Camp Zeke Brings Healthy Living to the Forefront of Jewish Summer Camp

Nutrition1This is a guest post by Jilliant Aronovitz
There is nothing a Jewish mother wants more than for her kids to be happy and healthy. When most of us think of health, what usually comes to mind is the absence of illness; but health is really so much more than that. Being “healthy” means leading a vibrant, successful life that includes mental, emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing. While it may seem like a daunting task, we can excel in all of these areas through a combination of fitness, nutrition, and a supportive environment – which is exactly what Lisa Kravitz and Isaac Mamaysky had in mind when they founded Camp Zeke in 2012. By combining energizing fitness activities, culinary arts, and pure foods, Camp Zeke helps Jewish kids and teens lay the foundation for a lifetime of vibrant good health.
“We’ll be like the health club of camps,” Isaac says. “Some campers will focus on running, dance, or strength training, while others will come to enjoy organic food, create original recipes, or just kick-start a more active lifestyle.”
For better or for worse, food is a defining element of Jewish culture. As we celebrate many holidays and other happy occasions with elaborate meals, we owe it to our kids to teach them about healthy eating. After all, a large body of research shows that good nutrition improves every marker of children’s success, from happiness to academic performance.
In Camp Zeke’s professional kitchen, campers have the opportunity throw on an apron and cook elaborate meals with a professional chef. There is no better way to get kids excited about nutrition than to give them the knowledge and confidence to make and invent delicious, wholesome meals that are sure to impress friends and family back home. The camp’s program also empowers campers to become mindful of healthy eating. In our busy lives, we sometimes neglect to realize what we are putting into our bodies, let alone where it comes from. By becoming conscious of these things, we make better food choices and gain the corresponding health benefits.
If eating right is one side of the coin, finding activities kids love is the other. Like good nutrition, physical activity makes kids happier, more confident, and better students. “Our community strongly values healthy living, but very few Jewish programs teach kids how to lead a healthy lifestyle,” says Lisa.
Team-based fitness activities also build socialization skills, healthy competition, and goal-setting abilities – all of which easily translate into all aspects of life. Furthermore, active living not only prevents various physical diseases, but it can also reverse or prevent mental decline as we age.
Perhaps the most important point is that teens and kids love culinary arts and team fitness activities, as evidenced by the skyrocketing enrollment for these types of programs outside of the Jewish world. Campers can also choose from numerous fitness electives like strength training, dancing, running, swimming, rowing, and traditional sports. Moreover, thanks to the generous backing of three major Jewish foundations – AVI CHAI, Jim Joseph, and the Foundation for Jewish Camp – campers will learn from some of the top Jewish chefs and athletes in the world when they visit Zeke throughout the summer and run many of Zeke’s programs.
Camp Zeke, short for Ezekiel, connects with the Hebrew word chazak, meaning strength – in this case both of body and mind. “We believe that immense strength of body and spirit flow naturally from a joyful, healthy, and active lifestyle,” Isaac says.
Camp Zeke’s elective-based program is developed especially for 7 to 17 year-olds looking for an energizing, invigorating summer experience that leads to lifelong friendships and a community of like-minded peers. Camp Zeke emphasizes holistic wellness and empowers campers with the skills to lead a life of mental, emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing. “By learning how activities like cycling and Pilates connect to Jewish teachings, campers will begin to see that physical and spiritual wellbeing go hand-in-hand,” Jill says.
At Camp Zeke, kids will be able to experience the most amazing summers of their lives – and they might even go back home to teach their Jewish mothers a thing or two.
Camp Zeke’s first summer will be in 2014, in the New York Tri-State Area. But in the meantime they’re travelling to Jewish communities nationwide to promote healthy living. For more information, visit
Jillian Aronovitz is earning a master’s degree in mental health and wellness counseling at New York University. She has spent a number of years as a researcher at Children’s Hospital Boston and cares deeply about Jewish children’s health.