Admit it. You’re a little envious that your child gets to head off to summer camp while you’re stuck at home or at work. If you’re a former camper, seeing your child climb onto the camp bus may bring back cherished memories. If you’ve never been to camp, you may wonder what you missed.
Fortunately, camping professionals know just how you feel and have come up with a remedy. Welcome to the world of adult summer camps, a trend that took hold several years ago all over the country.
There’s even a brand new Jewish one. Camp Nai Nai Nai will launch its first season over Memorial Day weekend at Capital Camps in Waynesboro, Pa. It is a collaborative project of Tribal Gatherings, a new organization that hosts all-inclusive getaways for Jewish young adults and Moishe House, a national nonprofit committed to engaging young adults in meaningful Jewish experiences.
The camp will provide Jews in their 20s and 30s with an opportunity to experience Jewish community in a unique and joyful way, according to Terry Wunder, Moishe House’s senior program director.
Jamie Maxner, Camp Nai Nai Nai’s director, looks forward to bringing traditional and eclectic activities taught by veteran camp directors. Whether it’s the art of pickling, laughter yoga, canoe racing, building gingerbread synagogues or just chilling by the lake with a beer, campers are bound to find something appealing.
Adult campers will stay in Capital Camps’ bunks and eat in the communal dining hall. The camp will offer Shabbat and Havdalah services for campers across the religious spectrum.
Ramah in the Rockies, in Denver, also has gotten into the act. Director Rabbi Eliav Bock says adults love the camp, which is semi-annual. Those who attended last summer’s program “came back with the same schtick as the kids. They start out not knowing anyone so well and come back with mud on their faces, singing songs, having in-jokes.”
The nonsectarian Soul Camp was founded by Alison Leipzig and Michelle Goldblum, two consummate Jewish ex-summer campers. During its first season in 2014, Soul Camp hosted 150 adults on the grounds of Camp Towanda in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, where both Leipzig and Goldblum attended camp for eight years. (If the camp’s name has a familiar ring, that may be because it was featured in the 2001 film “Wet Hot American Summer.”)
Today, Soul Camp has two locations — one in Warrensburg, N.Y., and another in Sanger, Calif. — and offers a combination of traditional camping activities and wellness programs such as yoga and meditation.
Leipzig estimates around 25 percent of attendees are former campers. “We also have a lot of people who didn’t get to go who want the experience,” she says. Jewish campers make up a sizable portion of Soul Camp attendees since, as Leipzig puts it, “We know the amazingness of it.
“People are just craving this kind of experience,” she says. “We spend so much of our time on technology. More than ever, we need to connect to ourselves and others. We want to give adults the feeling of freedom, adventure and spontaneity [of summer camp].”
For Annapolis resident Tania Pritz, Soul Camp was the perfect way to celebrate her 50th birthday and the next chapter of her life. A retired chiropractor and yoga devotee, Pritz chose Soul Camp because of its focus on wellness and spirituality. But she says she found the more traditional elements of the summer camp experience were among her favorites.
“It was so fun staying in the bunk and getting to know the other women,” she says. “We were up late giggling and telling stories, ate s’mores by the campfire, raided the kitchen at midnight. I sang in the talent show, took drumming class. I honestly felt like I was 12, except there were no mean girls!”
Karissa Schminky, 35, of Jacksonville, Fla., decided to try Soul Camp because she was feeling “stressed out” by her job.
“Soul Camp showed me that camp is even greater as an adult,” says Schminky, who attended camps as a child. “As an adult, camp reflects the huge dichotomy between our natural instinct to play, create and explore and the demands of the grown-up world. Once those feelings were awoken in me, they couldn’t be ignored. There is a lot more play and fun in my everyday life since camp.”
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