Camps – Summer Camp Goes Greener

by Alanna Berman | November 2010 | 1 Comment »

Nestled high above the hills in Malibu, a Jewish summer camp is slowly making a name for itself not only for its commitment to a Jewish experience for its campers, but for its dedication to making sure that experience is a friendly to the environment as possible. A JCC overnight camp for students entering second through 12th grade, Camp JCA Shalom has made a concerted effort to keep all things possible green while encouraging educational opportunities and Jewish learning.

“We’ve been moving to become as green as possible for the last 20 years,” says Bill Kaplan, executive director of the Shalom Institute, “but our True to Nature Initiate officially began in 2007.”

The Shalom Institute, which owns and operates the camp and conference center on the same site, has taken the initiative seriously.

In 2007, they installed one of three solar panels. Now, the camp’s Olympic-sized pool is heated entirely by the solar energy gathered by panels that sit on a nearby hill. Solar installations are also affixed to the Finegood Conference Center, Hillel Retreat House and Emma Stern Center, saving the camp about $10,000-15,000 each year in energy costs and even powering the front gate at the camp’s entrance.

All cleaning products are now eco-friendly, urinals are water-free, and about two-thirds of the camp’s bunk beds have been replaced with models made entirely of recycled material.

“[The new bunk beds] last forever, and they’re maintenance free, but they aren’t cheap, so we’re slowly turning over the rest of camp,” Kaplan says.

But the crown jewel of JCA Shalom’s True to Nature Initiative, and of the camp itself, is the Shemesh Organic Farm — a three-acre area designated as a fruit orchard and vegetable garden, Israel garden and animal center, which houses the goats, mini donkeys, chickens and horses for the camp’s equestrian program.

A one-acre plateau, Gan Aya (beautiful land), is the camp’s fruit orchard and vegetable garden, dedicated to growing and teaching about organic produce while highlighting Jewish values such as bal tashchit (do not waste). Lessons about Jewish agricultural laws, planting seeds, composting, cooking for oneself, being thankful and saying blessings are taught here as part of the camp’s educational program.

“Kids can eat the fruit off the tree to learn the difference between growing a fruit tree and growing a vegetable,” farm director Elana Havusha says. “We talk about the longevity of it [planting trees] and connect a lot of this to Torah and text study, and [campers] appreciate the blessings in a new way afterward.”

Last summer, almost all (Havusha says 99 percent) of the food grown in the garden was used in an activity she called “outdoor cooking,” where food was harvested by campers and then either eaten fresh or cooked over an open flame.

“[It’s important to teach kids] not just how things grow but also how important what we feed ourselves is and how we make the food we eat,” Havusha says.

The Marla Bennett Israel Discovery Center and Garden, a Jewish and Israeli educational garden in the shape of the state of Israel, is named in honor of late JCA Shalom camper and program director Marla Bennett, killed in the 2002 Hebrew University bombing in Jerusalem. Located next to Gan Aya, Havusha says the entirety of the Shemesh Organic Farm began with this small, narrow piece of land.

“We’re teaching about the land and history of Israel, so that as you walk through the garden, you are also walking through different cities and landmarks, as well as the timeline of the Jewish people,” Havusha says.

A seven-species garden is located within the educational center, used to teach campers about the Judaic traditions and importance of the seven species. Different planter beds are marked for the Jewish holidays, like the one with an apple tree and wildflowers (to bring bees, which make honey) for Rosh Hashanah.

Finally, the newest area in Shemesh Farm is the Pinut Chai (corner of life) Animal Center, a two-acre plot above the farm and Israel Garden that houses all the animals at camp.

“We’re teaching kids about the ways to use animals on farms, why it’s important and ways we can live in relation to animals that’s healthy, but also just as therapy — we see a range of people who love animals,” Havusha says.

Campers learn about kashrut and the connection to Torah while feeding and taking care of the camp’s animals.

Outside of the farm, JCA Shalom’s year-round staff also works at making a difference when it comes to being green.

“Were doing a lot of educational programs, from organic farming and gardening to animals and connecting it all to Judaism,” Kaplan says, “but it’s become how we look at things. When we think about sending a mailer, we think about how we can cut paper waste and use almost all recycled paper goods, as well as soy inks, which are better for the environment.”

Registration for camp is available only online, where an electronic signature is accepted, to reduce paper applications for campers. A large recycling program is present all over camp, with several types of bins for recyclable materials.

Only compostable kitchenware is used at camp, and while a small internal composting program uses food scraps and animal waste in the vegetable garden for soil, Kaplan says there is still a long way to go.

“Our goal is to strive to be a green model,” Kaplan says of the ongoing efforts at JCA Shalom.

In 2008, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency awarded 200 organizations the “green beanie” award for green initiatives and environmentally friendly practices. Camp JCA Shalom placed in the top 10. Last year, the Foundation for Jewish Camp invited JCA Shalom camp leaders to speak at its annual leaders assembly as the Jewish camp going green.

“We try to be very mindful,” Kaplan says. “It’s how we make decisions [here].”

Shalom Institute

Camp and Conference Center

34342 Mulholland Hwy.

Malibu, CA 90265

(818) 889-5500

www.campjcashalom.com

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Southern California Jewish summer camps

Compiled by Jessica Hanewinckel and Alanna Berman

It may feel like summer is barely over and kids have just returned to school from exciting summers at camp, but applications for next summer are already widely available. If your son or daughter wants first dibs at his or her favorite Jewish summer vacation destination, now is the time to apply. Below, we’ve compiled a comprehensive listing of California Jewish overnight and day camps, grouped by affiliation. (Be aware that a camp’s listed affiliation does not necessarily imply that the camp does not accept campers from other Jewish denominations.) Begin your summer camp research here and get your kids excited for another season of Jewish friends, fun and learning.

Non-denominational

Camp Alonim

1101 Peppertree Lane

Brandeis, CA 93064

(805) 582-4450

www.alonim.com

Camp style: Traditional sleep away with day camp option

Camp location: American Jewish University Brandeis Bardin Campus

Grades 2-10 overnight, grades K-6 day camp

Habonim Dror Camp Gilboa

8339 West 3rd St.

Los Angeles, CA 90048

(323) 653-6772

www.campgilboa.org

Camp style: Traditional sleep away

Camp location: Big Bear Mountain

Grades 4-10, plus CIT program for grades 11 and 12

Camp JCA Shalom Malibu

Shalom Institute

34342 Mulholland Hwy

Malibu, CA 90265

(818) 889-5500

www.campjcashalom.com

Camp style: Traditional sleep away

Camp location: The Malibu coast

Grades 2-12

Camp Mountain Chai

4950 Murphy Canyon Road

San Diego, CA 92123

(858) 499-1330

www.campmountainchai.com

Camp style: Traditional sleep away

Camp location: San Bernardino Mountains

Grades 2-11

Camp Jaycee

Lawrence Family JCC, Jacobs Family Campus

4126 Executive Dr.

La Jolla, CA 92037

(858) 362-1132

www.lfjcc.org/camp

Camp style: Day camp

Camp location: Lawrence Family JCC

Ages 9 months-grade 12

JCC Camp Haverim

1 Federation Way, Suite 200

Irvine, CA 92603

(949) 435-3400, ext. 265

www.jccoc.org

Camp style: Day camp

Camp location: JCC campus

Grades K-9, plus CIT program for grades 10 and 11

JCC Camp Yeladim

1 Federation Way, Suite 200

Irvine, CA 92603

(949) 435-3400, ext. 265

www.jccoc.org

Camp style: Day camp

Camp location: JCC campus

Pre-school

JCC Camp Yofi

1 Federation Way, Suite 200

Irvine, CA 92603

(949) 435-3400, ext. 265

www.jccoc.org

Camp style: Traditional sleep away

Camp location: San Bernardino Mountains

Grades 2-8, plus teen leadership program for grades 9-12

Camp Israel Ami

11860 Carmel Creek Road, Suite G

San Diego, CA 92130

(858) 793-1605

www.kenjc.org

Camp style: Traditional sleep away and day camp

Camp location: Varies, but past locations have included Utah, Los Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco

Grades Pre-school-9

Camp Tawonga

131 Steuart St., Suite 460

San Francisco, CA 94105

(415) 543-2267

www.tawonga.org

Camp style: Traditional sleep away

Camp location: Just outside of Yosemite National Park

Ages 7-17, plus weekend programs in spring and fall for families

Chabad

Camp Gan Israel of Scripps Ranch

10785 Pomerado Road

San Diego, CA 92131

(858) 566-1996

www.cgisd.com

Camp style: Day camp

Camp location: Chabad Hebrew Academy in Scripps Ranch

Ages 2-12 years

Camp Gan Israel of Poway

16934 Chabad Way

Poway, CA 92064

(858) 451-0455

www.chabadofpoway.com

Camp style: Day camp

Camp location: Chabad of Poway

Ages 18 months-9 years

Camp Gan Israel of Oceanside

1096 Gallery Dr.

Oceanside, CA 92057

(760) 806-7765

www.jewishoceanside.com

Camp style: Day camp

Camp location: Empressa Elementary School on Mesa Dr. in Oceanside

Ages 4-12

Camp Gan Israel Running Springs

741 Gayley Ave.

Los Angeles, CA 90024

(310) 622-8030

www.cgirunningsprings.com

Camp style: Traditional sleep away

Camp location: Kiryat Schneerson Campus in Running Springs, CA, in San Bernardino National Forest

Grades 3-10, separate camps for boys and girls

Silver Gan Israel Day Camp

14401 Willow Lane

Huntington Beach, CA 92647

(714) 898-0051

www.campsgi.com

Camp style: Day camp

Camp location: Hebrew Academy campus

Ages 2-15

Silver Gan Israel Kiddie Camp

14401 Willow Lane

Huntington Beach, CA 92647

(714) 898-0051

www.campsgi.com

Camp style: Day camp

Camp location: Hebrew Academy campus

Grades K-9, plus CIT program for grades 10 and 11

Silver Gan Israel South County

24041 Marguerite Parkway

Mission Viejo, CA 92692

(949) 770-1270

www.silvergan.com

Camp style: Day camp

Camp location: Mission Viejo Chabad Jewish Center

Grades K-6 for boys and girls; grades 7-8 for girls only

Conservative

Camp Ramah

15600 Mulholland Dr. Suite 252

Los Angeles, CA 90077

(310) 476-8571

www.ramah.org

Camp style: Traditional sleep away

Camp location: Ojai, CA

Grades 3-10

Reform

Camp Hess Kramer of Wilshire Boulevard Temple

3663 Wilshire Blvd.

Los Angeles, CA 90010

(213) 388-2401

www.wbtcamps.org

Camp style: Traditional sleep away

Camp location: 11495 E. Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265-9796

Ages 8-15, plus CIT program

Gindling Hilltop Camp of Wilshire Boulevard Temple

3663 Wilshire Blvd.

Los Angeles, CA 90010

(213) 388-2401

www.wbtcamps.org

Camp style: Traditional sleep away

Camp location: 11495 E. Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265-9795

Ages 8-15, plus CIT program

UAHC Camp Newman

235 Montgomery St., Suite 1120

San Francisco, CA 94104

(415) 392-7080

www.newmanswig.urjcamps.org

Camp style: Traditional sleep away

Camp location: 4088 Porter Creek Rd., Santa Rosa, CA 95404

Grades 1-12

Camp Simcha

Temple Solel

3575 Manchester Ave.

Cardiff-By-The-Sea, CA 92007

(760) 436-0654

www.templesolel.net

Camp style: Day camp

Camp location: San Dieguito Park in Solana Beach

Grades K-6

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