Making Shabbat

Celebrating and Learning at American Jewish Summer Camps

Joseph Reimer

This book tells the story of how Jewish camps have emerged as creators of positive spiritual experiences for Jewish youth in North America. When Jewish camps began at the dawn of the 20th century, their leaders had little interest in creating Jewish spiritual experiences for their campers. Yet over the course of the past century Jewish camps have gradually moved into providing primal Jewish experiences that diverse campers could enjoy, parents appreciate and alumni fondly recall. How Shabbat at camp became the focal point for these primal Jewish experiences is the subject of this book.

Paper: $35 | E-book: $34.95
ISBN-13: 9781684580972
Pages: 264 | Size: 6 in. x 9 in.
Date Published: August 15, 2022

Making Shabbat exemplifies exactly the sort of rich and insightful scholarship necessary for nurturing vibrant, lived North American Judaism.  

A Journal of Jewish Ideas


  • This gracefully written book is an outstanding ethnographic account of how Shabbat is created and transmitted at three different camps, which highlights the power of the quotidian of music, dance, prayer, community, and leadership. An especially timely work, as religious life is changing dramatically, and Reimer has offered many insights that should be helpful to anyone interested in how meaning is made and transmitted in religion.

    Riv-Ellen Prell
    Professor Emerita, Department of American Studies, University of Minnesota
  • From ruach mosh pits to post-havdalah hugs, Shabbat practices at camp differ from year-round Jewish life. This smart, engaging book sheds light on this phenomenon through historical analysis, rich ethnographic descriptions, and beautiful photographs from three contemporary camps of diverse denominations. Highly recommended for anyone interested in Jewish education - and camp alumni who want to take a trip down memory lane (or dirt path).

    Sarah Bunin Benor
    author of Hebrew Infusion: Language and Community at American Jewish Summer Camps
  • This book is for anyone who has experienced Shabbat at a Jewish camp and wondered what made it so special. Reimer unpacks the core values of three camps and the ‘rituals’ that allow some seemingly conflicting values to co-exist. Finally, he brings in key theoretical constructs to explain how lore and ritual intertwine to make Shabbat at camp so memorable.

    Isa Aron
    Professor Emerita of Jewish Education, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
  • Making Shabbat: Celebrating and Learning at American Jewish Summer Camps, Joseph Reimer’s account of Shabbat at three highly regarded non-Orthodox Jewish summer camps, is another example of slow and deliberate Jewish educational research and the insights it can yield....In drawing attention to how Shabbat is made at camp, Reimer uncovers how seemingly banal actions can set a foundation for rich experiences....[This] book ...exemplifies exactly the sort of rich and insightful scholarship necessary for nurturing vibrant, lived North American Judaism.

    Joshua Ladon
    Shalom Hartman Institute

About the Author

Joseph Reimer

Joseph Reimer is associate professor of Jewish Education at Brandeis University. He is author of Succeeding at Jewish Education: How One Synagogue Made It Work and co-author of Promoting Moral Growth: From Piaget to Kohlberg.

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