January 14, 2005

by Reb Yudel
Jewish journalism and Jewish camping, done right

Kudos to Johanna Ginsberg who is becoming one of the few must-read reporters in Jewish journalism. Johanna works under Andy at the New Jersey Jewish News, so she's writing obstensibly local news story. But week after week, I find that she compellingly captures a real slice of American Jewish life.

Some weeks, she practically begs every other local Jewish newspaper to rewrite the story with local interviews -- such as a piece earlier this year on the difficulties of carpooling to Hebrew school. On one level, it seems a profoundly trivial topic. But on second thought, it reflects the real place where abstract Jewish commitment meets the day-to-day grind of life as it is lived -- which, here in suburbia, means life behind the wheel.

Some times, though, the local angle is just a brilliant veneer on a truly national story. Take, for example last week's piece Happy (specialized) campers as she gets both the local and national angle on a new breed of Jewish summer camps:

In the idyllic setting of the Berkshire Mountains, a region known for its cultural arts offerings, campers with a special interest in music and arts gather in the morning to study a Judaic text; in the afternoon, they create an artistic representation of that text.

The activity is what Rabbi Daniel Lehmann calls “a performance beit midrash,” and it takes place on the grounds of Williams College in Williamstown, Mass. Last summer the camp, known as the Berkshire Institute for Music and Arts (BIMA), attracted 42 students, including seven from Israel.

“I went to music camp, and I have children involved in music and art. I felt there was no place where those interests could be pursued in a Jewish setting, supportive of Jewish life,” said Lehmann, founder and executive director of the four-week camp.

For fun, count the sources interviewed for the story. Is there anything in this week's Jewish Week or Forward that reflects so much work? TrackBack
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