Summer camps and youth groups have long been known in the Jewish community as powerful sites for altering the identities of children and teens, using fun, recreation, and experiential education as their primary tools. As rates of interfaith marriages began to rise in the late 1960s, however, one of their main goals became encouraging young Jews to find romance and potential husbands and wives. Jewish camps and youth groups became rather sexually liberal spaces during and well after the Sexual Revolution, this new goal mixing with the broader culture climate. But in the 1980s and 1990s, the communal focus on future "Jewish babies" revved up dramatically, with young Jews bearing the brunt of this focus. In the years since #MeToo in particular, teen and twenty-somethings have called out their educators and leaders for allowing Jewish camps and youth groups to become spaces of intense sexual pressure, blurred boundaries, power imbalances, and harassment in service of this larger goal. In this talk, Prof. Sandra Fox will trace the history of romance and sexuality in Jewish summer camps and youth groups, showing how the past informs the issues of a complicated present and how Jewish youth themselves are forcing camps and groups towards a safer, more thoughtful future.
Sponsor: Shir Chadash Sisterhood & Men's Club, Hadassah