Jewish Sleepaway Camps in So. California

Archived Q&A and Reviews

August 2004

Has anyone sent their kids as campers or counselors to Wilshire Blvd. Temple Camps in Malibu (Camps Hess Kramer and Hilltop) in recent years? I am interested in feedback about how counselors bond with the kids, the focus on inclusion, warmth, joy, and individual kids' emotional needs, as well as the usual activities, sports, singing, and Jewish content. I went there for 9 years as a kid, and am wondering if these camps are still as wonderful as they were in the 1970s. Suzanne

While I do not know the current culture of Hess Kramer, I know that my beloved LA area (Malibu) Jewish sleepaway camp, Camp JCA Shalom (the Shalom was added in recent years), continues to be a favorite of a lot of the offspring of my former fellow campers who have remained in the LA area. If you are interested in a Jewish sleepaway camp that is not as rigorously religious as Ramah in Ojai (although I know families and their children who adore Ramah), you might consider JCA if Hess Kramer has changed or no longer exists. From what I hear about JCA, it is even better than when I went there, which was pretty darn great--spiritual, Jewish, touchy-feely, fun!

In trying to recapture the Hess Kramer feeling and Jewish experience that you posted, we sent our child to Camp Tawonga, near Yosemite, and our child reported tepid feelings about the camp because she didn't feel that the campers were encouraged to be particularly inclusive or mindful of their Judaism. In fact, she said that a lot of the girls seemed conscious of what each other had in the way of material possessions and expensive vacations. My child is also particularly attached to Camp Winnarainbow (circus arts camp in Mendocino run by Wavy Gravy) and, so, she won't even consider a summer session elsewhere.

Finally, the one drawback to out-of-area camps, no matter how great, is that your child collects friends who are not so geographically accessible.

Knows how a great summer sleepaway camp feels