Camp Philosophy

Camp Philosophy header
Camp Philosophy header

Camp Yavneh welcomes & embraces Jews of all denominations. Yavneh is committed to creating an environment in which individual's identities will be safeguarded, but in which people will have the opportunity to engage, challenge and argue with each other. The Camp is committed to this ideal of interpersonal engagement, because through exposure and understanding people deepen their own self-understanding and connections to Jewish life and tradition through their appreciation of legitimate, alternative points of view.

Of course, Yavneh draws its own boundaries. People who are not convinced that we all have more to gain as a people through respectful interaction than by insular isolation will not be comfortable here. In addition, the Camp must remain flexible and open in its understanding of halakhic norms, but also careful to maintain punctilious standards in such areas as Shemirat Shabbat (Shabbat observance) and Kashrut (dietary standards), to ensure the continuous participation of campers and counselors who direct their lives on a continuum of adherence to Jewish law.

Yavneh remains one of the few Jewish educational environments which, standing independent of any particular denomination or philosophy, maintains a vibrant environment for Jews of differing backgrounds, behavioral norms, or outlook to share intellectual, social, and ritual life together. Interactions at Camp Yavneh take shape both formally and informally. We offer several alternatives to tefillot every morning, requiring that everyone participate in some prayer service. These span orthodox tefillot, several forms of egalitarian tefillot, learners' tefillot, and women's tefillot. Campers from different backgrounds study in classes’ together daily.

The Camp is committed to Shabbat observance, which includes observance of all prohibitions, while enabling campers to spend their Shabbat in a variety of activities. Some people spend their day studying and talking, while others play sports. Communal meals throughout the week and Shabbat include recitation of brakhot and birkat hamazon, which for some is a new experience, while for others provides the opportunity to help create and contribute to building community. Community being essential for young people in order to feel a sense of connection to the Jewish people.

Yavneh seeks opportunity for all types of educational programming, providing additional opportunities for campers and counselors to talk and express differences of opinions together, while also engaging a shared theme or activity. Every summer, in addition to the curriculum of daily classes, the Camp develops a theme, which unites everyone around a universally shared Jewish concern. Some of the themes recently have included the celebration of Jerusalem 3000, the centrality of the Jewish value of human dignity and respect, and Ethnic Communities in the Jewish people. Finally, as a pluralistic community camp, Yavneh is committed to re-thinking its philosophical beliefs and to re-interpreting its practices as part of the process of building community. This is an important feature of camp. We remain committed to seeing ourselves as an educational environment in which the issues facing this and the next generations must be approached through an examination of our sources and tradition. A coalition of Jews from diverse backgrounds, struggling together to gain insight and understanding about how to live and behave together provides a powerful model for community building in general.