New West Seattle summer-camp option – from local synagogue

April 28, 2009 5:31 pm
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 |   West Seattle news | West Seattle religion

Less than two months now till school lets out, and local families are continuing to plan their kids’ schedules for summer. One brand-new option: Local synagogue Kol HaNeshamah is offering its first-ever day camp. We decided to take a closer look:

By Keri DeTore
Reporting for West Seattle Blog

Synagogue Kol HaNeshamah, housed at Alki Congregational United Church of Christ, will be hosting Camp Kol — a two-week summer day camp for kids this August.

Tammy Kaiser, director of Education and Administration for Kol HaNeshamah, describes it this way: “We will concentrate on Tikkun Olam, which translates into ‘repair of the world,’ as well as Tzedakah which is ‘righteousness or social justice’ and usually takes the form of charity. Part of this will be teaching environmental conscientiousness, and West Seattle is a wonderful learning lab with its beaches and tidal pools.”

The camp’s activities will be a mixture of day-camp pastimes such as games, cooking, arts and crafts and outdoor exploration with an emphasis on Jewish values and teaching kids to help “repair the world.” Their theme is “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Reinvent,” and they plan to use only fully compostable materials for all of their activities and meals. Rather than buying new materials for crafts, they’ll repurpose materials already on hand such as old silverware for making wind chimes. Additionally, they’ll be planting a garden on the grounds of the church, to be maintained by the Synagogue members.

The camp is open to all children preschool through age twelve. Tammy Kaiser adds: “You don’t need to be Jewish or a member of the Synagogue. We won’t be concentrating as much on faith as on what it is to be a good Jew — which is what it is to be a good human being and how we help each other.” Tammy continues: “It’s not meant to be religious, but we will have blessings of the food in Hebrew and English and we will prepare for Shabbat.” Saturday is the Jewish day of rest — or Shabbat — and the camp’s Friday activities will include preparations such as baking Challah and making “stone soup” — a vegetable soup made with ingredients brought in by the group.

Some activities will take place in collaboration with the existing day camp hosted by the Alki Congregational United Church, and the activities list will be posted so that parents can join in.

The creation of this camp is a result of community input and the economy. Most Jewish camps are structured for overnight stays and tend to be more expensive, plus there are none in West Seattle. Camp Kol provides a local, less expensive option, along with an environment that provides a Jewish experience. Also, adds Tammy: “It’s just a cool camp!” Before- and after-care will also be provided by the church for $10/hour.

Syangogue parent Amy Hilzman-Paquette explains why this camp is important to her family: “First, it provides an ongoing informal Jewish education experience that synagogue cannot offer. Second, it allows for true peer-peer learning and an opportunity for older campers to pass on tradition (which, of course, is the heart and soul of Judaism.) However … camp is only one piece of a very juicy pie. K’hila (community) and Torah (learning) ongoing and throughout a child’s life is crucial. (T)hat beginning opportunity of sitting around a camp fire and singing songs and setting marshmallows on fire and getting eaten by mosquitoes, those are moments you hope every kid will experience.”

With Camp Kol, Tammy hopes to “create a culture of kind, caring individuals — at least for two weeks!” She adds: “We hope to see a difference in the children—they’ll have an appreciation of their families, themselves and the world around them.”

For more information or registration materials, contact Tammy Kaiser at or visit

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