Guest Blog by Lisa Langer, Associate Director of the URJ’s B’nai Mitzvah Revolution


The principal of our local public middle school announced to the parents of all incoming sixth graders that the best thing we could do to prepare our children for middle school would be to send them to sleep away camp during the summer.

I’ve been thinking about that suggestion a lot during my time serving as faculty at URJ Camp Newman. I have some ideas about how sleep away camp and Camp Newman in particular, may be preparing our children for middle school and beyond:

1. Managing Chaos. There is a lot of chaos at camp. Between campers, staff and faculty, there are nearly 700 people living at Camp Newman at one time and they are everywhere. Learning how to navigate through the chaos that a lot of people present is an important skill when entering any new environment.

IMG_16982. Decision Making. At home, many decisions are made for our children by parents, teachers or coaches. At camp, they make decisions for themselves about what to eat, what to wear, and which activities to do. There’s even a new idea this year at Camp Newman that hopes to teach campers that they can even decide how to pray – it’s called T’floptions, a mash-up of T’fillah (prayer) + options.

DSCF23133. Embracing “New.”  T’floptions is just one way campers are encouraged to try new things. There are plenty of other activities that are out of the ordinary for most campers. Most importantly, everyone is encouraged to make new friends – to reach out to people they don’t know and get to know them as part of our kehillah kedosha, holy community.

IMG_06894. Living with Others. Learning how to find your voice and advocate for your needs, not to mention keep track of your own stuff, among a cabin and session of peers is no easy task. Campers learn what it takes to live among different people from different places, with different needs and priorities. That is an important life skill.

5. Screen-Free Time. Campers spend most of their day outside, with their peers, in real time. It is amazing to watch them interact and connect without any screens. We also join together in prayer once each day. This is precious time for campers to re-charge and re-focus on all that is incredible and wondrous in our world. I hope they will remember to recall those moments and those skills when they need it most in their life outside of camp.

Camp Newman is supporting my child, and all of the campers, to be more independent and to be more aware of the world in which we live. Those are important skills for middle school and for life. They are lessons that do not always come easily, but I see that at Camp Newman, they are lessons that come surrounded by Judaism, friendship and fun.


LisaLisa Langer, RJE has served on faculty at URJ Camp Newman for 8 summers and as an educational leader at the URJ, the Bureau of Jewish Education in San Francisco, and Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills, California. She has been a visiting lecturer and Alumna-in-Residence at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles and is currently a Clinical Faculty Mentor for the Executive M.A. program in Jewish Education at HUC-JIR. Lisa earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a Master of Arts in Jewish Education from the Rhea Hirsch School of Education and a Master of Arts in Jewish Communal Service from the Irwin Daniels School of Jewish Communal Service at HUC-JIR. Lisa lives in Menlo Park, California with her husband and their two sons.  You can reach Lisa at