Dreams of Interfaith Camping
My teenager and pre-teen are off at a sleepaway camp founded by Quakers: it has a lovely weekly ecumenical reflection time outdoors, called “dell.” I have often thought about sending them to a Jewish summer camp to reinforce their knowledge of things Jewish and give them a stronger sense of the Jewish community. But I can’t quite get over the reality that “sending them to Jewish camp” is an overt part of the institutional strategy to get interfaith kids to identify as Jews. Which in the case of my kids, would require them to convert. Jews are not generally known for their missionary zeal, but in the case of interfaith families, there has been some pretty aggressive recruiting going on, and I have tried to protect my children from being exposed to this, at least until adulthood. They are perfectly happy with their interfaith identities.
Meanwhile, interfaith communities–with religious education programs, community service programs, adult discussion groups, holiday celebrations, and even weekly services of music and reflection—are sprouting up around the country. I would love to see an interfaith camp for children and teens evolve as a next step. Interfaith children from across America could meet each other, understand that they are part of a nationwide movement, and explore their interfaith identities without pressure to choose a particular religion. They could celebrate Shabbat and get a taste of communal kibbutz living with other interfaith kids, but also sing “Peace Like A River” and “Dona Nobis Pacem.”
Our interfaith community is often described as a utopian bubble, someplace apart from the “real world.” Interfaith Camp would be a summertime utopian bubble—a safe place out in the woods somewhere for kids to be who they are, without pressure from an adult world obsessed with binary “either/or” labeling. I wish I had been to such a camp. I still wish I could go. Maybe if we build it, they will come. We could even have a “Family Week” for all ages. I’m going to grab my ukulele and my watercolor set, and meet you there.