Thursday, March 30, 2023

Miles away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and nestled in the trees of Lakewood, Pennsylvania, lies a magical place called NCSY Camp Maor. It is an Orthodox performing arts sleepaway camp for Jewish girls ages 9-15 that builds artistic technique, confidence and lifelong friendships. After loving our time there as campers, we were privileged to return as counselors this summer.

Across the world, Jewish girls struggle to find performing arts opportunities that allow them to maintain their halachic standards. Camp Maor is exactly that: a place where girls get opportunities to explore the performing arts as they train under dance, drama and voice professionals in a Torah environment. It is an exciting and robust program, culminating in a full-length play and a song-and-dance performance. Over the course of the month, campers study dance, voice or drama, focusing on skills and techniques. There are also workshops, exciting trips, fun electives and regular camp activities. Maor is a fun, inspiring and empowering place, especially due to its warm and supportive environment. Here, the oldest campers run lines with the youngest, when one girl starts singing everyone joins in and girls are always there to help each other learn choreography.

Camp Maor’s summer themes are always meaningful. This summer’s theme was Friendship. Our campers performed the play “The Jungle Book,” which chronicles a human child’s journey through the jungle with help from lots of animal friends. Embodying animals challenged campers artistically and helped them break out of their shells. Early on in the summer, the campers performed at Camp HASC, a summer program for Jewish children and adults with special needs. This experience taught the girls that they could successfully perform in front of an audience, and use their talents to spread joy to others. Later, the girls became audience members, as we experienced the impact of theater together watching the Broadway show “Aladdin” on our trip into Manhattan. Before the show, we participated in a workshop with an “Aladdin” dance ensemble member, where we learned a portion of the dance to “Arabian Nights” and had a question-and-answer session. The day was filled with energy and excitement, as Jewish theater-loving girls from all over the country discovered a whole new world together.

Our Maor summer together as campers in the inaugural year of the Leadership Cohort program was what inspired us to return as counselors this past summer. Leadership Cohort, for campers going into 10th and 11th grades, performs its own theatrically advanced play and trains campers to be leaders through shiur, workshops and taking on leadership roles in camp. We performed Reginald Rose’s “Twelve Angry Women.” We played Jurors 10 [Elisheva] and 11 [Chava]. It was the best production we had ever done, and we had lots of fun developing our characters, thrifting for our costumes and designing the lighting and set. As part of our leadership training, we ran a campwide night activity and had a blast. Our bunk got especially close during extended curfew, challah baking, lake time and exclusive Leadership Cohort night activities. For many reasons, that summer at Maor greatly impacted us. We returned home with newfound confidence and pride.

Camp Maor broadened our love and appreciation for the arts, as we experienced the joy and beauty that the arts bring to our lives. Inspiration to be unapologetically yourself and take ownership of your own opportunities is woven through the fabric of the entire camp. It empowered us to create our high school’s drama club and arts classes in our communities. By experiencing the arts through Camp Maor’s religious lens, we learned that the arts can bring us and others closer to Hashem. These messages and skills will help us, as well as the whole Maor family, throughout our entire lives. Although the summer is over and we are now miles away from Lakewood, Pennsylvania, the magic of Maor remains close, propelling us with love and light into the new year.

In order to make this wonderful opportunity more accessible for arts-loving girls throughout the country, NCSY Camp Maor has significantly reduced their rates while maintaining the integrity of this unique program. During the next summer session, Camp Maor will offer Mini-Maor, an opportunity for girls to try out the camp. NCSY Camp Maor will hold an open house in Teaneck on Motzei Shabbat, November 9, at 7:30 p.m., at 1290 Trafalgar Street. We hope to see you there!

By Chava Schapiro and Elisheva Hirsch


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