Camp Young Judaea Midwest is connected with nature, Israel | Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

Camp Young Judaea Midwest is connected with nature, Israel 

In her new role as camp director of Camp Young Judaea Midwest since November 2022, Rabbi Hannah Wallick, formerly of Milwaukee Jewish Federation, works year-round recruiting campers, hiring staff, and building the program calendar. All of these separate puzzle pieces ar meant to contribute to making sure camp feels magical.  

Although her daughter attended Camp Young Judaea Midwest, the rabbi said she was still blown away by her first summer as Camp Director. “You hear about camp from your kid, but then to see it in action is awe-inspiring,” she said. “There’s nothing like Jewish overnight camp.” 

In addition to offering all of the activities of a summer camp – kayaking, water skiing, mountain biking, and camping trips, to name a few – Camp Young Judaea Midwest aims to strengthen each camper’s Jewish connection.  

Jewish youth from across the U.S. and Israel attend Camp Young Judaea Midwest, which is part of a larger Zionist youth movement, Young Judaea.  

The 80-acre camp on the shores of Stratton Lake in Waupaca is the furthest west Young Judaea campus, and therefore uniquely positioned to draw rising second through ninth grade students from as far east as Pittsburgh and as far west as the California Bay Area, Wallick said. 

As a pluralist camp, campers have a variety of Jewish backgrounds, ranging from modern Orthodox to not belonging to a synagogue. The camp’s unique ruach, or spirit, is shaped by special shabbat customs, including lots of dancing and singing.  

Rising high school seniors who work at camp as madrichim, or counselors, have the opportunity to live in Israel outside of the summer months through a combination of taking classes at university, working and volunteering. In light of the recent events in Israel, these students have been flexible this year — moving locations multiple times and  helping families in the Gaza envelope, Wallick said.  

Additionally, a large number of campers and staff at Camp Young Judaea Midwest are Israeli. These peers enrich Jewish programming and help U.S. campers build connections with Israel, Wallick said. Israelis also contribute to what Wallick calls the “radical inclusivity” mindset of camp. According to the rabbi, campers find friends who encourage them to be the best versions of themselves.  

Wallick apppreciates that she will be contributing to campers’ growth each year. In today’s world of technology, camp  provides a rare environment where kids engage with peers face-to-face, free from electronic devices, Wallick said. “Not every kid is comfortable sleeping in a bunk, or being away from their Xbox for so long,” she said. “They can be proud of the growth that they experience in that discomfort.”

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In addition to leading Camp Young Judaea Midwest, Rabbi Hannah Wallick is the spiritual leader for Moses Montefiore Congregation in Appleton.