola: You know, as, as you know, camps, often in the early days issued going to the Union prayer book or to prayer books and.

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Gary P. Zola: You would pick out four or five of the main prayers and then cabins would literally write their own original prayers and prayers became very personal and this just built on on the idea that unless prayer is meaningful it's not prayerful and so.

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Gary P. Zola: The whole notion of liturgy and transformation of liturgy begins to impact.

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Gary P. Zola: The world, and even this, I want to stress that we may not be able to go into it in depth, but it's, not just within the reform or in the liberal movement to it has its impact beyond that and, finally, the last division, I would mention is what you talked about rabbi Jacobs, and that is.

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Gary P. Zola: The in formality of Camp itself affects the whole atmosphere.

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Gary P. Zola: When you're at Camp you become rabbi rick and that, and you know, there was a time I I can prove this with documents in the 1920s in the 1930s, the.

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Gary P. Zola: The room the rabbi and the synagogue removed and austere and far away, was an inspiration to people, it was a creating an atmosphere that people move people.

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Gary P. Zola: After camping movement began to have its effect on us a much more of an informal atmosphere in general begins to take over the synagogue and and that too is the transformational it has insinuated camping has insinuated itself through the generations, finally, because.

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Gary P. Zola: As 16 1718 year old people they go off to college and before you know it 567 years later they're married they have children, they begin to come into the synagogue and assume young leadership roles and what is it, they call upon.

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Gary P. Zola: To say how are we going to get people of my age back into the synagogue and keep them active while they call upon their most positive Jewish experience, which was their camping experience, all of these things have completely transformed Jewish life in America.

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Rick Jacobs: Beautiful beautiful I love that we also have this notion that's in the chat a number of questions about social justice.

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Rick Jacobs: cutting edge issues that we're facing as a society like in the 60s and 70s were those reflected in camp, and the answer is, of course, I remember when I was a camper.

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Rick Jacobs: We were told that one afternoon CESAR Chavez, the head of the Farmworkers was coming to camp and I said to my counselor that is so cool I didn't know CESAR Chavez was Jewish my counselor said Jacobs you're an idiot.

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Rick Jacobs: Not Jewish, but he has something very Jewish to teach us, and that was about having justice be in everything that we do, and in particular the way that workers are treated.

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Rick Jacobs: So I just think you know how does camp in many ways, help us across all of these different areas address very challenging issues in society, but camp actually found a way probably more easily and, naturally, to address some of these is.

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Rick Jacobs: That reflected across.

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Gary P. Zola: Why you're touching on something very important at first of all you're right there were very often major personalities who for some reason, new a rabbi or for some reason was was willing to come to camp, but you mentioned CESAR Chavez, I remember when I was a camper.

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Gary P. Zola: There was the whole issue of what kinds of grapes, we were going to be eating at Camp so, in other words, it goes beyond just.

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Gary P. Zola: That an important person like led Zeppelin who and, by the way, le zell did come to camps various camps during the course of his life and.

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Gary P. Zola: It was also you know how social action was played out in the camps, but here's something very important that I discovered when we were writing the book and reformed Jewish camping.

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Gary P. Zola: You know, in the 50s and in the 40s not every one in the reform movement was a Zionist.

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Gary P. Zola: And what what we learned in researching the programs of the early reform camps is that the camps were able to bypass that Zionism in the camps was.

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Gary P. Zola: And, and then, of course, of the young state of Israel was a very easily done and and that's another, in other words the things that that.

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Gary P. Zola: are young and are free don't necessarily have to carry on the issues you know synagogues and their rabbis they had their approaches to Zionism but the camps were new and so.

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Gary P. Zola: Introducing the young people to the State of Israel, the fledgling state of Israel, the camps played a very important role in that, and then, as you know, before too long.

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Gary P. Zola: In the 50s already you begin to have trips to Israel and nifty and Israel, and then you have the the the program of actually hold where we bring.

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Gary P. Zola: Israelis to the camp and and then, there have been programs, of course, where Americans go to Israel and so forth, so all of this you're right is is part of the social.

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Gary P. Zola: Part of that social action realm of the camps.

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Rick Jacobs: Ah, I just want one note about the surely theme, the Jewish emissaries one of my very honored roles as I serve on the board of the Jewish agency.

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Rick Jacobs: for Israel, and we have currently 300 she came in our camps there about 1300 I believe spread out it camps all over North America.

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Rick Jacobs: And amazingly I remember that time Sharansky said rick you should say thank you more that we send you these remarkable young people I said I can't Thank you enough they they bring a love of Israel implanted with in our youth powerfully I said, but not time, you should thank me.

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Rick Jacobs: He said why am I thinking you you you accept the gift from us, I said no, because maybe they're sleeping have their first positive experience.

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Rick Jacobs: In prayer and in shabbat and into Judaism that they did not know, and many of them go back to Israel.

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Rick Jacobs: And found their own congregations and bring the freedom and the creativity that they experienced at Camp.

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Rick Jacobs: So I think the show the theme and the mutual strengthening of our communities is something very powerful you know.

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Rick Jacobs: In light of all of the anti semitism that we so painfully or seeing there's a question in the in the chat, particularly for you our historian.

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Rick Jacobs: Dr Zola question is was part of the flourishing of American Jewish summer camps or reaction to not being welcomed.

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Rick Jacobs: At Gentile camps, was it really also that we wanted, perhaps to go to other types of institutions and they were close to us like maybe some of the country clubs and other institutions, how much did that.

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Rick Jacobs: factor into the growth and flourishing of this wonderful movement that we're celebrating today well.

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Gary P. Zola: You know I don't want to say that it had no role, but you know, to tell you the truth, I I you know, I think that it probably.

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Gary P. Zola: was really not not so prominent.

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Gary P. Zola: Because the the the the camps that Jews went to in the in the early part of the 20th century.

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Gary P. Zola: They were often owned by Jews.

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Gary P. Zola: They These are people who you know, sometimes, for example, these the camps were initiated for the purpose of helping the Jewish community or helping Jewish citizens.

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Gary P. Zola: And, and there was also the comfort level many times, people who would go away to you know arts camps or to tennis cancer to sports camps.

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Gary P. Zola: just wanted to be with their own community, so my studies don't show you know that that was a primary factor.

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Gary P. Zola: So no I don't see that, but one thing I will say is, of course, there was early on a big emphasis in many of the camps on American ization and and and and that was very important camps wanted to fake people, not only as Jews, but to show how judah ISM and American ISM are perfectly compatible.

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Gary P. Zola: So yes, that did play around.

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Rick Jacobs: So there's a question about gender division in some of the summer camps, you know was you know boys camp and girls camp separate camps and even within the one camp separate activities.

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Rick Jacobs: Obviously I would not probably have seen that so much in some of the socialist camps or we're trying to create a more egalitarian certainly within the non orthodox but what sort of the landscape of the changes and the experiences of the gender segregation well.

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Gary P. Zola: Yes, they're they're both of that both of those phenomena did occur, I think, have you noticed camp sense when originally in its early years had.

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Gary P. Zola: camp for girls and a camp for boys on the same property and you did have some camps that that had that they they were in the same if you will, on the same property, but in different sections.

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Gary P. Zola: And then that eventually evolved into you know the girls camp in the boys camp girls cabins and the boys cabins and so forth.

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Gary P. Zola: So yes, both both existed and.

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Gary P. Zola: Then there were there were also some camps that were just for boys early on and and just for girls.

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Gary P. Zola: And then eventually you know they they might partner up but.

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Gary P. Zola: No all of that did exist, but I would say that, from the 1930s 40s on they would be what we would call colored camps.

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Rick Jacobs: beautiful and there's a number of questions about.

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Rick Jacobs: Inclusion as a major focus today of camps racial diversity, was one of the questions asked and I would just say in terms of helping to reshape how we think about our Community, I know, in our reform movement.

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Rick Jacobs: We actually were able to welcome the first transgender camper That was really a real stretching of the entire Community, in terms of the parents and the camp staff.

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Rick Jacobs: And it actually preceded our movements, a formation of transgender inclusion in every part, so in that sense the camp was the.

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Rick Jacobs: The harbinger of where the movement would go and it was an experiment that took place there we're also seeing more diversity in terms of.

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Rick Jacobs: You know, Jews of color at Camp and you know to just celebrate the diversity and camp has an easier time, as you described in this beautiful historical anecdotes.

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Rick Jacobs: of being place where we could experiment, we could we could test some of those people with disabilities, these these are huge.

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Rick Jacobs: Parts now of contemporary camping and even does the sort of the specialty camp, you know the camp it's about sports Jewish.

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Rick Jacobs: and sports Jewish and science and technology Jewish and arts that you know, to really also address the current.

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Rick Jacobs: spiritual and actual marketplace people like more specialized things where they could grow their Jewish understand, but also some of the other.

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Rick Jacobs: Things that their children are embracing and learning from so we're actually seeing, I think, a very fluid exciting.

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Rick Jacobs: Renewal reimagine ation and camps, not just doing it, the way they've done it for a century.

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Rick Jacobs: But charting new territory, do we see some things I know it's not history until it's yesterday, but just what do we see in terms of some of the more recent trends that you've been able to see and notice.

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Gary P. Zola: One thing following up on what you said rabbi is that.

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Gary P. Zola: The making our camps available when you were talking about, for example, some of the contemporary opening up and inclusive efforts, but the.

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Gary P. Zola: Making our camps available to those who are physically challenged people in wheelchairs, or have other physical disabilities.

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Gary P. Zola: parallels the awareness that was beginning to grow in American society when buildings and structures needed to.

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Gary P. Zola: By law needed to begin to make them make.

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Gary P. Zola: Various places more accessible to people who had disabilities and camps were one of the earliest places where this wasn't making young people who, who had these disabilities.

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Gary P. Zola: giving them the opportunity to participate in camps this begins already 20 years ago, maybe even a little earlier than that.

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Gary P. Zola: And I also want to add something this might be, as what my my kids were referred to as as a random because it's it's it's it's not connected to the question you were just asking me but I i'd like to get it in that.

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Gary P. Zola: I, I know that in our liberal camps, both in the conservative and in the reform movement I can't speak more broadly than that I, but we should I point out that the refugee rabbis from Germany.

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Gary P. Zola: played a leading role in shaping the camping movements in the conservative and in the reform movement.

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Gary P. Zola: not exclusively, but a leading role, and I believe that the reason for that was that back when they were raised in Europe.

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Gary P. Zola: They were exposed to all sorts of youth organizations Zionist groups and and.

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Gary P. Zola: And that that experience these kinds of group activities and that enabled them to see the importance so back, for example on the west coast.

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Gary P. Zola: rabbi Wolf and the camps connected to a rabbi Alfred wolf in the camps connected to the wilshire boulevard temple or rabbi wally kilter la hammer has Shalom.

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Gary P. Zola: That you can speak to the role they played in camping in the Midwest rabbi shulman rabbi large rabbi weiner.

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Gary P. Zola: These were all.

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Gary P. Zola: Immigrants either coming before the Holocaust as refugees or even some who came after the leading role that they played should not be forgotten, they shaped these camps in a significant way.

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Gary P. Zola: Loud loud as well.

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Rick Jacobs: Beautiful Thank you, thank you for that random it really it helped all of us.

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Rick Jacobs: I want to also just say as Jewish educators and rabbis in his people who care about the Jewish future we know, many things have been tried to inculcate more Jewish connection, particularly among the next generation and some of them are effective, whether it be religious school day schools.

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Rick Jacobs: youth groups, all those things we did a very serious study of our alumni.

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Rick Jacobs: And it turns out that immersive summer camp experiences, is the most impactful thing we can do to give a Jewish spark and Jewish skills and Jewish.

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Rick Jacobs: yearning to the next generation, we found the following 82% of our alumni participate actively in synagogue ahava or a minion 89% of our alumni.

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Rick Jacobs: give their children a Jewish education so again, we think of as a Jewish community, what are the places where we should invest in now here's the hardest statistic.

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Rick Jacobs: You said, I think, accurately they're probably about 80,000 kids at Jewish overnight camp, we in the reform them at 15 overnight camps, we have about 10,000.

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Rick Jacobs: campers and staff right now in camp, but the scary thing is that, as impactful as it is only 10% of the young people who are eligible to go to Jewish overnight camp.

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Rick Jacobs: experiencing that now again, some of it is not just financial we I think all the camps do a lot of work around scholarships, there are a lot of other competing types of camps and experiences.

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Rick Jacobs: But if we know this experience is so unbelievably impactful wouldn't we want to create a Jewish knew that had the opportunity for every single.

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Rick Jacobs: Jewish young person to experience overnight camp that might be the most effective thing we could do as a Jewish community.

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Rick Jacobs: And their number of questions in terms of inculcating a love for Israel left for the Hebrew language, the Yiddish language.

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Rick Jacobs: These are accomplished so powerfully in our overnight camps, but I think our only sadness and a day of celebrating all of this amazing impact.

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Rick Jacobs: Is that it's still a fairly narrow slice of our Community and again to even you know share out with the many people on the webinar today, how do we advocate for more.

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Rick Jacobs: more opportunities more again, can we create more camps, the answer is yes we've added two hours.

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Rick Jacobs: I i'm sure the history with tell us about the expansion of the wide camping network, but the power is clear, no demographer no Jewish educational you know.

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Rick Jacobs: Professional would deny that and can we get more again the people who've gone have been impacted and carry that everywhere in Jewish life.

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Rick Jacobs: But the question is, can we do more and I think, maybe that's you know, one of our last questions to just kind of clothes on and specifically thinking about.

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Rick Jacobs: This summer, with coven you know, having to test our campers and know people say well aren't everyone who walks into camp this summer vaccinated with answers we've got kids Come on, we can have you know eight year olds are not being vaccinated so we have created as have.

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Rick Jacobs: All of the camps, the GCC camps, the Wer ma the ncs while the Orthodox kim's we've created in the private camp a safe way to be at Camp we've adapted to something that's been so unbelievably devastating but we've done it.

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Rick Jacobs: So kind of like a looking forward question my beloved colleague, you know you are shaped by your experiences that is really I was shaped.

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Rick Jacobs: we're just going to know that 500 plus people on the in the chat have said, their own stories of being impacted, we are not doubting that but what what's what's ahead if you can, or what would you want to be ahead for us.

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Gary P. Zola: I want I I i'll i'll try my best and i'd love to hear your final thoughts on that as well, but you know the one another important factor that you, you know you you you didn't yet mentioned, but I know is on your mind is that the whole.

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Gary P. Zola: panoply of Jewish leadership has been transformed by camping This is where mess, a significant numbers of future rabbis cantor's Jewish educators leaders of Jewish communities are.

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Gary P. Zola: Ever since the post World War Two period the camping movement has produced that so it's, not only is it these people that we're talking about but it's also leading the future i'll tell you what my answer would be.

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Gary P. Zola: I think when you look at the early.

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Gary P. Zola: pioneers of educational camping i'm just going to confine myself to people like tenderly people like school men people.

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Gary P. Zola: Of the of the of the of that ilk these people were fanatics about their mission they believed deeply in their mission with a passion and they acted on it, and I think.

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Gary P. Zola: That That is really what we need to do we need to those of us who are today the beneficiaries.

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Gary P. Zola: Of the camping movement, we need to continue to pay it forward with more bigger and more commitment I think we all felt rab I didn't wait.

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Gary P. Zola: What what we lost last summer in so many ways we felt we realized what we lost, and now that we were we we've got the privilege of having a second chance.

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Gary P. Zola: We, we have to, we have to do more, thank God, we like you said, we have many, many people who are investing in camping and making it possible for young people to go.

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Gary P. Zola: We have a foundation for Jewish camping which is doing good work for all of our camps and that needs to be mentioned.

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Gary P. Zola: a wonderful innovation that's I think now 20 or 25 years old.

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Gary P. Zola: But we have to do more, we have to expand we just as we want to send our young people to.

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Gary P. Zola: To spend time in Israel, we need to send more and more to camping it's going to take the work of our rabbis the work of our leaders of organizations.

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Gary P. Zola: that there should be competitions between all of our of our communities to see who can send the most to camp and get to a point where we have to open more camps that would be my wish that but i'd love to hear you finished.

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Rick Jacobs: Well it's beautiful I say amen to all of your hopes for the Jewish future and for the camping having a central role in that I would just say I know we're going to conclude in a moment.

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Rick Jacobs: Just to say amen to the foundation for Jewish camp, which has professionalize brought resources to all of our Jewish camps, as has J camp one at with Harold grin spoons phenomenal work we've raised the bar.

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Rick Jacobs: The the campaign that was done sort of you know, on the fly.

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Rick Jacobs: is now a deeply professionalized very thoughtful resources created you know tisha Bob is going to be next week we've got beautiful resources being created and shared across the whole system.

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Rick Jacobs: We are doing things to really think more systemically more strategically, but I will just end by saying it's about the magic it's about the spark it's about the joy and the delight and being Jewish.

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Rick Jacobs: And the creating of a real Community for those weeks we experienced something so unbelievably powerful that many of us have said, we can't imagine our lives without it.

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Rick Jacobs: Let it grow and prosper, let it deepen and expand and let each of the souls at Camp and, by the way, it's not just the campers it's also the staff, they are worth investing in.

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Rick Jacobs: We thank all of you i'm going to turn it over to our Goldstein from the museum, for his great work and bringing us together Thank you so much ra please.

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Ari Goldstein: And wrap rabbi.

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Ari Goldstein: Thank you rick Thank you Gary Thank you to all of you for tuning in and there's a lot more to this discussion, but i'm really grateful that we were able to.

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Ari Goldstein: present a little bit of it today sort of Jewish summer campaign, one on one we did record today's discussion and we'll send a link to everyone, via email tomorrow, along with some suggested resources on the topic, including gary's a dodgy but also.

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Ari Goldstein: Hebrew infusion a book that just came out and there's a bunch of other resources which will collect and share so as well as some highlights of.

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Ari Goldstein: Images of Jewish summer camps from our collection here at the museum Jewish heritage and links to explore the American Jewish archive collection.

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Ari Goldstein: I must mention that everything we do here at the museum is made possible through the generous support, so thank you to those of you here who are supporters and if you're not we hope you'll consider it.

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Ari Goldstein: Many Jewish summer camps are nonprofits made possible through donor support as well, so if you if you feel so compelled, please support the the summer camp that means something to you and your community.

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Ari Goldstein: We wish everyone a terrific summer a great time at Camp if you were kids or grandkids are there now and we thank you for tuning in.

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Rick Jacobs: Thank you.

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Gary P. Zola: Take care.

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bye bye.