How to Really Know if Someone is Jewish

Okay, so there’s the Jewish rule of thumb that if your birth mother is Jewish, then you are Jewish.  Various branches of Judaism (Orthodox, Reform, Secular) all have their own definition of what makes a person a Jew.  Well folks, I’m here to end the confusion. 

The way you truly know if someone is Jewish is to ascertain whether they went to summer camp.  Not just camp for a week, but the whole kit and kaboodle (at least 8 weeks of camp to be considered a full-fledged Jew).  This was my first identification as a Jew.  No synagogue, no Bat Mitzvah, no gold Jewish star hanging around my neck.  Just 8 weeks of summer camp at Adventureland Day Camp in Bucks County.  Those of you who are Jewish (and now you know who you are because you know what it takes to be a Jew), can identify completely with this ever-so-accurate method of identification.  Go up to anyone you suspect is Jewish and ask “Where did you go to camp?”  If they have an immediate answer, their Jewishness has been confirmed.  Now there are those of you out there who may be naysayers – like my non-Jewish friends who went to Y camp for a week, or Boy Scout camp for two weeks.  Those types of camps don’t count.  You need to have attended an out-and-out general day or overnight camp with zillions of the same kids summer after summer after summer.  My friend, Carrie, who is 20 years younger than I am, connected with me so deeply over this matter that our non-Jewish friends looked at us like we were psychotic when we recounted how absolutely wonderful our summers were at camp.  She’s still a counselor at the same camp she attended as a kid, and she never intends to leave.  My son, who has been attending camp since birth (well, almost), loves it as much as I did.  This, and not the fact that I, his birth mother, am Jewish, is what makes him a real Jew.

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4 Responses to How to Really Know if Someone is Jewish

  1. Mary Pontius says:

    I spent two weeks at day camp when I was seven. I HATED IT! does that confirm that I am a WASP?

  2. Karen Lynch-Schirra says:

    Sounds as if there’s a correlation here as to our life experiences. We Catholics say that IF you didn’t attend a Catholic school–especially “way back in the days”–then you can’t even begin to find the bonding, humor, and “survival” of some of the disciplines, especially with nuns who we swear had eyes in the back of their head. You might be Catholic–but you can’t truly join in on the conversations, if you went to public school.

    I do remember your talking so much about camp!

  3. Dave says:

    I am definitely a Jew. I went to Camp Galil, summer after summer, with the same kids for the FULL 8 week session! Once, my first year, I begged my father to take me home and he wouldn’t.

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