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But she added: “There’s a difference between appropriate ways to interact and inappropriate.” Calling the program the “Shmira Initiative” (borrowing a Hebrew word that camps normally use for nighttime guard duty), the foundation brought in the Jewish organization Moving Traditions to train staff members at more than 70 camps before the season began.“With Jewish camps, you have really very specific cultures,” said Daniel Brenner, the chief of education and programming at Moving Traditions.“Some of it is very black and white, in terms of appropriate behaviors between people, but there’s a lot of nuance to it,” Lewin said.She has lofty aims for this initiative — not just to fix camp, but to fix society.
Reilly wanted to ask Melanie to an end-of-camp dance — but his friend went ahead and asked Melanie on his behalf, before he could get up the nerve to ask her himself. Now they’re 16, and the teenagers’ summer fling is still going strong in a fourth summer together as boyfriend and girlfriend at Capital Camps, a Jewish camp just over the Maryland-Pennsylvania border.And in the broader Jewish community, the focus on marrying within the faith has died down considerably, as intermarriage becomes more common.Danny Mishkin, the director of a new overnight Jewish surfing camp in Virginia Beach, said he and his staff thought deeply before launching this summer an effort to help teens handle romance and sexuality. That puts an undue pressure on kids.” But even if the camps don’t promote dating Jewishly as an institutional value anymore, the topic comes up among the teens.But some Jewish adults recall that in years past the pressure to date at camp occasionally took an inappropriate turn when poorly trained counselors — typically in their early 20s — nudged young teens into becoming close not just romantically, but physically as well.This summer, in the #Me Too era, the Foundation for Jewish Camp is conducting a nationwide training program to prevent sexual harassment at Jewish overnight camps, which about 70,000 children attend each summer.Compared with demographically similar Jewish peers, adults who grew up going to camp are measurably more likely to attend synagogues, celebrate Shabbat and holidays in their homes and donate to Jewish charities.Another statistic the foundation touts: Jews who attended camp as children were found to be significantly more likely to marry other Jews.But the campers and their counselors say that this environment is one of healthy exploration, different from any pressures perceived by prior generations of campers to find a Jewish partner.Liam, a 16-year-old from Gaithersburg, Md., said no one ever pushes anyone when it comes to physical contact, although sometimes teens partake on their own. They say their counselors don’t push them to date, either. Nobody wants to not follow the rules, ” said 15-year-old Emme.“It was very much in the mission of the Jewish camps at that point.Very cliche: Perpetuate Jewish babies.” One former camper, writing for the National Council of Jewish Women last year, recalled, the pressure to partner up “would begin before we even stepped foot at our various camps for the summer and felt prevalent from the first day of the session.” She wrote that her friends who attended other Jewish camps across the country felt the same.