Jewish community’s camp celebrates fifth year at former Love Israel site

ARLINGTON — Camp Kalsman has become an anchor for the Jewish community in the Pacific Northwest.

The camp, located on 300 acres southeast of Arlington, is celebrating its five-year milestone with a party Sunday. This summer about 600 children ages 8 through 17 plan to spend time at the residential camp.

“In North America, summer camp for Jewish kids is a transformative time,” camp director David Berkman said. “Camp offers the opportunity to learn what it means to be Jewish on a day-to-day basis. It’s a way of life, not just synagogue once a week.”

Supported by the Union for Reform Judaism, Kalsman is the first and only Reform Jewish residential summer camp in the region.

Since it first opened in 2007, Camp Kalsman’s summer population has more than tripled in size. Each year, more campers have registered and stayed for longer periods of time.

The expansion of Camp Kalsman is a result of the growth of the Jewish community in the Northwest, Berkman said.

About 60 percent of campers come from the Puget Sound area. The remainder hail from other parts of the state as well as Oregon, Montana, British Columbia, Idaho and Alaska. And some, such as Berkman’s niece, travel from as far away as the East Coast.

“Our sister camps in the Northeast have been around a long time, so I am excited that Kalsman is becoming a tradition, a place where thousands of kids from the regional Jewish community will have spent time,” Berkman said. A Northwest Camper Village, to be completed by summer 2013, will allow 1,000 additional campers to attend Kalsman each year, he said.

“This summer, we have new programs and new recreational equipment. Kalsman is a beautiful place,” Berkman said. “Of course, we had a wonderful palette from which to work.”

The camp property was once a farm owned by the Love Israel family commune, a counterculture group that was a fixture in the Arlington area for about 20 years.

Whatever one may say, said Berkman, the Love Israel family members were good stewards of the property, and their former farm is a benefit to all who attend Kalsman.

In its heyday, the commune numbered 300, and for many years it opened up the farm for an annual garlic festival, an event that attracted thousands.

A $5 million gift from the Kalsman-Levy family of Los Angeles made it possible for the Union for Reform Judaism to buy the property. The facility also provides rental and programming opportunities for Jewish organizations in the area, she said.

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

Camp Kalsman celebration

A party celebrating Camp Kalsman’s fifth summer in operation is set for 1 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday at the camp.

The event is for former, current and future campers, their families and camp supporters.

The event is set to include a concert by Reform Jewish rock icon Dan Nichols and his band Eighteen.

More information about the camp is available at http://kalsman.urjcamps.org.

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