BY JONATHAN COHEN,
THIRD-GENERATION PRESIDENT, THE COHEN CAMPS
I’m often asked what makes the Cohen Camps “Jewish” and how we differentiate our camps from other Jewish camps. There is no simple, quick answer – it’s more than just being Kosher, observing Shabbat and reciting blessings before and after meals. We have a set of values that underlies the type of Jewish community we create at all three of our camps. We use these values in our continuous commitment to enhance how we integrate Judaism into camp life, make Jewish learning more experiential, and get staff and campers more involved in the Jewish pieces of the camp experience.
At the Cohen Camps we seek to nurture in our campers and staff a love of being Jewish and an ongoing desire to be involved in and to contribute to Jewish life. We view Judaism as a rich heritage and, what’s more as a powerful tool for personal growth – a set of values and practices which helps build one’s character, mind, and spirit, which helps each individual, in their own unique way, understand themselves and the world around them. A strong Jewish identity grounds young people, contributes to their confidence and sense of self-worth, and informs the choices they make.
We view Jewish community as joyful, dynamic, and creative. Positive Jewish values infuse everything we do as a community – from the dining hall to the cabins to the playing fields.
We embrace Jewish community as a wonderfully colorful mosaic which supports a range of beliefs and practices around a common core of values and commitments. We honor each camper’s unique place in the community, and support their personal exploration of their Jewishness as we cultivate their feeling part of something larger and enduring. We do not tell campers how to be Jewish; we empower them to discover that for themselves.
We understand Jewish life as an ongoing process: we stand on the shoulders of our ancestors, draw from the wisdom and experience we’ve inherited, and try to create a world of Jewish meaning we’re proud to pass on to the next generations.
We view Jewish life as deeply connected to the broader world – with an ultimate aim of helping to improve and perfect the world.
In the spirit of Sinai here are “The Ten Commitments” of the Cohen Camps – how Jewish purpose is expressed in the fabric of camp life. In subsequent posts, I’ll explain more what we do and how we incorporate these ideas in our camps.
Friendship and teamwork (חברות)
Diversity and inclusiveness (קהילה)
Service and responsibility (תקון)
As we move ahead as an organization we look to build on these core commitments and continue to honor and nurture the spirit of each individual camper and counselor, and give them a vibrant experience of Jewish community which support them on their journey.