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In the Zionist Camp

I have conflicted feelings toward Israel, but I love my daughter’s progressive, tolerant, anti-bullying, anti-materialist—and, yes, Zionist—summer camp

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Josie at camp last summer. (Jonathan Steuer)

I have my shpilkes about Israel. I am no more likely to attend an Israel Day Parade than a Justin Bieber concert. I hesitate to talk about Israel with my children, and I feel a visceral anxiety upon seeing an Israeli flag. I oppose attempts to remove pro-Palestinian books from school reading lists and libraries. Tablet Magazine’s readers have called me a “latte-swilling,” “spoilt,” “knucklehead” “hypocrite” (it’s like a Zagat review of horridness!) One said: “Thank you for helping me understand why most of my family burned in ovens while American Jews like yourself stood by doing nothing.”

Now get this: I’m sending my kid to a Zionist summer camp. For the second summer in a row.

How did I get from point A to point B? (And at a time when Zionist camps are—shall we say—less than popular in certain parts of the Internet, no less!)

It started with a lot of research—I wasn’t going to send my precious Jewish snowflake to just any overnight camp. First, the camp had to be Jewish. That was non-negotiable. Research shows that Jewish camps are a superb way to cultivate a kid’s positive feelings about his or her Jewishness. According to the Foundation for Jewish Camp, 66 percent of Jews who attended Jewish camps considered their Jewish identity “very important,” as opposed to 29 percent of those who never attended a Jewish camp, and Jewish camp alumni are 90 percent more likely to join a JCC than their non-Jewish-camping compatriots. Sure, we might make a methodological argument that the kind of kids who are sent to Jewish camps are predisposed to feel better about Jewishness than those who aren’t, but let’s just go with this: Camp is way more delicious than shul or school. I stole a first kiss behind the chadar ochel (mess hall), performed in Hebrew plays, sang my heart out in Hebrew during zimriya (songfest), competed fiercely in that terrifying nighttime game where were issued passports of actual Holocaust-era Jews and had to flee our Nazi counselors to freedom on the tennis courts. (Trivializing of tragedy? Perhaps. Indelible? Certainly.) I have camp friendships that are hugely meaningful to me nearly 30 years later. Camp Ramah in New England filled me with far more warm feelings and sense of Jewish community than anything else I experienced in childhood.

But I wanted my own young children to go to camp close to New York City, where I live. (I am a Jewish mother; I live to fulfill the stereotype of being neurotic and smothering.) But when I started looking for Jewish sleepaway camps in a two-and-a-half-hour radius from the city, I found a terrifying amount of princessery, camps filled with unnervingly sophisticated, spoiled kids with Shabbat dresses more expensive than my entire family’s wardrobe. I found parents who ignored cell-phone bans and sent contraband candy to camp elaborately hidden in tennis-ball canisters. When I asked for other spoiled-campers stories online, my Facebook page lit up. I heard about camps with “no bottled water” policies, because parents were sending so many cases, some camps ran out of storage space. I heard about girls so obsessed with straightening their Jewish hair and worrying about how they looked in a bikini that they flatly refused to swim. I heard about pale pink Shabbat shoes with spike heels (to be worn in the grass and mud!). I heard about kids packing enough technology (iPods, iPads, handheld gaming systems) to rival the contents of J&R and enough jewelry to rival Tiffany. My friend Dan reported overhearing the following exchange:

Camper 1: “My dad works for the largest blah blah blah in the country.”
Camper 2: “Your dad works for somebody?”

Perhaps worst of all, in poking around campers’ online message boards, I found kids saying approvingly that their camps were beloved by cool kids like themselves, but weren’t enjoyed by geeks.

Do you know where these vile youths don’t go? They don’t go to Zionist camps. Zionist camps like the one at which we’ll be dropping my daughter this week, Zionist camps that embrace geekery. Her camp makes kids do chores. It does not have spiffy bunks or a lake. The kids dress like shlumps. They are unspoiled and lovely. The camp has a super-strict anti-bullying policy. It is haimish. It felt like family immediately.

When I got married, I had a very DIY wedding in the woods. We counted on friends and family pitching in. Do you know who the most helpful and spirited were, by far? My cousins who went to Habonim Dror Moshava, a socialist Zionist camp that stresses the values of kibbutz: shared labor, cooperation, social justice, and a cultural love of Judaism. Some of my family members failed to do the weensy minor tasks I asked of them, but my cousins were whirling dervishes of chopping, grilling, serving, clearing, singing Birkat Hamazon. When I grabbed my cousin Abe, mayim-stepping by with a plate of veggies, to say thanks, he grinned, “No worries, cuz. Socialist Jew camp. It’s what we do.”

Now, would I be uncomfortable if Josie’s (and soon to be Maxie’s) camp was advocating dehumanizing Palestinians and supporting tikkun olam only if it applied to Jews? You bet. Camp has a privileged place of kid-centric-ness, away from parental eyes, so I cannot say for sure that my child was not subjected to Clockwork Orange-like brainwashing sessions about the evils of intermarriage. But given that the camp’s own literature discusses the values of diversity and pluralism, and that it is not affiliated with any particular branch of Judaism, I’m guessing no. There are attractive Israeli counselors there, yes, but I’m guessing their perspectives on Palestinian statehood vary from hard left to hard right, just like actual Israelis do. At Josie’s camp, social action is a huge part of the curriculum: The kids research different charities—not all Jewish—and decide which ones to support. They do volunteer work. Josie came home singing “Ani v’ata n’shaneh et haolam”—you and I will change the world—and she meant it. I am a world-class mocker of things, and I don’t think that childhood sentiment is mock-worthy.

The upshot: If American Jewish identity is to be something more than silver-and-blue wrapping paper instead of red-and-green wrapping paper in December, Zionist summer camp can be a parent’s best ally.

Last year, Josie returned from camp as joyful as I have ever seen her. She belted out the songs I’d sung at my own camp. Her Hebrew had improved by leaps and bounds. She made us Israeli salad, refusing all offers of assistance, dicing tomatoes and cucumbers into tiny pieces. It took her 45 minutes. (We learned to plan ahead when Josie was making Israeli salad.)

The Zionist camp Josie attends fosters what I think is a particularly American sort of Zionism, one that says that Jews are a people defined by both religion and ethnicity. It isn’t boosterish. It allows for nuance. Even an 8-year-old can understand nuance. And even an 8-year-old can understand Jewishness is more than demanding an Elsa Peretti Star of David necklace for your bat mitzvah, because everyone at camp has one.

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Great article…wonderful to see “Zionist” used in such a positive,exhilerating manner…

Bennett Muraskin says:

I have nothing against the camp Ingall chose for her daughter, but there are non-Zionist Jewish camps that instill progressive values too.

There is one danger though. Family separation. Josie might be influenced by her camp experience to move to Israel.

Okay, you gotta tell us — which camp??!! :-)

I went to Camp Shomria in Liberty NY as a teen — run by Hashomer Hatzair, a socialist Zionist youth group — and it was probably the best experience of my youth. Much better than the two “regular” sleepaway camps I’d attended, where I’d never really fit in.

People in Hashomer valued smarts. Even smart GIRLS! Yes, the ambiance was down to earth, anti-materialist, creative, funny, progressive. There were long intense discussions of things like “If you had to choose between being Zionist and socialist, which would you choose?” There were huge role-playing games like one in which 200 or so campers of all ages acted out the Russian Revolution. (I was a Menshevik, and I got creamed with water balloons, which taught me more than my high school European History class.) For Shabbat evening activities, a bunch of guys once put together a DNA Synthesis Ballet (imagine 16 year old boys waltzing across stage as RNA) and I once wrote and sang a Hebrew translation of Teenager in Love.

No tennis, archery, badminton, water skiing or the other frills of upscale summer camps.

But tons of Hebrew songs, Israeli folk dancing, etc.

I live in California now, but if I lived in the east, there’s no doubt I would have sent my daughter to Shomria.


    M. Shalvi says:

    You should come visit Mosh this summer! It hasn’t changed a bit. As I hope you know, this year is HH’s 100 year anniversary and the 90th year of HHNA. It’s going to be a huge reunion!

JCarpenter says:

The camp Josie attends “allows for nuance”: Zion and Jerusalem are as much places in the heart and soul, not just political real estate.

Carl says:

Oh I get it. You don’t support Israel itself (because actual people with faults live there) but you support the idea of Israel

Linda says:

“I am no more likely to attend an Israel Day Parade than a Justin Bieber concert. I hesitate to talk about Israel with my children, and I feel a visceral anxiety upon seeing an Israeli flag….”

I am heartsick to read these words coming from you. If you don’t want to talk to your kids about Israel, or instill in them a love for our homeland, or pride in seeing the Israeli flag, then how do you think they will form their views about Israel? What do you think their passions will be–nothing more than love for Jerusalem salad? And how can you expect them to be knowledgeable enough to appreciate nuances about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

You are such a thoughtful writer. I don’t understand how these words could have been written by you–or how you could really mean them.

Oh the variety of Jewish camps these days! The choices surely range from the regal to the rugged, but all “make Jews.” I say, “Hooray,” for whatever works.

Ann Toback says:

When you talk about progressive Jewish camping outside NYC, there is an amazing opportunity waiting for kids at Camp Kinder Ring (– a progressive, cultural Jewish Camp since 1927, owned and operated by The Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring. It is located in Hopewell Junction NY–just under two hours from NYC.

Kinder Ring operates under a commitment to striving for a better world with a focus on progressive Jewish values. There is Israeli dance alongside Yiddish activist songs.

Kinder Ring, a velt a naya! Summer camp is truly the beginning of a lifelong yearning for a sheinerer, besserer velt! And the smores ain’t too bad, either!

Shmuel says:

I went to Jewish Y camps. it was VERY down to earth and I am very grateful for that.

I am sorry that you feel anxiety when you see an Israeli flag. It saddens me because I live in Israel and if we can’t count on thoughtful people like you…..well, it feels lonely. It feels at times like what you are writing means that you & other Jews in the US have adopted a narrative written by people who do not wish us well at all.

I mean, do you really think there are camps out there that spend time dehumanizing Palestinians? where would you even think of such things?

Not sure about lattes and hypocrisy, but shpilke means pin or needle. How can you have pins (or needles) about a camp?

Mark says:

Camp Kadimah – Lunneburg County, Nova Scotia

and Shmuel’s comment is 100% correct IMHO

I went to Habonim Camp Naaleh, and then Habonim Camp Tel Ari, and loved them.

Maybe next year you should send your precious little darling to a camp in the West Bank or Gaza where she can get some idea how wonderful it is in those places where the textbooks are filled with lovely things about Jews, especially of the Zionist persuasion. Perhaps she can even attend classes run by Palestinians that laud the wonders of the Jewish people and their great contributions to civilization, tolerance and progressive values.Perhaps Gideon Shalit will be a counselor there where he can lecture on the kindness and decency of Palestinians. Why not give her a real education where she does not have to be afflicted with the sight of an Israeli flag or hear Hatikva being sung.Better yet send her to a camp in Saudi Arabia or Syria where she will be welcomed with open arms and treated with kindness and she won’t have to hear anything at all complimentary about the state that gives you shpilkes. And what happens when she comes home and tells Mommy that she loves Israel and Zionism?Will Mommy lecture her on how she has been brainwashed into a zionist cult?.

Hershel (Heshy) Ginsburg says:

I find it quite interesting and revealing that at the outset MI establishes her bona fides by demonstrating her antipathy toward Israel. Indeed that seems to an increasingly de rigueur characteristic for being allocated screen-space at Tablet.


Jerusalem / Efrata

one minor point: I’m about the same age as you and attended Camp Ramah in Palmer around ’80-’81. The roleplay (we didn’t have such words then) where we were woken up early (not the middle of the night) and handed passports wasn’t about Nazis, but about Russian refusniks. The counselors were playing Russian bureaucrats, not Nazis. When you put that “game” into the correct context, I don’t think it was trivializing at all, but quite effective (at least it made a lasting impression on me, more so than you). Remember, the late 70’s-early 80’s were the height of the “free Soviet Jewry” movement and lots of us had Russian Bar/Bat Mitzvah pairings. And, also… behind the cheder ochel? Isn’t that what Mosquito Lake was for?

Bernie Dishler says:

I too am saddened by Ms. Ingall’s comments re:Israel and its flag at the outset of the article. I know there are many Jews who have abandoned Jewish values who feel this way. But, its upsetting that someone who embraces Judaism and has this distorted(my opinion) of Israel. I think she needs a few weeks in Israel.

George One says:

Marjorie Ingall – how can you not unreservedly support the country that was founded on the blood, tears and toil of its founders, that was attacked by 5 of its neighbours within hours of its foundation and that has had to fight wars to ensure its survival and that has borne unrelenting harassment, suicide attacks and rocket fire almost unceasingly since.
As for “pro-palestinian” – let me assure you that the least pro-palestinian people are its leaders – starting with the late UNlamented Yasser Arafat – who care nothing about their population but do all they can to collect foreign funds and gifts in order to enrich themselves.

Wake up, Marjorie Ingall.

Laurie Weinberg says:

A great article – and we may not agree about Israel but we certainly agree that it is ours to think about

Beth says:

My children attended Habonim Dror Camp Tavor. Two of them are now Habonim counselors. The Habonim camps are not perfect, but I agree with everything you say about the atmosphere, the values, and the types of kids who go there.

I warn you though: My children love the state of Israel.

Ira M. Salwen says:

Shmuel’s comment “do you really think there are camps out there that spend time dehumanizing Palestinians?” brought to mind an article in the New York Times a while back:

There are more recent YouTube videos showing the same thing, indoctrination at paramilitary camp where Palestinian children are taught to hate, to have a “visceral feeling” upon seeing an Israeli flag.

At Ramah in the Berkshires, we learned to love Israel, not to hate Arabs. There’s a difference.

A few years ago, I saw a documentary that was shot by a left-leaning filmmaker whose goal was to show that the youth on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide were the same, it was the leaders that were the problem. When the film was actually shot, the filmmaker was dismayed to find that the Israeli kids were almost unanimous in the belief that a solution would have to be worked out to allow both peoples to realize their national aspirations, while the Palestinian kids were as united in their conviction that they would never accept Israel as their neighbor. To his credit, he released the film even though it didn’t fit his preconceptions, but it was very depressing to watch.

If there is any hope for future coexistence between Arabs and Israelis, people have to be conditioned to want it instead of being conditioned to want to kill the “Zionist enemy”. While the Palestinians are busy indoctrinating their children to hate, people of good will like Marjorie are undoubtedly transmitting their ambivalence about Israel to their children, whether they mean to or not. Many Palestinians will tell you that they are counting on this kind of weakening support for Israel to eventually enable the Palestinians’ “final victory”.

Maybe we need to send Palestinian children to Zionist camp!

Katie says:

Sounds like a terrific camp with wonderful values! Your daughter is lucky to go there, and you’re a great mom for seeking out the right place for her. I appreciate that you keep writing about your ambivalence about Israel despite the browbeating you take every time. (“A Zagat review of horridness” – aahahaahaha!) Keep it up.

Abbi says:

So agree with Shmuel and Ira. I’ve lived in Israel for 11 years. I’m raising 4 children here. You hesitate to talk about my country with your kids? Do you hesitate to talk with them about whether I should live or die here or just whether it was a good idea for the country to be established in the first place? Seriously? Do you not understand that real people are affected by your “anxiety” and misuse of the word “spilkes”?

How cute and twee that you’re sending your kid to a Zionist camp when you can’t even deal with looking at an Israel flag, let alone go to an Israeli day parade (when did that go out of fashion exactly? What is wrong with being happy that Israel exists?). Just understand clearly that real people are living here and thousands have died and continue to die so we can continue to die here. You’re not obligated to love and support every Israeli policy. But your confessed “anxiety” about our very existence is simply repulsive.

Great article Marjorie. I wonder about the quirk factor though. Granted parents sending their kids to Zionist camps may be different from those sending them to preppy non Zionist camps, but after having worked at a Zionist camp and attended a non zionist camp growing up, we should know that kids are kids, it just depends what region you’re from.

Also, let me guess: your kid goes to YJ Sprout Lake?

Gary Frank says:

I wonder if Marjorie supports boycotts of Israel?

Shimon Darr says:

I grew up a zionist and became a left wing democrat. How did that happen, Marjorie?

I like Tablet and think often about contributing to it, but every time I an ready to do an article like Marjorie’s appears that gives me pause.

What is Tablet’s view with regards to Israel?

Grace says:

I just wanted to chime in as a young Habonim Dror alum (was very active both in the national movement and at camp up until a couple of years ago):

I can completely understand where MI is coming from. I don’t know how many of you have recently lived on a college campus, but I can tell you from first-hand experience that it’s a hard time to be a young liberal Zionist. Particularly in a liberal arts college context, to be a Zionist is pretty much equivalent to joining the Young Republicans! Israel is seen by the majority of this country as an oppressor, and we as Zionists know that it’s more complicated than that, but at the end of the day it is also true. Palestine is not an innocent victim, but neither is Israel.

I love Israel, but I don’t agree with everything that the state does. That’s what I learned at my Zionist camp. I learned to think critically about everything, to follow nothing blindly, to never allow myself to be brainwashed, be it by my parents, my teachers, the media, politicians or even my counselors. We struggled with our Zionism together, campers and counselors, and that struggle, along with the comprehensive and thorough Zionist education I received though Habonim Dror is the only thing that keeps me from feeling exactly the same way MI does about Israel.

I hope your kids have the same kind of positive experience I did, maybe they can help you find your own love of Israel one day!

Dan Mendelsohn Aviv says:

Cut Marjorie a break y’all… sheesh!

Tamar says:

“Israel is seen by the majority of this country as an oppressor, and we as Zionists know that it’s more complicated than that, but at the end of the day it is also true. Palestine is not an innocent victim, but neither is Israel.”

This is simplistic.

Israel didn’t attack the Arabs in 1948, 1967, or 1973. Israel didn’t send suicide bombers to kill children in Arab cities.

From your logic, Grace, Jews were not oompletely innocent during pogroms, expulsions, and the Holocaust.

There is a differenc between not being “completely innocent” and deserving extinction which is what hamas and their friends have been planning for the Jews (not only of Israel, btw. I know you are too sophisticated to take them seriously but….)

Nice camp for the kid. Descent values and respect for their heritage. Too bad the author seems so steeped in her own world that she can’t even see how hateful she has become towards a nation she hopes her children will embrace. Sorry Marjorie but you do hate Israel if you can’t even look at an Israeli flag or won’t attend the Salute to Israel Parade.

It is sad that you needed to let the world know at the beginning of this article how you are one of those “good Jews” who despises Israel.I guess you were letting your leftist friends know that despite teaching your children their heritage you will add to their proper education to let them know how evil the rest of us “bad Jews” who like and respect Israel happen to be. Are you afraid that the lefties will kick you out of their political club?

You can’t have it both ways in this world, either you accept Israel with all its foibles and try to make it a better place or you align yourself with those that want to destroy it and commit genocide against the Jews of Israel(and whether you like it or not, their goal is genocide against all of us). The Middle East is a zero-sum game. The Middle East is not a discussion about postulating theories over a latte, biscotti and flyer from an upper west-side cafe. There is no gray in the Middle East, because for Israel’s enemies there is no gray.Remember too, Israel’s enemies do not hate Jews because of Israel, they hate Israel because its Jewish. These are not the same thing.Having gone to a Zionist camp you should understand that.

However, the real issue quite frankly has more to do with who are YOU and where are YOU going in life. Sorry Marjorie but you really need to figure this out. Your own relationship with your Judaism and Israel is very convoluted. You need to come to terms with it. That reality will have more of an impact on your children than any amount of Zionist Camp.How your children embrace their future is ultimately up to you and how you embrace your present.

Burg says:

The problem here is universalism an ideology that was always anti_Jewish since Judaism is a particular view on life whose values are historical and nation and not international and universal.

I am sorry that Ingall prefers international socialist values over Jewish ones. Her anti zionism is a red herring since Zionism is Judaism.

Those Jews who reject Zionism also reject Judaism. That is their right but they shouldn’t pretend that they are Jews.

Bertha says:

Grace I wouldn’t let my children go to a college were Zionists were not welcomed. There may come a day when Jews will be attending only a handful of colleges that welcome them and that don’t encourage or even allow Israel organizations on campus.

What college campus supports anti Venezuela, or anti Saudi or even anti Iran organizations?

Are there any anti Chinese organizations even thought China is a repressive country that occupies Tibet and has killed millions of people?

What about anti Turkish organizations? Turkey oppresses the Kurda much more severely than does Israel the Palestinian Arabs even though the Kurds only want their independence and haven’t threatened to destroy Turkey itself.

brynababy says:

Lots of terrific letters here. Sounds like these camps are wonderful, enriching, positive experiences, but Ilana, what’s wrong with a little tennis, archery, badminton, water skiing, as well. Sportsmanship, skills, team playing- how great to have those things, too.

jonny b says:

Two points.

1. I’m a pretty liberal guy and don’t support a lot of the current Israeli government’s policies regarding the occupation, but I’ve never felt anything but pride upon seeing the Israeli flag. “Visceral anxiety”?? Lady, you have issues.

2. Much more important point: If your kid is a little quirky, or a little odd, if they’re bookish or bad at sports, if you look at them and weep because you know high school is going to be hell, send them to Habonim camp right away. They will thrive. Habonim camps are amazing in their ability to take in all manner of misfits and make them feel like they belong. It’s really quite magical. I worked at Camp Tavor in Michigan for three summers and I always marveled at how we created such a tolerant and welcoming environment.

Creds first – Tel Yehudah in Barryville, NY for 3 or 4 summers including working there – Young Judaea camp that was unabashedly Zionist.

The Judaism I learned there (and before and since) valued diversity of opinion and thought. Marjorie has her views on Israel – I am probably much more on the pro-Israel side than she is but have my own shpilkes and don’t think the State is without fault or flaw. That she is open-minded enough to send her kids to Zionist camp while maintaining her own view is likely to be very good for her kids – they will learn to think for themselves and not buy into either view.

Give her a break, people – Judaism, particularly Progressive Judaism is the original “big tent,” and we should be very wary of being expected to toe a party line on anything including Israel. Hell, I even know Jewish Republicans – that’s harder for me to understand than Jews who have doubts about Israel!

Kitty says:

I sent my kids to a Habo camp off the west coast of Canada, and they are both terrific human beings while differing in their views on just about everything — that’s right, what the camp fostered was freedom of thought and independence of mind. Maybe Marjorie should go, she might be less conflicted about her own identity, and more comfortable with the idea of progressive Zionism.

I’m a Jewish athiest who loves Israel with all my heart. America also does bad things such as not supporting universal healthcare – but I fly the flag on the 4th of July. Most Americans also support Israel. People in leftist enclaves such as universities may not be aware of this.

Tablet – why did we need a second rehashing of how MI feels about Israel? Were the opening statements lifted verbatim from her other article? Sorry – self-hating applies here.

I appreciated the discussion of the camps though. I wonder if I could send my 16-year-old son to one for the first time.

Alicia says:

I’d like to give props to the Wel-Met Camps (Narrowsburg, Barryville, and Silver Lake) that were near Monticello, NY. As you got older the bunks got more rustic. The years at camp culminated in a 6 week western trip, camping out every night (USY Wheels is much cushier ;->).

My kids have gone to Ramah Darom (Clayton, GA) and the importance of having 4-8 weeks where they do not have to explain themselves is immeasurable. The importance of Jewish Camps, for those of us who do NOT live in areas with large Jewish populations, is especially profound.

My daughter is now counting down the days till she heads up to Camp.

I’m going to argue that one Edward. The more I see of ‘Progressive Judaism’, the smaller I see the tent becoming, especially in relationship towards Israel and pro-Israeli Jews.

Marjorie’s comments highlight that shrinking tent. To me, the idea that even viewing an Israeli flag is something that makes her upset, is certainly not open minded.

Indeed, anything that smacked even remotely of ‘Jewishness’ or pro-Israeli thought was considered warped, twisted, or outright evil, by the author.

Shabbes = expensive and Jappy. Discussion of intermarraige = Clockwork Orange brainwashing. And Israel, which I guess means something other than Zionist, = advocating dehumanizing Palestinians.

Jewishness, apparently as defined Majorie, seems limited to Socailism and bagels and lox. I’m not sure where Judaism and Zionism fit into her ideology, but from her commentary it sounds like something she is trying to avoid rather than instil in her daughter. Apparently the views she is trying to foster is anything but Jewish pride and Zionism. Go figure.

Barbara says:

To Sam, with the 16 y.o. son –

There are so many valuable options for teens, including an Israel summer experience (NFTY, USY, etc) or even a semester in Israel program such as Eisendrath International Exchange High School in Israel and the Alexander Muss program. And it’s not too late to get a great Jewish camp experience even in college with Brandeis Camp Institute in SImi Valley CA

To Marjorie – I have been reading and sharing your columns for years. You are welcoming, open minded, joyful, tolerant, and delighted with raising your darling Jewish children. I have never replied to a Tablet posting until now – so your angst about the Israel flag really got to me. Lighten up. Celebrate the annual Israel Day parade WITH your daughters and let that be one of the wonderful memories they will cherish as they grow into Jewish adulthood.

Reena Ben-Ephraim says:

“The Zionist camp Josie attends fosters what I think is a particularly American sort of Zionism, one that says that Jews are a people defined by both religion and ethnicity.” That’s because it’s ZIONIST. Maybe if Ms. Ingall could get over her “visceral anxiety upon seeing an Israeli flag”, she might admit that Israel is the ground zero of the Zionist experiment and atmosphere that she so admires: “It’s what we do.”

Jacob Arnon says:

Edward Gurwowitz, being open minded about Israel means that a “progressive” can dismiss Israel and embrace the Palestinians.

For someone, a Jew, who embraces Israel he is asked to embrace Palestine.
Pro Palestinians Jews or not are not asked to embrace Israel.

Hence the open minded and big tent hypothesis is not symmetrical.

Lonny says:

The Author is responding to a series of recent articles in the Jewish press that have criticized Zionist summer camp.

If you are attacking the author, please consider the following:
When someone admits, accepting vulnerability, to feelings they know are seen disapprovingly by many, it is brave. When one attacks those feelings it is cowardly.

Jewish Identity and Zionist politics/philosophy/history are difficult and complicated subjects and should be treated as such. Furthermore, these questions should be more central to a Jewish experience than superficial pursuits. Marjorie is advocating sending children to summer camps that support this assessment. If you disagree with this assessment – you should ignore her advice. If you agree with it, you should consider sending your child to a Socialist-Zionist summer camp like the one she described.

Ellen says:

1. Why do so many Jews feel they cannot embrace Israel, “warts and all”? Does a nation need to be perfect for you to admire it, even love it? I love Israel, I love the US, and both are far from perfect.

2. The Salute to Israel Parade, now Celebrate Israel Parade, is so much fun, features great T-shirts, and is more than just a political statement. It is a social event, okay?!?!?!

Lynn says:

I appreciated your thoughtful explanation of your search for a suitable camp that would fit your family and your child. As the parent of two Habonim alum-one of whom is still working in the camp system, the other has aged out after working for many years, I agree with your assessment of the values taught there. Also, as referenced by another reader, love of zionism is not a given, nor is love of Judaism in any form. Both of my children came out of the camping experiences with a love of Israel and an awareness of the issues and problems that exist there as well. My son’s first summer he wrote me about how they were protesting against other Jews because of their refusal to accept pluralism, he also shared the many discussions they had at camp about what they felt and thought. I loved the education and awareness my children received there and Habonim Dror was a good fit for our family as well.

Young Judaean says:

First off, Edward Gurowitz: I too attended Camp Tel Yehuda, after attending Camp Judaea in Hendersonville, NC for ten summers.
I traveled with Young Judaea to Israel during the summer on a trip called Machon, and have planned ever since to go back to Israel. I sympathize with Ingall in the sense that I was born and raised in a place where the Elsa Paretti necklace was more important than knowing the blessings to say over the menorah. However it was after experiencing my first summer at my Zionistic sleep-away camp (Elsa Paretti in tow), that I was able to find a happy medium between the two.
It is important to note that although her views on Zionism do not reflect everyone’s opinions, she is allowing her daughter to explore her own Jewish identity all on her own which is being fostered by her Zionist camp. I can let you know from experience that this is a parenting skill that should truly be recognized and cherished. Many of my friends from camp were not allowed to travel with the rest of us to Israel that summer for fear that something bad may happen or that the youth’s would be targeted, this was after their kids had spend countless summers away from them at a Zionist camp. The bottom line is that Israel is a place that anyone can and should feel as though they are welcome, because as Jews we should know more than anyone what it is like to be discriminated against. It should be taken into consideration before bashing Ingalls choices of words that she chose to educate her daughter in a way that a lot of parents look past: one of insight, pluaralism, and a sense of identity. She is taking the proper steps needed to ensure that her daughter will choose what she feels is right for her and her connection to Israel.

Amir Flesher says:

The legions of comments above claiming that the author “hates Israel” and other variations on this theme are emblematic of why the author feels ambivalence about Israel in the first place. Many of Israel’s most vocal supporters amongst American Jewry are quick to label anybody who expresses anything less than unconditional support for Israeli policies–no matter how objectionable they are–as a hater of Israel, self hating Jew, and a litany of other despicable terms. There is very little that offends me generally speaking—the self-serving and yes–ignorant–moniker “self-hating Jew” is one of them. It reeks with an air of presumption and condescension that baffles the mind.

On top of this: People–she sent her kids to a ZIONIST summer camp– her actions indicated something rather different than hatred of Israel.

I am Israeli born, American raised, and attended and was a counselor at both Young Judaea and Habonim-Dror camps. The experience was amazing on many levels–many of which the author documents.

Having said that, I share the author’s feelings upon seeing an Israeli flag. Alert: I do not hate Israel. My feelings of aversion upon seeing the flag are rooted in the jingoism and militarism that accompanies the symbol, not in a rejection of the Jewish people and its yearning for a homeland. There’s a difference.

Also, I will repeat here a basic argument that I and others have made many times: Criticism of the occupation and the abuses of human rights that accompany it, made by progressive Jews, are often (but not always) borne in LOVE of Israel and a wish to not see it self-destruct and take others down with it. Its much like a friend who gives tough love to his alcoholic buddy.

jonny b says:

Not to harp on the flag thing because it’s not the point of the article, but . . .

@ Amir Flesher. You wrote:

“I share the author’s feelings upon seeing an Israeli flag. Alert: I do not hate Israel. My feelings of aversion upon seeing the flag are rooted in the jingoism and militarism that accompanies the symbol, not in a rejection of the Jewish people and its yearning for a homeland.”

Why surrender the the symbolism of the flag to the Right wing? Doesn’t the flag symbolize the entirety of the Jewish people? I urge you to embrace the flag in your cause. It’s not their flag, it’s not your flag, it’s our flag.


When you say things like, “Its much like a friend who gives tough love to his alcoholic buddy,” I think you lose the right to accuse others of condescension.

I think all of you here need to go to Obidiah 1:18 Summer Camp. They will teach you your true identity. Esau married Caananites (Satan’s Kids) and lived in Edom. God commanded that the Edomites (jews) be destroyed and not one remain. The 1925 jewish encyclopedia states that Esau-Edom is modern day jewry, basically saying that the jews are Satan’s kids. Day 2 will go over what Jesus knew about satan’s kids as the camp staff recites John 8:44 Jesus said to the jews…You are of your father the devil…and in Revelations 2:9. On Day 3 it gets really interesting as science is taught. A video of Mr. Fred Leuchter, a gas chamber expert, is shown and shows that it was not scientifically possible for gas chambers in Auschveeeetzz. On Day 4 it is just incredible as we are shown a movie called 9-11 Missing Links”. It proves that the Israeli Mossad did 9-11. I highly recommend this camp. Your kids will thank you!

Leah says:

I am not sure I ever read anything by Marjorie Ingall So I will take at face value some of the comments here describing her as a thoughtful writer. From reading this article I can see she is a skilled writer, who simultaneously works hard to inject lightness and humor into her writing and also labors to be thought provoking. Yet I am neither charmed nor do I find her writing thoughtful. She has the right, of course, to advocate anti-Zionism, post-Zionism, and, even, Israel hatred. But she is most definitely conflicted and self-contradictory in this piece. She so cares about dehumanizing Palestinians yet she speaks in sweeping generalizations about everyone else–vile and spoiled kids, Zionist camps, and Israelis, included. Being a Zionist Israeli and still not dehumanizing Palestinians are not mutually exclusive states of being. That the most positive statement she makes about Israeli camp counselors is that they are good looking is not just simply offensive to this good looking Sabra; it is dehumanizing. A self-described Jewish mother, she does not fit the protective ‘Jewish mother’ stereotype when she uses her children (by naming them and showing her daughter’s candid photograph in a moment of spontaneous joy) to advocate her opinions. Spitting venom while trying to be cutesy does not make the venom less potent. My wish for her is her worst nightmare–that her kids will grow up to be Israel-loving Zionists, or, even worst, Israelis. As a Zionist-Israeli-American-Habonim-Dror-Camp-Mosh-mother, I can think of worst fates for my children.

Amir Flesher says:

@jonny b

Feelings of aversion that I experience upon seeing the flag are not an intellectual choice, but rather a visceral response. I suppose you’re right that I have, in a sense, surrendered something. On the other hand, , I have to admit that am generally off-put by symbols of ANY kind that are designed to coalescence masses of people behind an ideology or a brand. It’s all manipulative marketing in a sense. Accordingly, I am not likely to adopt any symbol.


I don’t agree (obviously) that my analogy is condescending. A person who gives tough love is exactly the opposite of condescending. To condescend is to look down upon, while tough love is to act out of compassion.

Having said that, I don’t think that the analogy I used is a great one. Discard the analogy if you like. The important point is the sentence that preceded the analogy:

“Criticism of the occupation and the abuses of human rights that accompany it, made by progressive Jews, are often (but not always) borne in LOVE of Israel and a wish to not see it self-destruct and take others down with it.”

Leah says:

A skilled writer, Marjorie Ingall works hard to inject lightness and humor into her writing while she labors to be thought provoking. I am neither charmed nor do I find her writing thoughtful. She has the right to advocate anti-Zionism and Israel hatred. Here she is most definitely conflicted and self-contradictory in this piece. She cares so about dehumanizing Palestinians yet she speaks in sweeping generalizations about everyone else–vile and spoiled kids, Zionist camps, and Israelis, included. Being a Zionist Israeli and still not dehumanizing Palestinians are not mutually exclusive states of being. That the most positive statement she makes about Israeli camp counselors is that they are good looking is not just simply offensive to this good looking Sabra; it is dehumanizing. A self-described Jewish mother, she does not fit the protective ‘Jewish mother’ stereotype when she uses her children (by naming them and showing a candid photograph of her daughter in moment of spontaneous joy) to advocate her opinions. Spitting venom while trying to be cutesy does not make the venom less potent. My wish for her is her worst nightmare–that her kids will grow up to be Israel-loving Zionists, or, even worst, Israelis. As a Zionist-Israeli-American-Habonim-Dror-Camp-Mosh-mother, I can think of worst fates for my children.


I was referring mainly to your analogy about the alcoholic friend, so I do appreciate your retraction of that analogy. However, I still think that the mentality you seem to have, however well-intentioned, is still condescending. The term “tough love” is generally applied to parents or teachers who have to “get tough” with their children or students in order to get them to do what’s best for them.

I don’t think “progressive” American Jews, without the daily encounter with Palestinian terrorism and Arab delegitimization, are in any similar, superior position to Israelis. This is similarly to how I feel about some Israelis, who lecture American Jews about how empty and devoid their community life is, without any experience of the richness and diversity of American Jewish life. There can be a mutual dialogue, but it is condescending to presume to know what is best for Israel than the majority of Israelis.

Jason M says:

Aarggh…ANY article here that suggests the writer has even the slightest hesitation about giving full-throated support to everything Israel does gets attacked.

The point of this article – a wonderful, interesting, and surprising one – had very little to do with Israel.

I’m heartened that that pioneering, thoughtful, enterprising spirit of the first Israeli settlers is captured and conveyed to Jewish youngsters. Hope I can send my kids to the same camp one day!

Uzi Silber says:

het stick to Sassy-ish fashion writing.

RuthN says:

As the parent of a young man who grew up in a no frills Zionist camp I can assure the author that campers are given a full exposure to the history of the region and all the complexities involved. Critical thinking and analysis of issues was part and parcel of the camp experience,especially as he got older.

Recently my son made Aliyah. His attendance at a Zionist camp certainly put him on this path, but it does not prevent him from critizizing certain government decisions, nor for displaying empathy for the plight of Palestinians while at the same time affirming Israel’s right to exist safely and securely as a Jewish state.

One thing I’ve always liked about Marjorie Ingalls’ writing is her honesty and courage. Those made uncomfortable by her discomfort (as I was) should keep in mind that the article she wrote was about, in part, transcending discomfort. Yes, it’s too bad that too many modern Jewish writers have to drop an “I’m not with them” cred. But sometimes, it really is relevant to the story.

Holy bullseye on your head, Ms. Ingall! In any case, thanks for writing about your camp search experience.

Thanks, too, to those who, writing in the comments (like Neal Ross Attinson, just above), remind their more vitriolic neighbors of Ms. Ingall’s salient point.

uzi silber says:

As you sit self-satisfied and safe in your kumfee East Village flat, you say you’re ‘conflicted’ about a tiny, vibrant, beleaguered democracy defending itself from a mob of Muslim dictators and terrorists and in fact millions of ordinary Arabs in the street who openly wish this tiny bastion of liberty destroyed.

Conflicted are you, about Israel’s sons and daughters daring to have the hutzpa to try to stop the rain of thousands of missiles on Israeli towns from Gaza? Tell me: how ‘conflicted’ are you about the “moderate” Palestinian Authority naming streets after dozens of mass suicide murderers of Jewish children like your own?

How conflicted are you about the Hamas leadership always declaring its intention to destroy Israel and kill its Jews? Do you become conflicted when you listen or read or watch the daily doses of Nazi-like filth and conspiracy theories on Palestinian and Egyptian TV and newspapers, and across the Muslim world? Does it bother you that Mein Kampf is a best seller in Egypt?

That’s OK, Margie. You keep on hopping over to your swanky synagogue on Gramercy Park, and worrying about what summer camp is too “jappy” for your children, and chatting cleverly with your elite Harvard friends, and feeling conflicted about the flag of a tiny country that has sheltered millions of Jews from around from around the world fleeing persecution in Europe, Araby, Iran, Ethiopia, and the former Soviet Empire.

You just keep on doing all those things and enjoying the luxury of taking Israel for granted while Jews in Israel do the dirty work of watching out for the Jewish People, which happens to include your kids and your ungrateful, spoiled and extremely JAPPY ass.

Rabbi Tony Jutner says:

I was disappointed by this sappy article, because I too have a visceral reaction when I see the israeli flag, so why did she send her kid to a zionist camp. If I had children, I would send them on a flotilla or have them demonstrate daily at Bilin or Sheikh Jarrah. Your kid will now need deprogramming

Thanks for a most beautiful and amusing article.

Andrea says:

This camp sounds amazing. Where can my kids–Rose Frances and Gabriel Thomas Goyette–sign up?

Lyon Hamburg says:

This woman is a just plain stupid- she ,like so many American Jews do not look at the history of our people. In terms of history in the diaspora it is no small coincidence that Jews have been demonized and persecuted as long as history has been recorded. The ” anti-zionists ( anti-Semites) ” are happy to exploit the naïveté of so many of these “enlightened and open- minded” Jews.

I went to Habonim Camp Moshava in the late 70’s early 80’s and it was an amazing place to a develop a Jewish indentity that bore little resemblence to the culture of suburban Jewish baltimore. Still, at that time there was no mention of the *situation* and when I went to Israel in college during the first intifada I ended up feeling betrayed and angry at my zionist camp. it took me a long time to get over that. i’ll bet they do a better job now.

I think it’s signficant that no one mentions the incredible costs of these camps which seem to start around $900 per week per camper.

Michelle says:

I loved this article, both because chances are I *know* your camp Moshava attending cousins, and because I attended Naaleh in the early 80s myself. Raised as a secular Jew in what was rapidly becoming an orthodox neighborhood in Brooklyn, it was machaneh (camp) that really connected me with my Judaism in a meaningful way.

I loved being with my peers — kids who really *got* me and weren’t caught up in the latest fashions or being cool. I still love that Habonim camps prided themselves not on tennis lessons (I don’t think we had a tennis court — I do remember a wall for playing handball…) but on community building. And, while my own experience pre-dates the first intifada, I do remember a pretty intense educational activity around the invasion of Lebanon, complete with going around camp visitng different sites where counselors were playing the roles of different parties affected by the events of that day — an Israeil soldier, a Lebanese woman in a bomb shelter (under one of the bunks!). I think that was my first real introduction to political nuance, in a way that made sense to me. The notion of seeing others’ perspectives was not something I really got in my community at home, even in my public elementary school, where my class was overwhelmingly Jewish, and we really didn’t know anyone else.

And, now I have “ani v’atah” floating around in my head, along with memories of campfires, singing, laughing, and learning.

Andrea says:

I was NOT being sarcastic (my husband, Gary Goyette, pointed out that this could be a reading). I’m serious. This camp sounds like a place where an American Jew can find resolve in her faith and culture while at the same time not be crippled by the victimization the degradation, fear, and attempted mass murder of an entire group of people based on their culture, beliefs, and intellectual and moral success. Marjorie Ingall attempts –and in my opinion, succeeds at–evaluating the personal, psychological, and political elements of the very makings of her heart and soul, and determining which focuses are best for her family as a whole and her daughters as individuals. Catholics and Catholicism can learn a thing or too from Marjorie. That is what I meant.

Goldie says:

Everytime I read an article by an American liberal Jew that expresses
ambivalence about Israel (I live here and am highly critical of many
Israeli policies and of course the Netanyahu government) – I cant help
but think – there are several million liberal Jews in America (based on the percentage who voted for Obama). If only 10% of them left the comforts and security of America and made aliyah – they would have made a difference in politics here. If a quarter of them had made aliyah – this would have been an aliyah the size of that of the Russian Jews who
have had a real impact on Israeli society and politics. Then perhaps Israel would be a different place and one we could all be more comfortable with. I dont think that every Jew should make aliyah
or even refrain from criticizing Israel but… I cant help but have these thoughts

Bill Pearlman says:

Goldie. I couldn’t agree with you more. You go to Israel, grab a gun, stand a watch. Ride the buses on a regular basis. You can say and do what ever you want. But to snipe from the side lines. That’s the cowards way out.

Camp Kinder Ring run by the Workmen’s Circle is home to our geeky, serious, beautiful boy — oy, I miss him! — check it out too — less than two hours from NYC.

I was a Ramah camper and staff member in the late ’50s and ’60s. It was a great and formative experience. I was exposed to some really great minds. Many, later become very famous. Nearly all married Jews and retained their love for Judaism.
As the writer stated from her own experience, it was not a materialistic camp. It did impart good Jewish values. Ramah in New England (and the Poconos too) did sensitize towards love of Judaism, tolerance, klal yisrael, and tikkun olam. And yes, of Zionism too. Thank God for that. Glad to see that some good things don’t get improved” away and keep doing what they have done so well for generations.

Dror says:

“I hesitate to talk about Israel with my children, and I feel a visceral anxiety upon seeing an Israeli flag.”

Astonishing. I wonder how the author would react if she were to read this in a saner moment. Or had to explain herself to those liberated from Auschwitz, or to those condemned to to death during the inquisition ….

Beatrix says:

Before Israel, Jews were a tribe, a people without a country chased hither and yon. No one valued our contributions because no one valued us.

People were shocked by the Holocaust, but mainly they blamed us for not fighting back, for being weak and cowardly. They acknowledged that we had brains, but we were geeks before people learned to admire geeks.

We had attractive movie stars, most of whom tried to hide their identity because when they were identified as Jews, their attractiveness to the public diminished. When Bess Myerson won the Miss America contest in 1945, someone wrote that she was the wrong person with the right stuff.

And then came Israel. Jews beat the Arabs against overwhelming odds. Jews established a democracy in an area where democracies were unknown. Israelis had brains, but they also had supermodels, handsome soldiers who sometimes appeared on American TV, and movie stars admired for their beauty. Do you think Natalie Portman would have admitted to being Jewish before the establishment of Israel?

American Jews finally had another dimension. We were American and we had a heritage we could be proud of. We were from Israel and as proud of that as Irish Americans were about being Irish and Italian Americans were about Italy.

It’s tragic that Jews today would deny their heritage because they believe Arab propaganda, because being a lefty, a transient belief, is more important to them than a heritage that is thousands of years old.

michael livingston says:

Marjorie at least has the courage to try to balance two worlds, whereas the person she quotes in the anti-Zionist article (Benedikt?) has simply turned her back. It’s a harsh thing to say, but is it really such a terrible loss for Israel to “lose” such people? We lose people who never had much courage in the first place, and gain others who do: is that really such a very bad trade?

Beatrix says:

Michael, you’re right.

It’s sad though that German Americans, Irish Americans and Italian Americans have a lot to live down such as Hitler, terrorist bombings, and Mussolini, yet I never heard anyone of German, Irish or Italian descent say that they had a visceral hate for the country of their heritage. I’ve only heard Jews make a shameful statement like that.

But at least with the establishment of Israel, Jews such as Marjorie no longer hide their Jewishness, they simply don’t like it. I guess that’s an improvement.

VHJM van Neerven says:

Hi Beatrix! There’s another Beatrix, Queen of the Netherlands- one country where any well-thinking citizen will express his hatred for his country and its politics, the Queen to begin with, be it ever so veiled. Noblesse oblige and all that.
I suppose, heck no, I know for sure there are many Arabs who despise their country, its politics and its rulers, too. And U.S. citizens, too. Get it?

Ms. Ingall, you and I have had our differences and agreements here. This is another occasion when I wholeheartedly agree with your writing, if only because you adhere to the socialism in old-fashioned Zionism: “[M]akes kids do chores … does not have spiffy bunks or a lake … kids dress like shlumps … are unspoiled and lovely … a super-strict anti-bullying policy … haimish.”

Exactly. That’s what I learned from Habonim and kibbutz life. That’s what I am stuck with and will stick by, all my my life and, I am happy to say, so do most of our children.

Marisia says:

The Tablet advertises itself as “the Jewish magazine you’ve been waiting for” and “a new read on Jewish life” and all I’ve read is the same old contempt for traditional Jewish values and ambivalence (to put it mildly) towards Israel. I mainly logged in because Mayim Bialik was involved, but apparently she’s still Hollywood underneath the shaitel.

Beatrix says:

There’s a difference in Americans criticizing America, Dutch criticizing Holland, and Jews criticizing Israel. America and Holland are established and powerful.

Israel is new and taking all the lumps that Jews used to take and for someone like me who was here before the establishment of Israel and who can see that, Jews joining into that antisemitic behavior is both naïve and detestable.

A couple of hundred years down the road, I’ll feel differently.

Beatrix says:

Zionism was traditionally on the left. Today, it’s the left that is the most anti-Israel and antisemitic.

Germany produced Bach and Beethoven. It would be foolish if your love of their music blinded you to the danger posed by Hitler in the 1930s.

Marjorie’s being a lefty, while having admirable components (neat bunks, etc.)is probably why she has a visceral hatred of Israel’s flag.

Howard says:

I occupy the same social space and attitudes as the author, and I just happily packed my two kids off to 3 weeks at a HaBonim camp in nearby British Columbia.

There are so many interesting dimensions of class woven into her story and mine.

Here in Oregon I don’t have much contact with the incredibly gross level of privilege that she talks about but I’ve seen it and am glad to be free of it. But even in mellow Portland Oregon there are Jews I wouldn’t want to have my kids associate with, simply because of the grossness of their materiality and material obsessions.

On the Zionist side of things, there is a certain reality that you can’t raise a liberal Zionist until you first raise a Zionist.

Unless we begin with the core truth that we are Jews and that we do support Jewish national survival in Palestine, then the second layer of that truth, which is that we also support liberal values, peace, compromise and ultimately Palestinian realization of national aspirations in part of Palestine…. can’t really be explained or taught.

So my impression of HaBonim is that it is first a Jewish camp experience, and second that it conveys (in the most general of ways) a positive message about Israel and Zionism. And that’s all for the good, because it enables me to continue to voice not only my Zionism, but also my moral hesitations about the turn that Zionism has taken. So, in response to some folks above, that’s why a Zionist camp makes sense to loyal dissenters. We are dissenters, but when it comes to our children we are also loyal and 100% part of the community and tribe, and we want our children to feel that in their bones. That sense of Jewish belonging is core to our liberal and progressive values, the ones we seek to convey to our children, the ones that lead us to support Palestinian national aspirations alongside our own people’s aspirations.

Whoa, I am frankly flabberghasted at the venom directed at Ingalls — a thoughful writer who dares to share her experiences and point of view as she raises two Jewish kids. Shame on her! Personally, I think questioning, agonizing and trying to navigate the best possible course is not only the responsibility of all humans and Jews, it’s the responsibility of any human, Jewish PARENT. Would it have been better, as one reader suggests, to send her child to a Haredi camp? No? How about, as another reader suggests, on a Flotilla? I am sorry if this seems chauvanistic, but they don’t call us the people of the book for nothing: We read, we think, we analyze — all in an effort to make the world better (even if that means preparing our children, and theirs, to make the world better). I love Israel. I am critical of its leadership, as I love America and can be critical, too – it’s called democracy. I don’t have to back Likud to understand the 60-year siege against Israel, anymore than I have to get on a flotilla to sympathize with the Palestinian people, pawns at least as persecuted by Egypt, Jordan and their own leadership as they have been by Israel. This camp sounds wonderful – because it seems to present all the values (including a love of Israel) of Israel’s Socialist Founding Fathers and Mothers. Children who appreciate and love Israel, speak Hebrew and have humanitarian and yes, Socialist values — are more like the 60% of Israelis who back a two-state solution. And they may be the ones who save and preserve Israeli and the rest of the world’s Jews. I’m staying tuned.

As a journalist, I can no longer be astonished at the venom people will inject into comments. But I can still feel nauseated at the hate and rudeness, particularly when Marjorie Ingall is writing so thoughtfully about American Jews, Israel, and Jewish identity.

When you’re composing a comment, ask yourselves, “If I met so-and-so at a party, would I say this to her face?”

If the answer is “yes,” then I suppose you’re at least a very whole, well-integrated sort of personality. Mazel tov!

If it’s “maybe” or “no,” then please, reconsider before hitting the “submit comment” button.

VHJM van Neerven says:

Not so dear Beatrix,

As long as you do not call our country by its rightful name, you’
d better not write at all.

Jeremy says:

I loved this piece! I don’t have a negative visceral reaction to the Israeli flag – I’m generally a sucker for flags in spite of whatever their country’s governments do that fails to live up to my highest aspirations for the countries – but I understand everything you said here so well. My own upbringing at a different Habonim Socialist-Zionist camp – Tavor – helped me, via that in-our-culture’s-political-discourse oxymoronic combination “socialist-Zionist,” to understand that unthinking hotheads on both sides of a debate, such as some of the people who have commented here, are generally unthinking hotheads. As you imply, nuance is good, and even 8-year olds can understand nuance if we don’t knock it out of them. I am curious which camp you’re talking about. Whichever one it is should put this column on their website, as should Mosh, if you’d let them! I just came back from Habonim-Dror Camp Galil’s visitors’ day, where my daughter seemed really happy, even though “ashpah and mikhzur” (garbage and recycling) wasn’t necessarily her first work choice. The day felt very “patriotic” – in the good way: The kids, as Americans and as Jews, are on the way to making the world better, and can feel proud of being Americans and Jews on the way.

Leah says:

Visceral response to an Israeli flag?! What other flags do you have the same response to, Mrs Ingall?! Or is it only to the tiny’s Jewish state one, the very state that pays in blood for each day of its existence?!
What has happened here? Has the world gone mad?! Why should we be interested in spiritually bankrupt, self-absorbing musings of this person on the topic of how she is raising here children?!

It is intellectually offensive and emotionally depleting reading, and taking this article seriously is a sign of frightening loss of perspective and emptiness of left American Jewry and our times as well.

Lou Adams says:

What a wonderful caricature of a liberal Jewish New Yorker who is attempting to balance her idyllic liberal values and her connection to Judaism. I appreciate her skill and candor of her sharing of her life in the liberal Jewish bubble that allows for overlooking the history of Jewish repression and genocide. Those of us who see the world differently seem to have a visceral reaction to seeing hatred for Jews and the desire to destroy Israel and murder all of us more than we have for the flag of Israel. She is so likable, may G_D protect her and her children from the tide of anti Semitism that is growing around all of us


wackalectic says:

Religion + summer camp filled with young kids unable to contact their parents for a month = cult indoctrination.  Why should anyone sympathize with Isreal when they routinely slaughter innocent children and provoke war in the name of a “god”.  There is no god.  Only adults grabbing power  to advance themselves. 


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In the Zionist Camp

I have conflicted feelings toward Israel, but I love my daughter’s progressive, tolerant, anti-bullying, anti-materialist—and, yes, Zionist—summer camp

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