In 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. Crane Lake was known as a private ‘Jewish’ Sports Camp. 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 our current director, Debby Shriber. 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.