Cardio hora, Torah yoga, and … healthful knishes? Really.
Children and young teens searching for a summer camping experience integrating their Judaism with good nutrition and fitness need look no further than Camp Zeke, which will open its doors in the summer of 2014.
Camp Zeke founders, Lisa Kravitz and fiance Isaac Mamaysky, have received a $1.6 million grant from the Foundation for Jewish Camp, the Jim Joseph Foundation and the AVI CHAI Foundation to establish a pluralistic overnight camp promoting wellness among Jewish youth.
The name “Camp Zeke” comes from the Hebrew name Yechezkel, which connotes immense strength, according to Kravitz and Mamaysky, who believe that “immense strength of body and spirit flow naturally from a joyful, healthy and active lifestyle.”
While Kravitz and Mamaysky are still in the process of finding a site for their camp, they are already planning to market it to children in the Pittsburgh area, and to provide a bus that will take the Pittsburgh campers to and from Camp Zeke.
“We will be coming to Pittsburgh and working with local community centers and synagogues,” Mamaysky said. “We plan to have kickoff events in Pittsburgh, highlighting the fun aspects of fitness, or having cooking classes where we encourage the kids to sign up for the camp.”
The idea is to provide an immersive Jewish fitness experience for kids who may not be into sports, but who enjoy activities such as hiking and yoga, and would like to learn how to prepare healthful recipes. The camp will cater to those children who are otherwise unlikely to choose a Jewish camp.
The concept of a Jewish healthy living camp came naturally to Kravitz and Mamaysky. Kravitz has a strong background in Jewish education, having graduated from the Jewish Theological Seminary’s joint program with Columbia University. While she is not into competitive sports, she is an avid hiker and practices yoga.
Mamaysky spent 14 years as a camper and staffer at Camp Jori in Rhode Island, and is an avid runner, weight lifter, cyclist and skier.
Because Camp Zeke will be “the first of its kind in the Jewish world,” according to Mamaysky, it was accepted into the Specialty Camps Incubator program of the Foundation for Jewish Camp, the Jim Joseph Foundation and the AVI CHAI Foundation, following a competitive application process.
In addition to the $1.6 million grant, Camp Zeke will receive five years of support from experts in Jewish camping. Camp Zeke’s partners include the Jewish Community Health Initiative and the City University of New York’s nutrition program.
Mamaysky, who has been working as an attorney in New York for the last several years, is in the process of winding up his law practice so that he can focus all his energy on Camp Zeke.
“Our goal is to embrace kids of all backgrounds,” he said. “We will infuse all of our programs with a Jewish component. We will be cooking Jewish foods, and running events like cardio hora and Torah yoga. Judaism will be the thread that weaves together all aspects of our program.”
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)