August 2020

Mazel & Mishagoss: Did Someone Say Jewish Summer Camp?


By Stephanie Lewis

During the pandemic, your family’s Jewish Summer Camp experience has not been cancelled. It’s just been relocated. Inside your garage. What does this mean? First you need to think up an exotic Hebrew or Yiddish name they’ve never heard of. There are always lots of words starting with the letter “S.” But forget Camp Simcha or Camp Shalom. Those are already taken and now is the time to be extra creative. Who wouldn’t be proud to wear a tee-shirt with Camp Shmutz printed on it? Or Camp Schlepper?

Next slather on sunscreen and load the kids up in your mini-van, dispensing the Dramamine before you ever leave the driveway. Take a particularly harsh and out-of-the-way winding dirt path to your targeted destination, so they feel properly carsick. But before you reach this desired location, pull over to the side of the road and call Triple AAA. And never let them know exactly what went wrong. Think back. Was it ever an easy ride to camp on the bus when you were young? This will naturally trigger more eager anticipation for what comes next. By the way, when you went inside Target, (Your targeted destination, get it??) you should have stocked up on all things S’mor related. But you omitted the graham crackers because you knew you’d be using the stale matzah from Passover.

Finally arrive in front of your house with a big traditional Jewish fanfare. Hopefully while you were gone, one of the other Counselors-In-Training (known to you as your spouse) will have suspended an Israeli flag on your garage door. Continue your celebratory arrival by blowing a Shofar, spinning a dreidel, and shaking a lulav AND your booty. Immediately sit all the kids down on the overgrown front grass with pens and lined paper to write a letter home, since there will be massive postal delays receiving any mail in your living room because it’s always off limits, except for guests on Sundays. Now…let the tie-dying begin. Anything in your garage is fair game. Those ripped bath towels, beach blankets, and car-washing shmattahs will never look more colorful.

But now you need a camp song. Though your garage is quite messy, the song should not in any way resemble the Clean-Up song from that KPBS show, Barney the Dinosaur. But it should have a lot of clapping, whistling, stomping, and maybe booing in it — and remind children of Purim. And in order to sing the song sitting in a big traditional camp circle, you’ll need to clear some space on the garage floor by returning stray items to their rightful place on shelves and inside storage units. Refer to this as your Camp Parade.

There will still be many extra cardboard boxes and empty cartons in your garage from when you moved in eight/ten years ago. But definitely think outside-the-box when it comes to arts n’ crafts and other programs. At Jewish camp, kids will be expecting lots of food, so feel free to also give Eating a Hebrew/Yiddish name and tada…..a new camp activity is born! This means in your Daily Camp Schedule you can list, “Fressing” as the morning enrichment, “Noshing” as a midday adventure, and “Potchke-ing Around the Kitchen” will be substantial evening entertainment. But remember the boxes above? Every camper loves receiving care-packages filled with goodies, but now a new mitzvah project reverses this idea. It’s called ‘Packing Up Garage Sale Flops and Driving Them to Goodwill.’ Refer to this boring chore as their first Field Trip and bring a cowbell to ring and your kids will find the entire premise exhilarating. Especially if you promise them a little Gaga (a favorite Jewish camp sport with a ball) afterwards, and then on the way home blast the song, “Shallow” from A Star is Born on your car stereo. Now remember the overgrown grass where they wrote letters home mentioned above? Complete your Home Improvement, err I mean Jewish Camp Experience, with each child getting a turn using the lawnmower and the edger. Nu? Nobody read the fine print? This was actually Jewish Landscaping Camp.

Stephanie D. Lewis appears in The Huffington Post and at



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