For us, there was joy in the discovery of new worlds, and the camp on Surprise Lake was something never to be forgotten.
An early camper, quoted in The History of Surprise Lake Camp
History & Hall of Fame
Surprise Lake Camp is one of the two oldest Jewish camps in the entire United States–and the longest-running in its original location. The camp originated as a program for Jewish boys from Manhattan’s Lower East Side. In its first season, it put up six tents for 25 campers and five counselors.
One of the first campers was young Eddie Cantor, who became a successful entertainer and one of SLC’s most ardent supporters—and only the first of many prominent SLC alumni (scroll down to see lots more!).
Founding of Surprise Lake Camp
92nd Street Y becomes a partner and houses SLC’s year-round office for a time
SLC becomes one of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies initial member agencies
SLC incorporates as an independent nonprofit
SLC is now a completely independent Jewish camp. We are a Core Partner of UJA-Federation of New York and a member of the network of camps within the JCC Association of North America.
The History of Surprise Lake Camp
Read the history written by Jack Holman in 1972 about camp’s first 70 years.
Historic Photos & Documents
Explore historic photos and documents thanks to the gracious interest of the Milstein Online Archives of the New York Jewish Community.
Alumni Hall of Fame
Entertainer Eddie Cantor
Singer/Songwriter Neil Diamond
Catch-22 novelist Joseph Heller
Actor Walter Matthau
Talk show host Larry King
Actor/comedian Jerry Stiller
Member of the band Kiss, Gene Simmons
Playwright/screenwriter Neil Simon
Former New York Attorney General Robert Abrams
Basketball Hall of Fame member Nancy Lieberman
Singer and American Idol contestant Jax