It was the progressive values that attracted Natalia, now twelve years old, to Camp Kinderland two years ago. In fact, in many ways the camp doesn't feel Jewish, she explains. Yet it is Kinderland, along with her Sunday school at the Workmen's Circle in Boston, that gives her a place to explore her roots and feel connected to where she has come from. And that's one of the qualities she likes best.
With bunks named after heroes and heroines such as Paul Robeson and Anne Frank, and Olympic games that match sports with team cheers on behalf of justice and equality, Kinderland injects values into summer fun. Natalia likes that she has also learned more about being Jewish. She enjoys the Yiddish songs she has learned there and explains that, whatever your Jewish background, you don't get exposed to Yiddish songs in most other places. She also especially appreciates the Holocaust commemoration that the camp organizes each year, and feels it is important that she has learned not only about Jews in the Holocaust but the treatment of other people as well.
I'm Jewish and lost many family members in the Holocaust. My parents are no longer alive and I feel particularly gratified to see Kinderland helping my daughter maintain a Jewish connection. My wife, Alison, is not Jewish but grew up in a very progressive family. After trying out a Unitarian church, Judaism has become the dominant faith in our family. We both feel that Camp Kinderland, along with our secular, progressive Jewish community at the Workmen's Circle, creates a consistency with our values and lifestyle that feels rewarding and comfortable for everyone. Natalia never felt uncomfortable at the camp due to being a child of intermarried parents.
Kinderland is a small camp, with about 180 kids per monthly summer session, and Natalia enjoys the close sense of community. She knows almost every camper by name. The camp discourages competition which, Natalia explains, has made it more fun to participate in sports.
"Everyone can choose what they want to participate in, whether it's athletics or art or drama. People are allowed to be themselves," Natalia enthusiastically describes.
Next summer, her nine-year-old sister Sasha plans to attend Kinderland for the first time. She can't wait.