Herzl Camp, which has offered a family camp in mid-August, is now offering a fall family camp over MEA weekend. What makes this one unique is that it is being hosted with the goal of bringing in families who are not actively practicing Judaism at home or who incorporate two faiths into their traditions.
Along with all the fun of camp and the beauty of Wisconsin in the fall, families will explore how Judaism’s timeless traditions and values can support parents as they work to raise kind, compassionate, grounded children.
“Herzl has a long history of engaging families from a diverse spectrum of Jewish life in an open and supportive way,” said Camp Director Drea Lear. “It’s open to all families and it’s focusing on a families’ journey.
“We’re in a unique position because we do that already. We’re catering to a diverse population. We aren’t a conservative camp, regardless of perception. Our program is about the exploration of Jewish values.”
The family camp will run from Oct. 19-22. Price is $120 per adult 16 and up and $50 per child ages 8-15. Kids 7 and under are free. The cost includes three nights lodging in a cabin, all meals through departure day breakfast, and activities.
Joshua Lipschultz is a St. Paul native and former Herzl camper, ozo and staff member. His wife, Kim Donat, is Lutheran. They are raising their two daughters, Hanna, 10, and Libby, 6, with both religions. They had taken Hanna to the summer family camp a few years ago, but are taking this opportunity to expose Libby to the camp as well.
“Before we got married we took a class to get an idea about how people do [interfaith marriages],” he said. “We discovered there’s no template and everyone is doing it their own way. Ultimately, we’re doing it on our own with the support of our families.”
Lipschultz said that growing up Jewish, he found that the religious and cultural sides of Judaism wind up intertwined to help him form his Jewish identity, but the religious component is a key part of the cultural aspect continuing.
“This camp is accessible and doing this at Herzl is a nice way of doing it,” he said.
The camp is run at a discounted rate thanks to a grant from the Foundation for Jewish Camping. The Foundation launched the “I Belong to Jewish Camp” grants which made grants available to camps and organizations whose goals are to engage Jewish families who aren’t engaged as much or whose engagement has fallen off. Rebecca Kahn, the director of field expansion for the Foundation, said other examples of programming focused on LGBTQ families, and another on teens.
The final reports haven’t come in, “but the initial conversations have been positive,” Kahn said. “We want to do more to engage families. The camps run great programs, but these can also develop pipelines for future campers.
Kahn said the Foundation has worked to try and reach families in interfaith or multi-faith families.
“We strongly believe that Jewish camp is the perfect place to experience Judaism,” Kahn said. “We’re starting to engage and work to get more children from those families that want to go. Camp is a welcoming environment that encourages kids to be who they are and be the best versions of themselves.”
Lear said she doesn’t anticipate running a weekend that’s all that different from what Herzl does normally.
“We’re running a weekend with ruach,” she said. “There are pieces that, if you want to learn more about Judaism, people can take it home with them.”