A spirited You Tube video of Camp Stone in 2012 shows experiences for participants at the Orthodox camp on 400 acres in Sugar Grove, Pa. At Camp Stone “Village,” campers are using farm equipment to plant orchards and vegetables, looking through microscopes during lessons on malaria, and hearing about Israeli life from natives of the Jewish homeland.
“It’s unique,” said camp director Yehuda Rothner. “We have a commitment to a thematic approach to Jewish education, where every child receives the full gamut of Jewish history. The ‘village’ is an experiential modality, in which campers learn everything from blacksmithing to glass blowing.”
In addition to Jewish history, Torah study is a focal point at Camp Stone, Rothner said, and is performed along with prayer on a daily basis.
Emphasis on Judaism, combined with such traditional camp activities as horseback riding, sports, boating, swimming and high ropes challenge courses, help produce a summer that students want to return to each year, he said.
“We have a 90 to 95 percent retention rate,” Rothner said. “They’re ‘lifers.’ Most of them move up and become part of the staff.”
An international staff adds to the uplifting atmosphere, Rothner said. “It’s really an international camp,” he said, with counsel ors and other staff members coming from 35 different cities and countries around the world, including Israel, England, Spain and Belgium.
Started in 1969, Camp Stone is affiliated with Young Israel in Beachwood and the B’nei Akiva youth movement. It was named after Irving I. Stone, a Jewish philanthropist who purchased a former camp so that Young Israel could establish Camp Stone.
About 100 students from Cleveland are among the 400 campers attending each of the summer’s two month-long sessions, including 275 rising fourth- through ninth-graders in the main program, about 100 10th-graders in the Outward Bound program and approximately 30 third- and fourth-graders in the Kaytana (younger children) two-week program. Many campers are from Jewish day schools, Rothner said.
Last year, the camp gave $320,000 in scholarships. For more information, contact email@example.com.
Day campers have options
Just as there are many Orthodox Jewish overnight camps, the Cleveland area offers Jewish families many options for day camps, including several directed by Chabad.
“Our kids get Chasidics while learning through play,” said Jill Weiszner, director of Camp Chabad in Beachwood.
Young children ages 4 to 6 and girls up to age 14 attend the camp at Green Road Synagogue while boys go to camp at the Waxman Chabad Center.
Campers learn about Jewish holidays, based on Chasidic teachings, she said, and start their day with Torah passages and prayer services. “They know they’re getting a thorough, not too intense education mixed in with their play,” Weiszner said. “We attract kids looking for a deeper education.” Campers come from diverse backgrounds, she said.
While education is stressed, so is spirit. Campers sing and clap to Jewish music, and enjoy traditional camp activities as well, including swimming and arts and crafts with professional teachers. Counselors come from seminaries in Holland, Israel, England, Italy, Montreal and other countries around the globe.
Camp Chabad partners with the Hunger Alliance and Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks to provide a kosher lunch and snacks for campers.
For information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 216-382-9992.
Another Chabad day camp is Camp Gan Israel of Beachwood, directed by Rivky Friedman. Opened in 2008, the camp includes students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
“We get a big variety of campers,” Friedman said. About half are from Fuchs Mizrachi School in Beachwood, and others are from Hebrew Academy of Cleveland in Cleveland Heights and Beachwood, The Agnon School in Beachwood, Gross Schechter Day School in Pepper Pike, and public schools.
“We want Judaism to be fun,” Friedman said. “The goal is to do everything in a fun, hands-on way, and to give kids a lot of Jewish pride and exposure.
“It’s all camps in one,” she said, with gymnastics, sports, swimming, crafts, cooking, scrapbooking tae kwon do and gardening. “We try to give the kids a wide variety of experience. We also do fun activities like a mock wedding and Friday Shabbat party.” Rounding out the program are field trips and horseback riding.
Camp Gan Israel brings in out-of-town staff members who have been to similar camps in other locations. “We look for nurturing, loving personalities,” Friedman said. Contact 216-282-camp or www.cgibeachwood.com.