By Rabbi Morley T. Feinstein of University Synagogue

Within three weeks following the devastating Santa Rosa fires last fall, and the destruction of Camp Newman, Summer 2018 was planned for an alternate site at California State University Maritime Academy: Camp Newman by the Bay.

Margarete Feinstein, Hayley Kaufman, Chloe Kaufman, Eliana Feinstein, Renata Feinstein, Allen Schultz, and Rabbi Feinstein at Camp Newman by the Bay at Cal State University Maritime in Vallejo

What a gorgeous location, looking out over the San Francisco Bay, with serene nightly sunsets over the water. Camp is still 100% Camp even on a modern college campus! Why do kids and their counselors keep returning for such an amazing experience?

They feel like fish in water – a setting where everyone is Jewish and comfortable in their own skins. They can build on that familiarity to form deep and abiding friendships with kids from Hawaii to Texas. Without tech distractions the opportunity to get to know one another and create lifetime friendships increases. At their weddings each of my sons had camp friends among their groomsmen, and my daughters couldn’t wait to see their pals from summers past.

This year’s campers gain the experience of living in a college dormitory and benefit from the choices offered by a college food service. Campers have had the opportunity to decorate their rooms and have a one on one time to bond with a roommate.

Camp Newman offers a chance to connect with great role models, from college age counselors to Israeli Scouts, Rabbis, Cantors, and Jewish Educators. Special guest artists, dancers, and musicians add to the fun!

Did I mention how amazing Shabbat is? From spiritually moving services overlooking the Bay, to a dinner highlighted by thick chocolate brownies, singing with hundreds of voices and lively Israeli dancing, Shabbat is a unique moment in time. Hundreds of exuberant campers, all dressed in white, set a special mood and tone for celebration.

Campers learn independence and self-reliance. In this age of Uber they have to know when and how to get from place to place. It helps them learn about themselves, and the Jewish program focuses their thoughts and feelings upon their religious identity. They form a community and build connection to their people and faith in a dynamic way.

This is the 71st year of Camp Newman (preceded by Camp Saratoga and Camp Swig). May the day come when Camp can return to its rebuilt home and continue its magic of making Judaism come alive!