Mission + History

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Crane Lake Camp offers a tight-knit community based on a culture of kindness and personal growth. Located on over 100 acres in the heart of the beautiful Berkshire Mountains of Western Massachusetts, campers form close relationships with one another while they travel throughout the day as a cabin group.

Crane Lake Camp, a Union for Reform Judaism camp, is rooted in a long history and rich traditions of excellence. We first opened our doors as a private camp in the early 1900’s, and have been a Union for Reform Judaism camp since 1998. A second home to 350 children each session, campers come together to experience the fun and magic of Jewish camping from across the Northeast.

The Crane Lake Community (sometimes referred to as The Bubble) offers a fun, supportive environment in which campers can explore new activities, challenge themselves, and develop their passions. At camp, kids of all abilities and backgrounds strengthen their Jewish identities, while surrounded by beautiful facilities and expert staff.

Our caring and committed staff members (many of whom were campers themselves) strive to enrich the campers’ experiences by helping them to develop meaningful friendships. These relationships provide encouragement and support as well as offer the opportunity for campers to realize their full potential.

Our intimate (tech-free and parent-free) environment allows campers to embrace the challenge of learning new skills in athletics, aquatics, the arts, and adventure and nature programs. What campers do not realize is they are learning communication, collaboration, creativity, grit and empathy – the predictors of success in camp, school, and beyond.

In addition to daily activities, inter-camp games, and special events, campers and staff immerse themselves in a wide range of innovative Jewish pursuits and creative spiritual experiences that are the soul of Crane Lake. Campers from different backgrounds join together to create a meaningful community.

From the youngest of our campers to the oldest of our Junior Counselors, every child who spends a summer at Crane Lake returns home a wiser, more self-confident person, and more connected to the Jewish community.

Crane Lake is more than a summer of fun – it is an experience that lasts a lifetime!

Hineini – Here I am

… I am here to strengthen my own self-esteem and that of everyone in the camp community.

… I am here to strengthen my own Jewish identity and spirituality and that of everyone in the camp community.

… I am here to strengthen my connection to the Crane Lake community and the Jewish community and to help everyone around me to do the same.

… I am here to do as much as I can, in the time that I have, in the place that I am, and to inspire others to join me in this holy work.

לֹא עָלֶיךָ הַמְּלָאכָה לִגְמוֹר, וְלֹא אַתָּה בֶן חוֹרִין לִבָּטֵל מִמֶּנָּה.

For it is written: “Lo alecha hamlacha ligmor, v’lo ata ben chorin, l’heebatel mimena.”

“You are not required to complete the work, nor are you free to ignore it.” Pirke Avot 2:16


uIn the mid 1990s, then UAHC President Rabbi Eric Yoffie called upon the movement to expand the capacities of our camps by adding new beds and bunks.  Eisner was running at capacity and the old Dan Davis Dining Hall was operating double sessions for meals…we couldn’t even put the entire camp in the dining hall for Shabbat.  The Eisner Camp Commission, as it was known in those days, debated the issue and decided that without a larger dining hall, it would be impossible to expand the camp.  But even more importantly, it was felt that increasing the size of camp would take away from the spirit and magic of bunks and units that were just the right size to stay personal.  And then there was the question of where could we put more bunks, but that was laid to rest with the decision not expand.

Marty Messinger, a long-time supporter and benefactor of Eisner Camp, while impressed by Eisner thanks to his children’s experiences, was upset that there were waiting lists. A friend of Marty’s, attorney Harris Aaronson, told him about Crane Lake and that its owners were looking to retire.  Owned and operated by Ed and Barbara Ulanoff since 1955, Crane Lake was an opportunity to expand Northeast Jewish Camping at a nearby facility.  Ed and his head counselor, Herb May, were Physical Education teachers, and had a cadre of great teachers each summer. Many would become the first year’s staff when Crane Lake was purchased.

As negotiations went back and forth, three founding donors put together the down payment that would secure the camp: Harold Grinspoon, Howard Kaufman, and Marty Messinger.

These three generous families made it possible for the UAHC to purchase Crane Lake Camp in 1998.  We learned early on that many of the campers and staff who continued with us were members of Reform Congregations. A separate Camp Commission was established and chaired by John Stern, a past chair of the Eisner Camp Commission.  Once the camp had its footing as a successful URJ camp, the commissions were merged back into one Northeast Camp Committee. Camp’s inaugural director was Louis Bordman.  From 2001 to 2004, Louis directed Crane Lake and Eisner simultaneously and he was the executive director of both camps from 2001 to 2010. From 2005 until 2010, Crane Lake was led by Herb May who was succeeded by Debby Shriber from 2011 until 2021 when she stepped fully into the role of Executive Director for URJ Northeast Camps. Our current director is Efraim Yudewitz. All were instrumental in the growth and development of camp as well as the thousands of people who attended and worked at URJ Crane Lake Camp.

In 2015, URJ Crane Lake Camp celebrated 18 years of Jewish camping.