If you haven’t been to Jewish Overnight Camp, it’s tough to imagine that there is “magic” at camp. It’s easier to dismiss it as hyperbole or something that the brain of a child created. You might even equate it with Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy.

Our adult brains tend towards logic and analysis. We like things that are proven.

Well, the unique connections that camp creates are measurable starting with anecdotal evidence like Lauren Cohen Fisher’s reflection at her Camp Pembroke Bat Mitzvah.


“One of the most important things I’ve learned at camp is that magic doesn’t always happen in the big, fireworks and rainbows kind of way. It hides in the small details. In the way that the purples and blues meld over the lake as you walk to services on Friday nights. In the not-fully-melted grilled cheese on Mondays. In the sound of the dining hall singing “Breakaway” during lunch. In the golden hour just before sunset when the lake seems to sparkle and the waves lap against the dock. In finding a counselor’s signature in your bunk and remembering that you are part of something bigger than yourself here.”

Her comments show mindfulness in taking the time to reflect on the colors that “meld over the lake.” You may be familiar with mindfulness as part as your yoga practice. It’s typically associated with being aware of the sensations in your body allowing you to be present in the moment. As Toni Bernhard explores in her 2011 Psychology Today article, “Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to our present moment experience.” Research results also point to it as a critical tool to help combat overstimulation and anxiety.

Lauren continues describing a sensory connection to the “not-fully-melted grilled cheese.” Her reflection frames a personal relationship to the counselor’s signature too. You might be thinking, “That’s nice.” It’s not only nice, it’s impactful. Both sense memories and personal connections are fundamental to creating a sense of rooted identity.

And now, you might be thinking, “So, that’s great for Lauren but how do we know it’s not just her.” We know from interviewing hundreds of campers over decades that they create sense memories, have moments of mindfulness and powerful personal connections. Some of them might even be campers you know. Yes, according to CJP’s community study approximately 15% of children (in Interfaith or Jewish families) in the Greater Boston area go to Jewish Overnight Camp. Here’s what some Summer 2016 Camp Tevya campers told us. (Video: Best thing about camp)

Some URJ Crane Lake campers also let us experience (Green Team 2016 -talk about sensory connection/overload!) Maccabiah (Maccabiah 2016)/Color War with them.

It’s your call.

Are the memories that the camp beach, lake, grilled cheese and color war create magic or the connections that science tells us help form rooted identity?

Maybe they are a little of each.


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