All three of my children went to Camp Young Judaea Midwest in Waupaca, Wis., where Young Judaeans from Tucson still go. At the time we lived in Milwaukee, so the camp was about a two and a half hour drive from our home. Jonathan, Caren and Ethan loved the camp so much they all went on to become counselors (madrichim) there. My daughter was assistant director of the camp one summer.
I have been on the camp committee for over 30 years, and was the camp committee chair for four years. For many years, I spent about a week at the camp as the artist-in-residence, teaching paper crafts and copper enameling. Since I grew up in the Adirondack Mountains in New York State, I never went to overnight camp, and this was my sneaky way of being a camper! I haven’t gone for the last two years, but I still have that ache to go again.
Now four of my grandchildren, who live in Iowa, attend the camp. For Alexandra, Jordan, and Shailah, 12-year-old triplet girls, and their brother, Jacob, 11, this will be the fourth summer at camp.
One summer when I was the camp committee chair, a funny incident happened. The camp staff woke up all the campers at 2 a.m. by pounding pots and pans together to “break the siege of Jerusalem” (a re-enactment of the 1948 war). They also woke up all the neighbors on the lake. One of the neighbors called the camp to see what all the commotion was about and the Israeli shaliach (emissary) answered the phone and said, with a very strong accent, that everything was OK — they were just doing war games!
The next thing I knew, I got a call at my home in Milwaukee from the FBI. What kind of war games were we teaching these kids in the middle of Wisconsin, which was right in the midst of vigilante groups such as the Posse Comitatus? It took about six weeks to clear that one up!
In the summer of 2012, one of the Israeli Scouts who spent the whole summer at camp was Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s son, Avner, who was 16. The Israeli Scouts is the sister movement to Young Judaea and every summer at least two scouts go to every Young Judaea camp in the United States. There was considerable security work done at the camp before he came and the parents of the campers were told he was coming, but the campers were not so that Avner could do his work as a normal Israeli scout.
I asked my son, Jonathan, who drove his children to camp that summer, if he had met Avner Netanyahu when he dropped the kids off at camp. He said he had. I asked him if he could tell who the two Mossad agents were who accompanied Avner. Jonathan laughed and said it was rather obvious. They were wearing the camp T-shirt that all the staff had on, but everyone else was in shorts. The two agents were in long pants with many bulging cargo pockets. I always felt sorry for these two men, having to sleep not too far from Avner in camp bunk beds and contend with Wisconsin’s mosquitoes.
But even with mosquitoes, and bunk beds, I still yearn to go back to camp for another artist-in-residence retreat. Maybe one summer soon!
Anne Lowe is director of outreach and the Northwest Division of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona.