CJS spring series on “The American Jewish Summer Camp Experience”

The spring 2021 lecture series of the College of Jewish Studies will showcase “The American Jewish Summer Camp Experience.” There will be two lectures in the virtual series. On Thursday, April 22, Stanford University scholar Dr. Sandra Fox will speak on “The Jews of Summer: Going to Camp in Postwar America,” which is based on her forthcoming book. On Thursday, April 29, there will be a panel discussion on “How to Run a Jewish Summer Camp,” featuring former and current camp directors, Sima and Neil Auerbach, and Dr. Eliav Bock, as well as a summer camp alumna, Sarah Klionsky. Both programs will begin at 7:30 pm, and are free and open to the general public. Those wishing to attend should register on the College of Jewish Studies Facebook page www.facebook.com/bingcjs in order to receive a link to the program.

Fox will look at American Jewish culture in the decades following World War II, when American Jews climbed the socioeconomic ladder and left urban enclaves for the suburbs. Some communal leaders worried that the postwar comforts Jews found there would threaten the vitality of Jewish life. “Jewish educators, rabbis and lay leaders from across the ideological and religious spectrum – Zionist, Yiddishist, Reform and Conservative alike – came to see the immersive, totalizing experience of sleepaway camp as uniquely powerful solution for their communal ills,” said organizers of the event. “At the same time, campers and staff members clashed and converged, their intergenerational negotiations shaping postwar American Jewish culture both inside and outside camps’ gates.” 
They added, “Dr. Fox will discuss the fantasies that drove the establishment and growth of educational Jewish camping, how educators’ high hopes for camping shaped the lived experience, and how campers responded to these efforts, impacting discourses surrounding Jewish identity, practice, language, nationalism and intermarriage for decades to come.”

Fox is a scholar of American Jewish history, Jewish youth and childhood, and contemporary Yiddish culture. A Jim Joseph Postdoctoral Fellow, she received her doctorate from New York University’s joint program in history and Hebrew Judaic studies in 2018. Fox is also the founder and executive producer of the Yiddish-language podcast Vaybertaytsh, and serves as peer-review editor at In geveb: A Journal of Yiddish Studies.

The panel discussion on “How to Run a Jewish Summer Camp” will be moderated by Professor Jonathan Karp of Binghamton University’s Judaic Studies Department. It will explore the wide range of Jewish summer camp approaches of the last several decades. It will also offer a discussion of how camp directors have sought to market camps to Jews of all backgrounds and affiliations, and to deal with the many practical and logistical challenges running a camp entails. 

The Auerbachs are longtime members of the Binghamton Jewish community and have operated a variety of summer camps. In addition to their camp management activities, Sima served for many years as executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Binghamton and as fund-raising director for Hadassah and Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She was a Wall Street options trader for Rothschild Inc.

Bock is the executive director of Ramah in the Rockies. Ordained as rabbi by the Jewish Theological Seminary, he holds a bachelor of arts degree in Bible and a master of arts degree in Jewish education, as well as a bachelor of arts degree in urban studies from Columbia University. Bock has been awarded the Pomegranate Prize by the Covenant Foundation and is a Schusterman senior fellow. He is joined each summer at camp by his wife, Binghamton University Professor Dina Danon, and their three children. 

Klionsky grew up in Binghamton and holds degrees from Brandeis University, the David Yellin Institute in Jerusalem and Lesley College. She was a leader in the regional and national boards of the Zionist Youth Movement Young Judaea and attended the national camp Tel Yehudah for four summers as a camper and three summers as a staff member. A former principal of Ohavi Zedek in Burlington, VT, she currently serves as the assistant director for counseling at St Michael’s College. 

Because tickets cannot be sold at the door, the organizers ask that attendees make a voluntary contribution to support the College of Jewish Studies. Checks should be made out to the “College of Jewish Studies” and sent to the JCC, 500 Clubhouse Rd., Vestal, NY 13850. 

The College of Jewish Studies was founded in 1986 as a coalition between the Judaic Studies Department at Binghamton University and several local Jewish sponsoring institutions, including the Jewish Community Center, the Jewish Federation of Greater Binghamton, Beth David Synagogue, Temple Concord and Temple Israel. Its mission is to provide opportunities for quality adult Jewish education in Broome County. The CJS Committee strives to bring scholars from local and regional campuses for enlightening lectures; an effort is made to combine broad appeal with intellectual and stimulating content and challenge.