For decades now, going off to summer camp has become an American-Jewish cultural tradition. Given the number of kids who attend Jewish summer camps over the years, it’s not surprising to learn that so many have grown up to become successful celebrities.
Sleep-away programs such as Camp Ramah and Surprise Lake Camp made it possible for them to spend their summers cultivating not only practical, social, and life skills, but lifelong friendships, within the familiar context of Jewish values and community. Now they lend partial credit to the experiences they gained at camp, finding their role in the Jewish community and developing cohesive Jewish identities and relationships.
If you’re interested in attending — or sending your child to — Jewish summer camp, you’re in good company!
1. Seth Rogen — This Canadian actor has starred in such films as “Guilt Trip,” “Knocked Up,” and “Superbad.” As a kid, he attended Camp Miriam in British Columbia and performed stand-up comedy there when he was 16 years old.
2. Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal — These talented siblings, known for their film-acting successes, attended New Hampshire’s Camp Walt Whitman.
3. Ralph Lauren — Internationally known in the fashion industry, this designer and CEO attended Camp Massad in Pennsylvania.
4. Shawn Levy — A former attendee of Camp Modin in Maine, Levy went on to direct such popular films as “Date Night,” and “Just Married.”
5. Coby Linder — Former drummer for the band Say Anything, Linder attended the California Jewish summer camp, Camp Ramah.
6. Jack Markell — Later elected as Delaware’s first Jewish Governor, Markell attended Camp Galil in Pennsylvania.
7. B.J. Novak — Perhaps best known for writing, producing, directing and acting in “The Office” television sitcom, Novak also went to Camp Ramah.
8. Chaim Potok — A prominent writer, having written the New York Times bestseller, The Chosen, Potok is also among the ranks of celebrities who once attended Camp Ramah.
9. Adam Sandler — With his devotion to Jewish humor, and as the creator of “The Chanukah Song,” it would be shocking if Sandler hadn’t attended Jewish summer camp. But he did — Sandler attended URJ Eisner Camp in Massachusetts.
10. Stephen Schneider — Actor in, and writer of, “Bert and Arnie’s Guide to Friendship” and “2012: Supernova,” Schneider attended Camp Avoda in Massachusetts.
11. Jeffrey Seller — Three-time Tony Award winner for Best Musical, theatrical producer Seller attended Camp Tamarack in Michigan.
12. William Shatner — Best known for his acting role as Star Trek’s Captain Kirk, Shatner attended Camp Massad in Quebec.
13. Gene Simmons — The bass guitarist and co-lead singer of heavy-metal band Kiss, Simmons attended Surprise Lake Camp in New York.
14. Neil Simon — One of America’s most prolific playwrights and screenwriter, nominated for more Oscars and Tonys than any other writer, Simon also attended Surprise Lake Camp in New York.
15. Jerry Stiller — Longtime actor and comedian in such roles as Frank Costanza on hit show “Seinfeld,” and father of actor/director Ben Stiller, also spent childhood summers at Surprise Lake Camp in New York.
16. Eli and Max Sussman — Reputedly experts in the kitchen at Camp Tavor in Michigan, the Susan brothers are now big machers on the New York City food scene.
17. Evan Wolfson — A former attendee of Camp Boiberik, a Yiddish cultural summer camp in New York, Wolfson is now a prominent attorney, gay rights activist, and author of the book, Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality, and Gay People’s Right to Marry.
18. Bob Dylan — Political activist and folk musician, whose musical popularity has spanned generations, Bob Dylan attended Wisconsin’s Camp Herzl.
With the wide array of success experienced by these Jewish campers-turned-celebrities, it can only be imagined how much more enriching their character- and talent-building experiences might have been if they’d had the opportunity to attend a specialty camp. With Camp Inc., bright-eyed and ambitious Jewish kids are presented with the chance to seize their own sets of life experiences and identity building, with the intention of developing and expanding entrepreneurial skills in a setting aligned with Jewish community values.