By Logan C. Ritchie
As summer camps in Atlanta open for registration, bombarding parents with new and dazzling programming, Lauren Chekanow is confident in her choice of camp for her kindergarten-age daughter.
“I like an all-around camp experience,” she said. “Kids can go to art camp or sports camp, but In the City Camp has it all: swimming, crafts, field trips. It’s like Jewish sleep-away camp for the day.”
Located in the Emory University area, In the City Camp serves intown Jewish children ages 5 to 14. Campers are split into two groups: kid camp for rising kindergartners to fifth-graders and tween camp for sixth- to ninth-graders. Counselors hail from Atlanta and Israel.
When campers arrive each morning, the whole camp meets for songs and bunk meetings. Kids choose three activities from a list that may include martial arts, basketball, baseball, soccer, yoga, photography, science, drama and cooking. Because of the many options, campers can have a different experience every day.
Campers don In the City Camp shirts for weekly field trips to the Tellus Science Museum, a Braves game, Six Flags or the Chattahoochee River. Kids come home dirty, sweaty and exhausted.
Seems like your basic outdoorsy, old-school summer camp, except that In the City Camp is home to full range of Judaism. This big family of Jewish campers and counselors develops a love of Israel and of Jewish heritage rather than religion.
“We reflect independence, community and Jewish values,” Director Eileen Price said. “I want to teach religion at home.”
Price, a mother of four, created In the City Camp because her fondest memories of summer stem from Jewish overnight camp. “I have four different types of children. I envisioned a place small in size that would allow my children to express different interests but not have to fit into a big camp.”
In the City Camp offers a discount for campers who enroll for at least four of the eight weeks so they can experience the camp’s true community and ruach (spirit). Assistant Director Allison Boaz said, “Just when you get in the groove of camp, you want to stay another week. We aim to get that overnight camp feel. This is your place. You feel comfortable; you connect with counselors, make friends. It’s amazing to see in action.”
“Tweens get left at home a lot in the summer,” Price said. “This is a prime opportunity to teach them about who they are. They understand their ownership of the world.”
Tweens are on campus Monday to Wednesday, stay overnight Thursday, and return to camp on Shabbat. They learn camping safety, how to make dinner over a campfire and how to collect wood. Once a week they volunteer for organizations such as Meals on Wheels and homeless shelters.
The camp is in the process of becoming a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and forming a board of directors and recently was granted funding to provide scholarships. Registration at www.inthecitycamp.com opens Jan. 27.
In the City attracted 137 campers in 2013 and 345 in 2014. This summer the camp is adding bus service from Brookhaven and two sites in Sandy Springs and after-camp care at Congregation B’nai Torah and Druid Hills High School.
“People said I would never be able to re-create a Jewish overnight experience. I learned that if you have an excellent product, people will come,” said Price, one of the Atlanta Jewish Times’ 40 Under 40 in 2014. “Last summer we had kids coming from Dunwoody, and now I’m getting calls from East Cobb. Next summer we’re aiming for a second campus.”
Other Intown Options
In the City Camp is not the only day-camp choice for intown Jewish families:
- Camp Gan Israel serves children ages 6 to 11, alongside its Kiddie Camp for those 2 to 5, from all Jewish backgrounds at the site of Chabad Intown’s Kaufman Youth Center near Piedmont Park. The camp offers six one-week sessions, with rising discounts for enrollment in two, four or six weeks and options for care before and after camp and a planned bus service. Registration is open at www.cgiintown.org, with early-bird discounts through Feb. 15.
- The Marcus JCC is expanding its performing arts camp to provide two two-week and two one-week sessions at Emory University for rising first- to eighth-graders. The two-week camps will culminate in performances of “Peter Pan” and “The Wizard of Oz.” In addition, two of the JCC’s nine free bus routes connect intown residents to Zaban Park in Dunwoody, the home of the rest of its variety of summer day camps spread over 11 weeks. Registration is open at atlantajcc.org/camps.