American Jewish University (AJU) honored the momentous 70th anniversary of Camp Alonim the weekend of Oct. 13, with three events at its Brandeis-Bardin Campus for current and former campers, staff and Jewish community members. The community reflected on Camp Alonim’s role in connecting them to their identity and the Jewish state, mourning together the recent horrific attacks and unfolding war in Israel with a special prayer on Friday night.
The anniversary weekend began with a Shabbat service on Camp Alonim’s well-known Peppertree Lane. Guests arrived wearing all white attire – the camp’s Shabbat tradition – to reconnect with fellow community members and join in beneath the oak trees. The evening featured a Shabbat dinner and celebration of Israeli culture with lively song and dance sessions. The following day, an event was held at the House of the Book, well-known for its unique architecture and appearances in “Star Trek VI,” “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” and Netflix’s “Beef.” Almost two hundred people celebrated with food, community singing of “Eli Eli”, an immersive exhibit on Camp Alonim’s 70-year history and Alonim’s cherished Havdalah service. On Sunday, community members and their families closed out the weekend with a variety of comforting camp activities, including writing letters to Israeli soldiers and former Israeli staff members.
“The feeling of being in a Jewish camp community sets a beautiful and meaningful tone for living a Jewish life. The years I spent at Camp Alonim were transformative. To me, camp was and still is alive with a spirit and energy that connects to my Jewish soul,” said Annie Austin, former camper and member of AJU’s Board of Directors. “It was a joy to celebrate Camp Alonim’s 70 years, particularly during a time when the world needs the strength of Jewish communities more than ever. Here’s to the next 70 years!”
Camp Alonim was founded in 1953 by the Brandeis-Bardin Institute to create an environment where campers can form deep connections with their Jewish identity and community in the serene nature of Simi Valley. Since then, it has welcomed many Shlichim – Israeli emissaries who travel all over the world to strengthen Jewish identity and connection to Israel – to join campers each year. In 2007, The University of Judaism and the Brandeis-Bardin Institutemerged, leading to the establishment of American Jewish University.
“Camp Alonim is a safe haven where Jewish children and teens can explore their identity and form lifelong bonds with their Jewish peers,” said Aaron Goldberg, camp director. “For 70 years, we have been incredibly proud to provide campers with a space to develop as individuals and members of the global Jewish community, and this space is needed now more than ever before.”
“With the recent attack on Israel at the front of our minds, we were especially happy to provide some respite for our community members and gather at this beautiful space rooted in Jewish spirit,” said Dr. Jeffrey Herbst, president of AJU. “Seeing multiple generations of Jewish families who attended Camp Alonim bond through upholding the traditions of our local and global community was incredibly moving and stands as a testament to the strength of their connection to Camp Alonim.”