Welcome to Crane Lake Camp!
A Camp for Everyone! URJ Crane Lake Camp is a camp where everyone feels at home. We strive to make every camper’s experience nurturing and fulfilling, and we do so by making sure that every child feels welcomed and supported.
At Crane Lake Camp, we build a Culture of Kindness through our actions every day. This Culture of Kindness can be seen all around us as we go about our daily activities, from the smallest of actions to the grandest of gestures. Our culture creates an environment that is filled with people who want to actively create a more compassionate and accepting community.
What happens at a URJ Camp? Camp is fun! Our campers enjoy engaging activities and programs, develop life-long friendships, and live with a super-star staff that acts as role models, living Jewish values-not just teaching them. When you entrust your children to us, they will experience what it is like to live in an immersive Jewish community. This complete immersion allows children to see the world through a Jewish lens, giving them a fuller appreciation of the richness of Judaism and strengthening their Jewish identities along the way. They live the Jewish values of Rachamim (compassion), Kavod (honor and respect), Derech Eretz (civility), G’milut Chasadim (kindness), Tikkun Olam (repairing our world), and so many more! And we know they’ll take these values home with them at summer’s end.
What if my family isn’t very involved in Jewish life? Campers come to us from a variety of Jewish backgrounds. Some children come from families who are very involved in their synagogues attending Shabbat services regularly, and some do not. Some children attend Jewish Day Schools, and some attend Religious School only once a month. And everyone in between! We help our campers learn what they don’t know, and embrace what they do know. Living in an immersive Jewish community offers all of our campers the opportunity to strengthen their Jewish identities while learning more about Judaism.
Crane Lake Camp is a welcoming community for interfaith families who have made Jewish choices for their children, including Jewish overnight camp. We welcome children from a variety of backgrounds, and know they will quickly mesh into one community.
What if my camper needs extra support while at camp? Camp has inclusion staff on site to work with campers who might need extra support and with the staff who will be caring or them. Before campers arrive at camp, we ask any parent who anticipates that his/her child will need extra support to complete a Background Questionnaire. This way, we can being to prepare for the camper before he/she arrives. As necessary, our inclusion staff stays in touch with parents throughout the summer.
Heller-wexler family camps - ski weekend
Enjoy a family weekend at camp and on the slopes! (For Families with children grades K-10, 1/14/23-1/16/23)
TOUR CRANE LAKE CAMP
Meet the team, explore our beautiful grounds, and get a taste of what it’s like to be a camper at Crane Lake!
Register for camp
Ready to enroll? Click below to learn more and access our registration.
A COmmunity of belonging
Learn more about our inclusive community here!
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 is rooted in a long history with rich traditions of excellence. We first opened our doors as a private camp in the early 1900’s. We have been a Union for Reform Judaism camp since 1998.
Crane Lake serves as 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 Machon (counselors-in-training), 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!
Our Mission Statement
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.
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
…are reflected in our day-to-day life at camp. Every five years, Crane Lake is visited by the American Camping Association. Since Crane Lake always meets the ACA’s high standards, we continue to receive their accreditation. We are committed to providing:
- a safe camp community
- caring, competent adult role models
- healthy, developmentally-appropriate experiences
- service to the community and the natural world
- opportunities for leadership and personal growth
- discovery, experiential education, and learning opportunities
- excellence and continuous self-improvement
Crane Lake strives to embody the “audacious hospitality” of the Reform Movement. We welcome campers and staff members from families of all backgrounds–including those with interfaith, same-sex or single parents–or those who identify as LGBTQ.
Crane Lake is proud of our open, supportive and inclusive environment. The make-up of the URJ and our programs are as diverse as our population; therefore, our communities represent that vibrant and colorful fabric that makes up the Reform Jewish population. We are proud that our camps and programs are inclusive and designed for everyone in our community from LGBTQ to children with single, same sex or interfaith parents, to children of color. Our program is created to strengthen the self-esteem, Jewish identity, and connection to the Jewish community of all campers through the supportive nature of our people, staff, and programs.
Campers range from ages 7 to 17 and are entering grades 2-12. A great many of our campers and staff members come from the greater New York and Boston Regions. We also have representation from all over the Northeast as well as from across the United States and overseas. Most of our campers are members of Reform Jewish synagogues.
We place our campers into five units based on the school grade they will enter immediately after camp. This way, each unit is comprised of children who are socially, physically, and developmentally on approximately the same level. Our units at camp are as follows:
|Hebrew Unit Name||English Translation||Entering Grades|
|K'TANIM (2 weeks)||"Little Ones"||2nd to 4th|
|NITZANIM||"Seedlings"||4th and 5th|
|BONIM||"Builders"||6th and 7th|
|CHAVERIM||"Friends"||8th and 9th|
|OLIM||"Those who go up"||10th|
|CRANE LAKE IN ISRAEL||11th|
|Junior Counselor Fellowship||12th|
*Our K’tanim program is two weeks long. This introductory program is perfect for our youngest campers, most of whom will be away from home for the first time. The K’tanim campers’ bunk along with our younger Nitzanim campers who are staying for the entire session. Extra attention is paid to teaching our K’tanim and Nitzanim campers throughout their time on camp. From helping them to find their way around camp to enjoying all that camp has to offer. Our “little ones” form wonderful friendships and have a great time during what we hope will be the first of many summers at Crane Lake.
Campers entering 11th grade are encouraged to spend an unforgettable summer in Israel with their Crane Lake friends on the NFTY in Israel program run by the North American Federation of Temple Youth, the youth movement of the URJ.
Our Machon unit is a Counselor-In-Training program. During the first session of camp, our Machonikim participate in an intensive leadership training program. This prepares them for all aspects of being staff members as well as leaders in their home communities. During the second session of camp, our Machonikim become counselors, moving into bunks for on-the-job training.
Our staff has been carefully selected and intensely trained by our camp directors to keep our campers safe, happy and instill the values of Crane Lake. Before our campers arrive, all staff members participate in an intensive training program. This on-site training includes workshops led by our camp directors, outside professionals, and industry experts.
Our bunk counselors are Jewish college and university students who bring abundant warmth and energy to our camp community. Many of them are former Crane Lake campers, comfortable at camp, familiar with camp routines and traditions, and eager to share their love for Crane Lake and Reform Judaism with this next generation of campers.
Our various sports coaches, lifeguards, arts, and outdoor adventure instructors are college and graduate students from all over the world. They share their particular areas of expertise with our campers. Our swim staff are American Red Cross Certified Lifeguards.
Over 20 energetic Israelis join our staff each summer. They are coaches, instructors, and bunk counselors. They infuse Israeli culture into the daily life at camp as well as create Israel-themed evening programs, and teaching Hebrew.
Our Leadership Team is made up of college seniors, college graduates, graduate students, and young professionals as well as adults with many years of experience working with children.
In past summers, our international staff have come from Australia, The Czech Republic, England, France, New Zealand, Poland and South Africa. Our Support Staff (kitchen, maintenance, and housekeeping) come to Crane Lake through international programs that send qualified young adults to various summer camps in America.
Our wonderful 24-hour professional Health Center is staffed by a doctor and caring registered nurses.
Every week a group of dynamic rabbis, cantors, and educators from URJ congregations from throughout the northeast come to camp for a week or two at a time to teach, worship and have fun with our campers.
Our education faculty is an essential part of the Reform Jewish community at camp.
Our Leadership Team, who work as unit heads and department heads, arrive at camp three weeks before our campers. Our specialists, including coaches, art instructors, lifeguards, ropes course instructors, outdoor education and Limud staff arrive more than two weeks before our campers. They have ample time to train, get certified by outside professionals when appropriate, and set up their activity areas. Our general counselors arrive at camp eight days before the campers arrive, joining the specialists for Staff Training Week in which they learn about working with children and being a Crane Lake staff member. When Opening Day arrives, our entire staff is confident, energized, excited, and ready to meet our campers.
OUR CAMPERS BECOME OUR STAFF
Many of our staff members were campers themselves having grown up at Crane Lake and choosing to work with the next generation of Crane Lake campers. Our campers become our best counselors! As a way to pay it forward, our staff take all they’ve learned as campers and put it in their “toolkit” as counselors: resiliency, compassion, self-confidence, civility, patience, the ability to speak out, stand up and fix what is broken in our world, embracing Judaism and so much more. These skills are essential not only in camp, but everywhere in life and will positively impact them as they enter the job market after college. We hope our campers will be our staff members for many years after high school and are thrilled that so many are!
Crane Lake is proud of our open, supportive and inclusive environment. Our camp community represents that vibrant and colorful fabric that makes up the Reform Jewish population. Our camp and programs are inclusive and designed for everyone in our community from LGBTQ to children with single, same sex or interfaith parents, to children of color. We hope that our campers and staff strengthen their self-esteem, Jewish identity, and connection to the Jewish community through the inclusive nature of our people, staff, and programs.
We are committed to building a vibrant community rooted in Jewish values and to bringing the transformative power of Jewish summer camp to every child and family who come through our gates. From our policies to our programs and camp traditions, we strive to reflect our camp’s core values and those of the URJ:
Kehillah Kedoshah – A Holy Community
We are a sacred community, responsible for one another.
V’ahavta L’reyecha – Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself
We should behave towards one another with love and kindness.
Hachnasat Orchim – Welcome the Stranger
Camp is a place of “audacious hospitality,” where all who enter are celebrated.
Yichut Atsmo – Personal Growth
Camp is a uniquely transformative opportunity for young people to take risks and grow, and our job at Crane Lake is to nurture that growth.
FAMILIES WITH DIFFERENT FAITH BACKGROUNDS
Your child – any child from an interfaith family who is being raised as a Jew – has a place at our camp. For over 30 years, the Reform Movement has been at the forefront of the Jewish world ensuring a welcoming environment for interfaith families. As Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) President Rabbi Rick Jacobs has stated, “Creating pathways for Jews and non-Jewish partners to create active Jewish homes is a blessing.”
What happens at a URJ camp? What is Jewish living?
Camp is fun! Our campers experience a great atmosphere, terrific activities and programs, values that come to life every day and friendships. This happens all under the watchful eyes of our caring, responsible counselors or other adult role models (some of whom either are children of interfaith families or themselves non-Jewish).
Your child, when entrusted to our camp, will experience what it is like to live a completely Jewish lifestyle. This complete absorption into the rhythms and calendar of Jewish living gives each child a fuller appreciation of the richness of their Jewish identity and heritage. They are taught the values of charity, justice and kindness. Experience has shown that they will bring these values home.
Will my child feel isolated or different because one parent is not Jewish?
Not at all. Each child at Crane Lake is valued as the unique individual they are, with the wonderful attributes they bring to our community. Each child is recognized as a full member of the Jewish community whether they have one or two Jewish parents. Celebrating Judaism includes respecting those of other faiths as well.
Will my child feel embarrassed if they aren’t familiar with a Jewish practice or tradition at camp?
They will not be the only one! Crane Lake is a place for your child to further their knowledge of Judaism in an experiential way. Every child who comes to camp brings a different skill set and knowledge of Jewish tradition and practice. They learn from their counselors and from their friends at camp. This is a no-stress environment, where learning the levels of Jewish living is an enjoyable and natural progression.
Will it be a problem if my child has limited or no knowledge of Hebrew?
No problem! Campers learn Hebrew at camp in an experiential way, learning some basic Hebrew terms, Hebrew blessings and phrases.
When my child returns home, will they be uncomfortable with my not being Jewish?
Remember that many of your child’s counselors have experience with interfaith families – either their own, their relatives or their friends. We teach each child that the Torah mandates to honor their father and mother. We emphasize to each child that this teaching is not based on the parent being Jewish – the teaching is based on honoring each parent. Your position as the child’s parent will continue to be sacrosanct. We will encourage the respect you are due as a parent, with no regard to your own religious beliefs.
TRANSGENDER CAMPERS AND STAFF
What does it mean to be transgender? Is that person a boy or a girl?
Some children are born into the body of a boy, but in their hearts and minds they are girls. Others are born into the body of a girl, but in their hearts and minds they are boys. Those raised as boys for the first few years of their lives make it increasingly clear at a very early age that they understand themselves to be girls. Likewise, those that are raised as girls for the first few years of their life made it increasingly clear at a very early age that they understand themselves to be boys. Their social development and patterns are aligned with other children of their age.
Where will transgender campers and staff sleep?
A transgender camper or staff members who identifies as female will sleep in a girls’ cabin with campers. A transgender camper or staff member who identifies as a boy will sleep in a boys’ cabin with campers.
What about privacy?
Our transgender campers and staff are private about the ways in which they are different from other children their age. At camp, we teach all of our campers and staff to have a sense of modesty and to respect one another’s privacy. We will continue to reinforce this message. Our cabins all have stall showers, each with its own curtain. All toilets are in stalls with doors. We also have a door or privacy curtain between the bathroom area and living space in each cabin. Outside the cabin, all our public restrooms have stalls which enable privacy around camp. Every child and staff member thus has privacy when showering, changing and using the restroom.
Will my kids be scared or confused?
Probably not, but if they are, help them understand that this is just one of many ways in which their friends may be different from them. Try not to assume that your kids will think this is weird or confusing. They may just accept it at face value and move on. It is a good idea to ask if they understand and if they have more questions. As always, there are staff and resources at camp for your child to turn to in times of need.
What does the Reform Movement say about transgender people?
The Reform Movement’s recognition of transgender rights dates back to 1978. The Movement has an explicit policy of non-discrimination regarding transgender people and has even developed blessings for the changing of gender. Through the years, the URJ has been a fierce advocate of LGBT rights and equality both within the Movement and in the wider community through the resolutions of the Commission on Social Action and the work of the Religious Action Center.
Here are some resources for your own education that can help equip you to talk to your children.
Books for Adults:
- Stephanie Brill and Rachel Pepper, The Transgender Child
- Nicholas Teich, Transgender 101: A Simple Guide to a Complex Issue
- Andrew Solomon, Far from the Tree
- Joy Ladin, Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey between Genders
- Noach Dzmura, Balancing on the Mechitza: Transgender in Jewish Community
Books for Children:
- Rachel Gold, Being Emily [middle school and older]
- Jennifer Carr, Be Who You Are [young children]
- TransYouth Family Allies website
- ABC News article coverage of Camp “You are You”
- Katie Couric video clip about Coy Mathis
- Katie Couric collection of useful websites
- I’m Just Anneke
- Transgender Basics
- The Family Journey
Best Practices Guides