New Jewish Environmental Camp

Opens this August


By Susie Davidson

Advocate Correspondent


NEWTON - An innovative opportunity for six-through-tenth graders to experience both environmental awareness and Judaic education will be introduced by Camp Yavneh this August, at their Shavua Shenui (A Week of Change).

Camp Yavneh, a division of Hebrew College in its 58th year, is based in Northwood, New Hampshire. A residential Jewish camp which is American Camping Association accredited, it is located 1.5 hours from Boston on 65 acres of woodlands and waterfront in southern New Hampshire. Its campers, aged 8-16, come from the east coast, Europe, Canada and Israel, and represent a wide range of Judaic backgrounds. Its family atmosphere is reflected in the many 2nd and 3rd generation offspring of parents or grandparents who originally met there.

The camp is Shabbat-observant and Kashrut with vegetarian accommodations including a full salad bar, and fruit and juice availability all day. Traditional Judaic rituals such as prayers and Havdalah services are augmented by lively Israeli dancing, songfests and a resident band.

The ambitious and comprehensive August 18-25 program, which is staffed by the Appalachian Mountain Club as well as Jewish environmental educators, will include hiking, canoeing and camping as well as biblical teachings in an attempt to foster youthful appreciation for the natural world, in light of traditional Jewish values. It will incorporate classic camping activities such as backpacking, hiking (equaling from four to seven miles per day), reading maps and compasses, preparing food, and canoeing along the Wild River Valley and the Andoscoggin River.

“No previous hiking or canoeing experience is necessary,” stresses camp director Debbie Sussman, who says that the goal is “to teach the Jewish value of caring for our environment and appreciation of our world.”

The campers, who will be grouped according to age, will be able to check out animals in their natural habitats as they learn about relevant, perenially applicable Judaic texts and precepts. “They will look for moose, otter, and bald eagles,” says Sussman, “and will explore and compare components of biblical teachings, including the idea of stewardship over G-d's creation being a pillar of our modern understanding of responsibility for the treatment of our environment. The teaching of "Baal Taschit" heeds us not to destroy or waste even during wartime!”

“Outdoor education programs that incorporate Jewish learning,” says Judy Lehrer, JCRC’s Coordinator for the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, “are a great way for children to explore the natural world and connect to Judaism on a deeper level.”

"Currently,” says Sussman, “there are no opportunities in the New England area for Jewish youth to come together and experience the beauty of the outdoors in a Jewish meaningful way. Camp Yavneh has seized the opportunity to fill this gap and provide a both intensive and extensive experience. Shavua Shenui offers a great opportunity to take the best of the Yavneh ‘ruach’ and values on the road to new exploration heights!"

The cost of the program is $800 for the week and includes transportation, camping gear, food, and lodging. For more information, visit