Finalist of the 2023 National Jewish Book Awards in the American Jewish Studies Category, sponsored by the Jewish Book Council.
In the decades directly following the Holocaust, American Jewish leaders anxiously debated how to preserve and produce what they considered authentic Jewish culture, fearful that growing affluence and suburbanization threatened the future of Jewish life. Many communal educators and rabbis contended that without educational interventions, Judaism as they understood it would disappear altogether. They pinned their hopes on residential summer camps for Jewish youth: institutions that sprang up across the U.S. in the postwar decades as places for children and teenagers to socialize, recreate, and experience Jewish culture. Adults' fears, hopes, and dreams about the Jewish future inflected every element of camp life, from the languages they taught to what was encouraged romantically and permitted sexually. But adult plans did not constitute everything that occurred at camp: children and teenagers also shaped these sleepaway camps to mirror their own desires and interests and decided whether to accept or resist the ideas and ideologies their camp leaders promoted. Focusing on the lived experience of campers and camp counselors, The Jews of Summer demonstrates how a cultural crisis birthed a rite of passage that remains a significant influence in American Jewish life.
About the author
Sandra Fox is visiting assistant professor of Hebrew Judaic Studies and Director of the Archive of the Jewish Left Project at New York University, and founder and executive producer of the Yiddish-language podcast Vaybertaytsh: A Feminist Podcast in Yiddish.
"The Jews of Summer is an important contribution to the study of postwar Jewish life. Sandra Fox's engaging and highly readable study of Jewish summer camping offers its fullest and most complex analysis, taking readers into every facet of Jewish camping. An original and essential contribution."
—Riv-Ellen Prell, University of Minnesota
"Rare is the book that is scholarly and entertaining, but The Jews of Summer is just that. Transporting the reader into the rhythms and romances of summer camp, Sandra Fox offers a deeply compelling lens into the profound and often generative ambivalences of postwar American Jewish life."
—Lila Corwin Berman, Temple University
"Though Jewish camping has roots going back to the Progressive Era, it really came into its golden age, along with American Judaism itself, in the postwar era. Jewish summer camp became not just a place to spend a summer, but a place to learnhowto be Jewish, as well as an ideological proving ground for the American Jewish future.
"All of this is wonderfully explored inThe Jews of Summer: Summer Camp and Jewish Culture in Postwar America."
—Rokhl Kafrissen, Tablet
"The Jews of Summer is an essential and engaging addition to scholarship on Jewish camping. Summer is an appropriate season in which to read it—but any time of year will yield the same rewards."
—Emily Schneider, Jewish Book Council
"The Jews of Summer presents a rich historical narrative largely gleaned from camp archives and alumni interviews.... Not the least of its strengths is a compelling, multigenerational narrative about the importance of summer camp in postwar Jewish culture, an age of abundance that lasted from the 1940s until the mid-1970s."
—Yeshua G. B. Tolle, Jewish Review of Books
"Well-researched, with some wry photos (e.g., counselor dressed up as David Ben Gurion), this book offers a nostalgic glimpse into a part of American-Jewish history."
—Hallie Cantor, Association of Jewish Libraries Reviews
"Jews of Summer is particularly effective in tracing the evolution of Jewish summer camps in historical context, in representing the point of view of children and teenagers, and in calling attention to the overlooked history of Yiddish camps. Sandra Fox conveys a sense of optimism that summer camps will continue to be part of an evolving understanding of what is meant by Jewish authenticity."
—Cynthia Bernstein, Contemporary Jewry