Camps & kids | Tales from the front: Strange care packages, food-smuggling bubbes, rampaging cricket

If you went to summer camp — as a kid or counselor — you’ve got to have at least one funny story. JTA invited readers to submit their most amusing Jewish summer camp stories. Here are some favorites:


Bubbe contraband

Swimming at Camp Kweebec in Schwenksville, Pa.

My two grandmothers were summer residents of a bungalow colony euphemistically named “The Forest Lake Country Club.” They walked along the shores of Sylvan Lake every other day for the entire eight weeks my brother and I were at camp. Their major goal? To see how much food they could smuggle into camp.

The most unusual was pushing an entire roast chicken through the holes in a chain-link fence. The two of them stood there, breaking the chicken into small pieces so I could catch it and then share with my little brother.

Everything was strictly kosher, of course! Cookies, mandelbread, even a homemade challah.

They gave me a rendezvous time and I had to make it my business to be there or there would be a price to pay.

Cheryl Jacobs, Columbus, Ohio

She attended Camp Kinder Ring in Hopewell Junction, N.Y., in the mid-‘70s.


Big girl

My first day at Camp Menorah, when I was 7 or 8, I went with my mom to the corner to wait for the bus. When a bus arrived on the opposite corner I insisted it was mine and I got on the bus like a big girl.

When I arrived at the camp, there was a big cross on the lawn. I had gotten on the bus for the YMCA camp. I turned to the nearest adult and pointed at the cross and said, “Um, I don’t think this is Camp Menorah.” They were very nice and called my mom to come and get me and drive me to my actual camp.

Betsy Aldredge, Larchmont, N.Y.

She attended Camp Menorah, a day camp in Essex, Mass., in the early ‘80s.


Merry prankster

Camp Sabra in Rocky Mountain, Mo., 1972 photos/courtesy national museum of american jewish history’s “go to camp!” exhibition

I was a member of the CNLO: the Camp Naomi Liberation Organization. We did everything from break into the dining hall for Manischewitz wine, 30 pounds of raisins and Pop Tarts to kidnapping all the other campers at 3 a.m. and taking them on a hike, so that when the executive staff woke up, the entire camp was gone.

We took all the sailboats from the waterfront and set them up in the dining hall. We took everyone’s left shoes in the middle of the night, which was a nightmare to untangle when the prank was over.

We went out after curfew to meet up with girls, and when we were caught had to run in our underwear doing laps with honey on our bodies or scrub the dining hall with a toothbrush. 

Rob Kagan, Boston

He attended Camp Naomi in Raymond, Maine, in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s



I spent all session liking this guy who was going out with someone else. When he finally broke up with her and asked me out (not that I caused the breakup), we had six days of camp left. After three days I broke up with him because I “wanted to be free the last few days of camp.”

Alix Wall, Oakland

She went to UAHC Camp Swig in Saratoga in the early ‘80s and is a j. correspondent.


Toilet on fire!

‘Fros in the 1970s at Camp Swig in Saratoga photos/courtesy national museum of american jewish history’s “go to camp!” exhibition

My first summer at camp I felt bad for the kids who had to swim in the lake in the early mornings when it seemed so cold. The waterfront director was very straitlaced, always serious and seemed to have no sense of humor. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice if the lake was frozen one morning and the kids couldn’t swim?”

Since I couldn’t freeze the lake, I  arranged with one of the kitchen staff  to get some dry ice, which we put in the waterfront director’s cabin toilet. Dry ice in water causes smoke.

He came running out of his cabin, screaming, “My toilet is on fire, my toilet is on fire!” One of the other male staff calmly went into the bathroom, flushed the toilet and that was the end of the “fire.” 

Rabbi Sara Perman, Greensburg, Pa.,

She was a counselor at Camp Naomi in Raymond, Maine, in ‘77 and ’78.


From Dad with love

Strangest thing sent in a care package: We had a dad who liked to send random objects to his camper. He would just send the item with the postage right on the item. The two most unusual things sent by the dad were a giant traffic cone and a plastic bumper of a car.

Most amusing crisis: Every now and then when there’s a rainy spring, we would get a cricket infestation. Staff had to sweep out crickets from cabins, common areas, everywhere!

Scott Braswell,

Assistant director at URJ Greene Family Camp in Bruceville, Texas


Helicopter parenting

Craziest thing confiscated: A mom who knew that we don’t allow candy wanted to give her kids a special treat, so she packed some Snickers bars in a tampon box.

Most extreme example of helicopter parenting: We had a parent who actually flew over in a helicopter!

Most amusing crisis weathered: The freezer broke on the hottest day of the summer and the campers were forced to eat all of our homemade ice cream.

Yoni and Vivian Stadlin

Directors of Eden Village Camp in Putnam Valley, N.Y.

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