The drama. The deceit. The love triangles. The most dramatic summer yet. This is Jewish summer camp. (If you didn’t read this in Chris Harrison’s voice, please start from the beginning and try again.)
For those who have never watched the show Bachelor in Paradise aims to have contestants find love, stir up spicy drama and—of course—gather horny people into a secluded place for the summer. The same could be said for Jewish sleep away camp.
Having been a camper myself, I have always been a firm believer that Jewish summer camp was created so that Jews would reproduce with other Jews. Just as the creators of Bachelor in Paradise know what happens when you put a bunch of aroused people on a resort in Mexico, the creators of Jewish summer camp knew exactly what they were doing when they decided to put hormonal tweens in a secluded, co-ed camp for the summer. Jewish people have always been desperate to continue the bloodline of the “Chosen People,” so Jewish sleep away camp is clearly an attempt at facilitating this. And, let me tell you, it works.
Marriages between couples formed at Jewish summer camp are very common; almost all my camp friends had their “first love” be someone from camp, and even my grandparents met at a Jewish summer camp. Just as couples do meet on Bachelor in Paradise, Jewish summer camp has a similar success rate. But that is not their only similarity.
First, the drama at camp is so incredible that it feels scripted. I was a counselor for seventh grade girls last summer, all of whom were dying to get asked on a Shabbat walk. These are when everyone gets dressed up for Shabbat, and two campers go on a date that Friday night. Shabbat walks are taken very seriously. They’re basically our Rose Ceremonies.
Last summer, one of my campers got asked on a Shabbat walk, which was a cause for celebration. Moments after celebrating, one of my campers revealed that the boy who asked her had a girlfriend from home. These kids are in seventh grade, mind you. It was basically an episode of Bachelor in Paradise, but with fewer margaritas and more friendship bracelets.
I could tell you the story of the summer that my age group at camp had over 100 different hookups, we could talk about the classic camp slang like “camp goggles” or the “Kissing Tree” or I could even go into great detail on the counselor drama, which is just as entertaining. But let’s cut to the chase: Jewish summer camp definitely didn’t shelter us. It has always been a very romantic place. On purpose.
Many people, including myself, criticize reality TV dating shows for being artificial ways of meeting people. When comparing Bachelor in Paradise to Jewish summer camp, I began to realize that the reality TV show isn’t as artificial as it often appears. The situations we find ourselves in throughout our lives aren’t always natural or spontaneous: Whether it is Jewish summer camp, a small liberal arts school like Kenyon, Tinder or somewhere in between, we often find ourselves in isolated pools of like-minded people on the hunt for a life partner.
It’s safe to say that both Jewish summer camp and Bachelor in Paradise are a little predictable. There will be drama, kissing, maybe even a fight, but it will usually end with a ring on someone’s finger. (In the case of summer camp, that engagement will probably come some fifteen years later.) No matter how predictable, I will always keep going back to camp and keep watching every episode of the Bachelor franchise. Because who knows? Maybe next year will be the most dramatic summer yet.