How To Have the Most Fun Jewish Summer Camp Reunion With Your Besties

This advice is S.W.A.K.

Hello and welcome back to Hey Alma’s advice column on all things Jewish life — check out what our Instagram audience had to say about this week’s issue, read on for advice from our resident deputy managing editor/bossy Capricorn Jew, and submit your own dilemmas anonymously here.

Hey, Hey Alma,

Me and three of my friends from summer camp, who haven’t all been together in the same city for 3 years, are finally reuniting this summer. We’re looking for some fun and Jewish-adjacent activities that can both scratch that nostalgic itch while also honor the fact that we’re adults with like, jobs and responsibilities and stuff. Any recommendations?

Hello! I love this question SO much. As a certified Camp Person (attended Jewish summer camp for nine years and was a counselor at not one but two adult queer summer camps!), I love camp friends, I love camp friend reunions, and I love leaning into the kitschy and intimate activities that often occur at summer camp that simply do not occur in “regular” life. I think particularly because you’re now adults with jobs and responsibilities, a camp friend reunion is the perfect time to embrace childlike wonder and fun activities you wouldn’t necessarily do on a random weekend.

Here’s a list of things you and your camp friends can do, some of which are explicitly Jewish and some of which just feel Jewish, you know?

Bagel Brunch

Find the best deli in your city and either dine in or get bagels (and lox, obv) to go. I think this is a cute activity to do early on in the weekend — perhaps the first morning you spend together — because it allows you to catch up in person and also take some intentional time to plan the rest of your weekend. Who doesn’t love gossiping and going over logistics while consuming carbs?

Crafting

Something I really miss about being a kid at summer camp is the built-in opportunities to be creative and get your craft on. Like, how come being an adult means I’m suddenly not given 50 minutes every Tuesday to make friendship bracelets, lanyards and collage mood boards?! If you and your camp friends are into crafting and being creative together, take some time during your reunion to relive the arts & crafts camp afternoons of your youth. Friendship bracelets are always in style — and tbh, if you’re not super crafty but still want to get some bracelets to commemorate your friendship and your cute camp reunion, the bonus of being an adult with a job and responsibilities is that you also have some disposable income! Find a Judaica shop or a little boutique that sparks joy and simply buy friendship bracelets instead of making them. Choosing a cute charm bracelet is also a form of creativity!

Jewish Museum

If you’re in the mood for some culture, find a Jewish museum in your city, or another Jewish landmark that you’re interested in visiting. When my dad was alive, he liked to visit the Chabad synagogue in every single city he ever traveled to — it just felt special and meaningful to him. If there’s a Jewish cultural center you’ve been wanting to check out but haven’t made time for yet (see: jobs, responsibilities, etc.) this is the perfect moment to go see it with friends who will care just as much as you do about Judaism.

Celebrate Shabbat

There are so many ways to celebrate Shabbat, and if your camp bestie reunion takes place on a Friday or Saturday, you should absolutely spend some time commemorating it. At my summer camp we had to wear white on Shabbat, so if your camp had a specific Shabbat dress code or routine it could be sweet to mimic that for ~nostalgia~ purposes. You could also make challah together, have a Shabbat bonfire or picnic or walk (depending on where you live and if this is feasible), sing Shabbat songs, or find a Shabbat event already occurring in your city to attend.

Jewish Parties in Your City

Speaking of events — if you’re in a big city with a big Jewish population, there may be some Jewish parties or gatherings happening when you and your camp friends are in town. You may just want to hunker down and spend time with each other, but if part of what you loved about camp was meeting new people, a party might feel really fun. Who doesn’t want to relive the days of Jewish summer camp socials, when your best friend did your makeup and the whole cabin smelled of Herbal Essence shampoo and it got way too hot because everyone was lining up to use the diffuser?

Tikkun Olam or Tzedakah

Many Jewish summer camps have a community service component. As we get older, we sometimes end up just donating money to causes we care about — which obviously is great — but it may be fun and meaningful to be more hands on with your camp friends. You can discuss in advance if there’s a particular organization you want to volunteer with, and check their website or call their office to see if they’re having any specific events during your reunion. Alternatively, one Instagram commenter recommended making a joint donation to your summer camp, as a way to say thank you for helping create such strong friendships.

Camp Songs

I feel like 50% of summer camp is literally just singing songs? I highly encourage you to lean in to singing this visit. Take advantage of being around other people who know all the lyrics to the weirdly specific parodies your summer camp created that you thought were universal and then found out were… not, lol. Or take things pro and go out to a karaoke bar where you can wow the crowd with “Cat’s Cradle,” “Circle Game” and “Leaving On a Jet Plane.” If those titles mean nothing to you we clearly didn’t go to camp together in Northern Ontario in 1999, but I invite you to fill in the camp songs that mean something to you instead.

S.W.A.K.

Reach out to other camp friends! Schedule a FaceTime or a Zoom call with all your camp friends, write cute postcards to your old camp crushes, reach out to your former counselor and apologize for sneaking out every single night… the best part of getting in the Camp Mood is that it’s contagious. Maybe next year your camp reunion will include your whole cabin!

Start Planning Your Next Reunion!

Which of course brings us to the final thing you should do while hanging with your camp besties: Get another reunion on the calendar! Being an adult means jobs and responsibilities, yeah, but it also means making time for the friends you love and doing important stuff that matters to you and keeps your youthful spirit alive. You’re gonna have so much fun with your pals this summer, you’re not going to want to wait another three years to be together again. And the cool thing about being an adult means you totally don’t have to. You can have a camp reunion whenever you plan it. Who’s planning an elaborate Color War situation for next year?!

As always, our Instagram community was full of amazing advice, too. For more suggestions about how to have the best weekend ever with your Jewish summer camp besties, check out our Instagram post here.

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