At last, a ‘mission-driven’ summer camp with Hillel values in mind

At last, a ‘mission-driven’ summer camp with Hillel values in mind

For years, it has been a recurring phenomenon at Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh: As summer ends and children file back to school, administrators of the Orthodox day school receive emails from several parents all asking for the same thing — a summer camp that reflects the values of Hillel, said Rabbi Sam Weinberg, the school’s principal and education director.

This summer, that camp finally will be launched, he said.

The new camp, which will serve those in preschool through eighth grade within three separate divisions, “will be educational, but fun,” Weinberg said. “It will provide a productive environment for kids to grow and to participate in Hillel-like activities.”

The camp, which is open to Jewish children from throughout the community, regardless of whether they are enrolled as students at Hillel Academy, is “mission-driven,” according to Weinberg.

“We want to provide Jewish camping experiences for all kids in Pittsburgh, including those in public schools,” he said. “We want it to be an affordable camp that nurtures kids.”

Relying on recent research conducted by the Foundation for Jewish Camp that shows a strong correlation between attendance at Jewish camp and later adult participation in Jewish activities, Weinberg said that Hillel Academy aims to create a Jewish camping experience that would be accessible to much of the community.

“We have priced ourselves lower than a lot of other local camps,” he noted.

The camp will consist of three separate divisions: early childhood, kindergarten through fourth grade and fifth through eighth grade. While Hillel has offered an early childhood camp in the past, this will be the first summer in which older kids will have the opportunity to attend camp at Hillel.

Camp for the oldest division will be a travel camp, according to Weinberg. The children will travel to different sites three or four days a week and will also have some overnights.

“The theme of the camp will be team-building and adventure,” he said, and activities will include canoeing, kayaking, biking and trips to such venues as Heinz Field.

A “chesed,” or good deeds, component will also be a cornerstone of the program, with campers working on projects at various food banks in the city.

Boys and girls in the older camp division will be separated by gender, Weinberg said.

Kindergarteners to fourth-graders will be separated by gender for some activities, but will travel together for field trips to such locales as the Carnegie Science Center or the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium.

Children will swim at the nearby Irish Centre of Pittsburgh pool on Forward Avenue each day they are not traveling, Weinberg said.

So far, about 55 children are already enrolled in camp for this coming summer, according to Weinberg, but Hillel has the capacity to accommodate many more campers.

Second-grade teacher Tovi Admon will serve as the camp director.

Toby Tabachnick can be reached at

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