Every summer, Bruce and Barbara Goldberg of Phoenix escape the city’s oppressive heat by retreating to their Flagstaff vacation home. They love having their grandchildren visit for the summer, and are thrilled to give them the special treat of attending Northern Arizona’s only Jewish day camp, Camp Canyon, which emphasizes outdoor adventure.
“Four of our grandchildren have attended Camp Canyon over the past two summers,” Bruce said. “At the end of each day, they come home so excited. The programming is terrific, and the counselors are incredibly loving, caring for each child.”
The Goldberg grandchildren were among 48 children who enjoyed Camp Canyon this summer. The camp is a project of Chabad of Flagstaff, under the leadership of Rabbi Dovie and Chaya Shapiro. Chabad previously operated Camp Gan Israel for 10 years until revamping the operation to focus on the region’s great outdoors, creating Camp Canyon two years ago.
“Camp Canyon takes full advantage of the stunning beauty and natural wonders of Northern Arizona and offers our campers amazing adventures,” said Rabbi Shmulik Moscowitz, co-director of Camp Canyon with his wife, Yael. “We also give the campers a chance to explore their Jewish heritage in a super fun and hands-on way.”
The four-week Adventure Division, organized around a theme, is for children ages 6 to 12 (Kiddie Camp is for ages 2 to 4). Campers started with Flagstaff Fun Week, exploring local sites such as the Lowell Observatory and the recycling center. During Wacky Water Week, campers splashed and paddled through Lake Mary, Wet Beaver Creek, the Aquaplex and Sedona. Campers learned survival skills and built shelters at Aspen Corner during Survival Spirit Week. Canyons & Culture Week expanded campers’ cultural awareness through activities like a drum circle, capoeira and a visit to Walnut Canyon.
Moran Henn, originally from Israel, served as the camp’s director of outdoor adventure, a position for which she was uniquely qualified with a B.S. in conservation biology and outdoor recreation tourism from the University of Idaho and a master’s in environmental sciences and policy from Northern Arizona University. During the year she serves as executive director at the Willow Bend Environmental Education Center in Flagstaff.
“Seeing the kids get excited each time we go on a hike or learn about the outdoors is so rewarding,” she said. “At Camp Canyon the campers really gained an understanding and love for the natural world.”
The same experiential focus is reflected in the hands-on approach to imparting Jewish culture. Campers unleashed their creativity to make usable Judaica items such as tzedakah boxes and Shabbat candlesticks. They enjoyed challah baking and pre-Shabbat parties, as well as a gala Camp Shabbat Dinner at the Moscowitz’s home for 40 campers and family members.
Campers and parents have strong feelings about Camp Canyon.
“Our daughter thoroughly enjoyed her every moment at ‘Jewish camp’ and couldn’t wait to see what the next day’s adventure would bring,” Jessica Gabrys said. “The counselors, campers, activities and experiences made it the highlight of the summer.”
Janine Schipper, a parent of two campers, is an associate professor of sociology at NAU. She is also a fan of Camp Canyon.
“The kids woke up every day bursting with excitement to go to camp and dancing wildly around the house singing, ‘I love Camp Canyon,’” she said. “The directors, counselors and staff were caring, generous, energetic and fun-loving.”
The family feeling and excitement need not end with camp, as Chabad of Flagstaff offers a variety of programs throughout the year, including holiday events, Hebrew school and activities for children and teens.
Now operating out of a storefront near NAU, Chabad of Flagstaff is looking forward to moving into a new 12,000-square-foot facility, the Molly Blank Jewish Community Center, in spring 2019. The new center will house all of the Chabad’s year-round activities, as well as Camp Canyon 2019. JN
For further information, visit campcanyon.org or contact 928-255-5756.