Jewish Sleepaway Camps in So. California

Parent Q&A

  • Jewish Sleepaway Camp

    (5 replies)

    Our second grader is excited about trying sleepaway camp next summer when she will be 8.  I was not ready at that age, but she is an outgoing and social kid.  We're considering Jewish camp, and I'm looking for reviews of recent experiences at Ramah NorCal, Camp Newman, or Camp Gilboa closer to LA.  We attend a conservative synagogue, and our daughter goes to religious school there, although as a family we are not particularly observant.  Paying for camp will be a big expense for us (likely displacing funds we would use for family vacations), and I'd like for her to be at a camp that doesn't feel like a bunch of privileged kids who go to fancy camp and then on to fancy vacations for the rest of the summer.  Most of all, we want for her to be in a loving and welcoming environment with opportunities to explore her Jewish identity and all of the usual camp activities and social experiences.  Any thoughts or recommendations?

    RE: Jewish Sleepaway Camp ()

    My girls attended Camp Tawonga and really loved it. The cost is pretty comparable to the others and there are a number of financial aid options (as there are for all the Jewish camps, I think.) They have 1, 2, and 3 week sessions. A Taste of Camp (Session I) is a good way to start. It is only 5 days (Sun - Fri). If she's been away from home for a week or more already, you might want to do the 2 week session (Session II).

    You can also get more info on ALL the Jewish camps at

    RE: Jewish Sleepaway Camp ()

    Hello! I've heard wonderful things about Camp Tawonga from former counselors and campers. The camp is very welcoming, not super religious, and offers financial aid. Because the camp is right outside Yosemite, there's a big emphasis on the outdoors, with opportunities for backpacking and daily hikes. It sounds like a great place to spend a summer!

    RE: Jewish Sleepaway Camp ()

    My daughter is counting the days until her third summer at Ramah NorCal begins!  It was her first overnight camp experience in 2017and was a game changer - camp has become a hugely important part of her life and she stays in touch with camp friends throughout the year. It is a very down to earth camp (not at all “fancy”...we are a Berkeley family and it feels very familiar culturally) with a warm community and excellent staff. One of her best friends who is an anxious kid had tried overnight Jewish camp elsewhere for two summers and sadly had to go home after a few days both times. This past summer she went to Ramah NorCal with my daughter and had the time of her life. Will be returning for a month in 2019. The Camper Care Team is fantastic and they do an amazing job really seeing and knowing all of the children. It’s a warm, sweet, supportive and fun Jewish environment. I can’t say enough about this camp. Feel free to contact me if you want to talk!

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