In 1974, on the beautiful grounds of Herman Rubenstein’s Buffalo Gap Camp in Capon Bridge, West Virginia, Adas Israel Congregation launched a summer camp for Jewish children of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Whether you were a camper or a counselor (or even a parent), you probably realized – either at the time or a few years later – that something special was occurring at Camp Tel Shalom in the mid-1970s.

Over the next several summers, Camp Tel Shalom became a close-knit community that many returned to year after year. For some it was also a launching pad, a proving ground or coming-of-age incubator that spurred their growth to new places and phases. For others it was simply a fun place that bolstered their confidence, offering a chance to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond.

We’ve started this website to re-connect with old friends and share some memories… Remember the way 100-plus voices rocked the chader ochel with rousing renditions of Im Tirtzu or Bashanah Haba'ah? Whatever happened to the girl sitting next to you who always softly sang harmony to Dodi Li? Was Camp Tel Shalom the site of your first romantic kiss or your first real girlfriend/boyfriend? Do you remember learning to swim or navigate a kayak in the slimy-bottomed lake? Maybe you recall a particularly well-executed midnight raid on the girls' cabin or vice versa? Were you amazed when, after only a week, you chanted the birkat hamazon after meals as well as the kids from Jewish Day School? Do you remember your favorite counselors and friends? Did you cry on the last day as everyone boarded the buses for the trip home?

B'shalom and welcome back,

Allen Goldberg '74, '75, '76
Barry Eisenberg '74, '75, '76 ‘77

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Gone too longThree decades later, former campers get together

With the summer coming to a close, some people find it hard not to reflect back on those muggy nights spent creating mischief in a wooden cabin at camp.

For some area campers, the memories have come back to life.

After 30 years of separation, former campers of Tel Shalom, a short-lived Conservative Jewish camp, got together Saturday night for their first camp reunion.

Started in 1974 by the Adas Israel Congregation in the District, Tel Shalom created a summer haven for Washington-area Conservative Jewish kids. Until the early 1980s, 100 children, ages 9-15, showed up each summer to Capon Bridge, W. Va. There, they rocked the chader ochel, dining hall, with powerful renditions of "Im Tirtzu" and "Bashanah Haba'ah," according to former camper and reunion organizer Allen Goldberg, and participated in some of the standard swimming and boating.

Finances doomed the camp, according to Goldberg, a D.C. resident.

But, memories lasted. "It is extremely exciting to be reuniting with this particular group of people. The memories are so strong, even after 30 years," said an e-mail from Barry Eisenberg, another former camper and reunion organizer, who grew up around Silver Spring and now lives in Rockville.

Dale Madden Sorcher, a former counselor from D.C. who now lives in Bethesda, said that several days before the reunion, which was held at Adas, she began to get a bit nervous. "[Anxiety set in] only when I had done the math and realized how long it had been."

After looking at old photos, some were taken aback by their fashion sense in those days.

"I can't believe I had hair like that," Jennifer Low of St. Louis, a former counselor from Potomac, said in an e-mail of her 1970s hairdo.

Tel Shalom wasn't just a place for kids to pass the summer. Campers say it was a confidence and identity builder.

Eisenberg reminisced how the camp strengthened his Jewish identity at a pivotal point in his life.

"Camp Tel Shalom was a place where you could be a bigger fish in a smaller pond than you were at your school," he said. "Your confidence was bolstered -- you walked a little taller and with more of a strut to your step."

Most important, he said, "you were more assured and flirtatious with the opposite sex."

Saturday's event, according to Sorcher, went off without a hitch.

"It didn't seem like there were very awkward moments," she said. "People really just wanted to talk."

All in all, Eisenberg said, the reunion -- which drew around 70 people -- was a place to see how everyone grew up.

"I just think it is fascinating to learn that the little girl who used to sit next to you singing harmony to 'Dodi Li' in a small soprano voice is now a trial attorney," he mused.

-- Adam Kredo

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Please click here to leave us your email address and the contact info for any fellow campers or their parents.

Attach any digitized photos, letters home and other Camp Tel Shalom-related memorabilia to populate this site.

If you do not have access to a scanner, mail them to

Camp Tel Shalom
3839 Calvert Street, NW
Washington, DC 20007

and we will handle your memories with care and return them to you safely. We also hope you will share with us contact information for others who attended (or will at least forward a note to camp friends you are still in touch with). In the end, we will even see if there is enthusiasm for a reunion.