2024-2025 Events & Programs

Jews by Nature: Summer Camp, Youth, and American Jewish Culture

The Jews of Summer: Summer Camp and Jewish Culture in Postwar America by Sandra Fox

Date: Monday, April 08, 2024

Time: 07:30pm - 08:30pm


Location: Trayes Hall, Douglass Student Center, 100 George Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901 

The Toby and Herbert Stolzer Annual Program

Sandra Fox, Goldstein-Goren Visiting Assistant Professor of American Jewish History, New York University

In the decades directly following the Holocaust, American Jewish leaders anxiously debated how to preserve and produce what they considered authentic Jewish culture, fearful that growing affluence and suburbanization threatened the future of Jewish life. Many communal educators and rabbis contended that without intervention, Judaism as they understood it would disappear altogether. They pinned their hopes on residential summer camps for Jewish youth, institutions that sprang up across the United States as places for children and teenagers to socialize, recreate, and experience Jewish culture.

Adults' fears, hopes, and dreams about the Jewish future inflected every element of camp life, from the languages they taught to what was encouraged romantically and permitted sexually. But adult plans did not constitute everything that occurred at camp: children and teenagers also shaped these sleepaway camps to mirror their own desires and interests and decided whether to accept or resist the ideas and ideologies their camp leaders promoted. In this lecture, Sandra Fox explains how a sense of cultural crisis birthed a rite of passage for Jewish children across the country. 



Sandra Fox HeadshotSandra Fox is the Goldstein-Goren Visiting Assistant Professor of American Jewish History at New York University. She is the author of the new book The Jews of Summer: Summer Camp and Jewish Culture in Postwar America (Stanford University Press, 2023), which addresses the experiences of youth in postwar Jewish summer camps and the place of intergenerational negotiation in the making of American Jewish culture. Her research interests include American Jewish history, the history of youth and childhood, Yiddish culture, and the history of sexuality. She is also director of the Archive of the American Jewish Left in the Digital Age, sponsored by NYU’s Goldstein-Goren Center for American Jewish History and Temple University’s Feinstein Center for American Jewish History.


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