History & Hall of Fame

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!).

Historic Highlights

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 initial member agencies of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies


SLC incorporates as an independent nonprofit


SLC Today

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