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Three campers enjoy Shabbat services at Surprise Lake Camp.

The Positive Impact Summer Camp Can Have on Jewish Identity

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

If you’re considering sending your child to summer camp, you might have priorities like fresh air, exercise, socializing, and healthy personal growth in mind for them. Sleepaway camp offers these and many more benefits to kids and teens of all backgrounds. However, if your family is Jewish, the right camp can offer your child far more than a traditional American experience. Here’s how Jewish summer camp can strengthen your child’s cultural and religious identity—and why this is so important for their well-being and for the future of Judaism.

The Importance of Understanding Jewish Identity

It’s essential that Jewish children have the opportunity to learn about (and celebrate!) their religious and cultural identity. Summer camp allows them to do this in a fun, supportive, joyful environment that schools and synagogues can’t always provide. Here are some of the positive impacts Jewish summer camps can have on your child’s life.

The Role of Jewish Summer Camps in Preserving Jewish Identity  

Studies demonstrate that in addition to giving kids the chance to unplug, socialize in person, and enjoy nature, Jewish summer camps strengthen kids’ engagement with their identity and community in multiple ways. These sleepaway camps are important because they allow campers to do the following:

  • Celebrate Jewish diversity. Just like all families, Jewish families come in all shapes and sizes. Whether families are religious, culturally Jewish or simply have Jewish backgrounds, summer camps can offer your child the opportunity to celebrate Judaism. This provides an excellent foundation on which they can build their sense of self and community.
  • Celebrate Jewish culture. There are, of course, many Jewish traditions, and attending sleepaway camp allows kids to honor varying cultures and lifestyles. American Jews tend to see their identity more in terms of ancestry and culture than religion, which can help to offer a sense of unity across differences in practices and observances. Jewish sleepaway camps offer kids a rich variety of cultural activities, including those that honor spiritual connections between nature and Judaism.
  • Increase engagement with the Jewish faith. Immersion in Jewish culture can strengthen your child’s commitment to Judaism. There is nothing quite like celebrating Shabbat among your new camp friends, or ushering in a new week at Havdalah services. These are experiences your child will carry with them as they emerge as Jewish young adults.
  • Build attachment to Israel as a spiritual and cultural home. Forming a strong connection to Israel (and understanding the value of visiting or studying in the country) is an important part of many young people’s growth as Jews. According to a 2011 study, children who attended a Jewish summer camp were 55% more likely to feel emotionally attached to Israel.
  • Increase Jewish civic engagement. Studies show that kids and teens who attend Jewish sleepaway camp are significantly more likely to donate to Jewish federations and other organizations as adults. In addition to increasing potential funding for Jewish institutions in particular, it’s important to teach children of all religious and cultural backgrounds the value of giving back to their communities. 

Celebrate Your Child’s Jewish Heritage With Surprise Lake Camp

Surprise Lake Camp is a nonprofit organization that provides a home away from home for generations of young people. We believe in the value of community and friendship. Our Jewish values and identity shape our connection to nature. We’re dedicated to helping young people unplug, grow, and develop values, confidence, and skills to last a lifetime, adding to SLC’s storied history as the nation’s longest-running Jewish sleepaway camp. Learn more about how we celebrate Judaism at SLC.


SLC is a nonprofit organization that aims to provide beneficial camp experiences to as many children as possible. When you make a charitable gift, you give children life-changing opportunities. Partner with us to support camper confidence, growth, friendships, and Jewish identity. Donate today!