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Jewish Camps In and Around Beacon Part 3: Surprise Lake and Eden Village

08/31/2021 02:11:48 PM


Diane Lapis

An old photograph in sepia tone of a group of young men and boys sitting and standing in front of a white house with a high lattice porch. There are trees all around the scene, and some of the boys are hanging off the porch. They all are wearing white shirts and many have hats and walking sticks.
Jack Holman leads a group from Surprise Lake Camp on a hike to Mt. Beacon, photo by M.P. Rose, courtesy of Milstein Family Jewish Communal Archive Project, 1917

One of the ways to learn about Jewish traditions and culture is at a Jewish summer camp.  Surprise Lake and Eden Village are two camps in close proximity to Beacon that provide outdoor adventures with a focus on Jewish values, life skills, and character building. Staff and board members from both camps are current or past members of BHA, and many children and families from BHA have attended one or both of these camps!


Surprise Lake Camp

Surprise Lake Camp in Cold Spring is one of the longest-running and one of the two oldest Jewish summer camps in the country. It was started in 1902 by the Educational Alliance, later called the Settlement House.   Surprise Lake first served as a summer getaway for boys from the tenements in the Lower East Side to provide social, religious, and welfare activities.  Between the war years, the camp provided both summer and winter educational and health programs to young impoverished boys and the Young Men’s Hebrew Association (ages 16 to 35).   In 1952, the Women’s League established a girls’ section in the camp.  Today, Surprise Lake Camp continues the mission started over 119 years ago in providing a nurturing camp experience in which youngsters (ages 7-15) are immersed in nature, develop relationships, and explore Jewish values. Campers develop water and sports skills, participate in arts and nature projects and develop a sense of discovery, independence, connection and achievement.  The camp focuses on teaching important values that stay with the children for the rest of their lives… acceptance, respect, inclusion, and being kind. Jewish rituals and principles are interwoven throughout the day as well as establishing a relationship with the State of Israel with the help of Israeli staff members. 

 A view of a camp sing-along on a dock. There are orange life jackets hanging and canoes tied to a wooden dock. Behind them a group of teenage boys are linked shoulder to shoulder and to their right a man is standing and singing while playing the guitar. A group of young women sit facing him. A green hill side is behind the people with dark brown wooden cabins on the right.
Surprise Lake Camp singalong (c. 2018), with BHA member Paul Music singing on the far right! Photo courtesy of Surprise Lake Camp
A group of kids and one tall adult stand in a line on logs. They are holding walking staffs that have been decorated in bright yarn and string. The man in the middle has a long brown beard and long hair. He is also holding a blue flag on a pole.
Eden Village Campers with Rabbi Pesach Stadlin, courtesy of Eden Village Camp
A group of teenagers of all genders stand in a circle with arms crossed holding hands. They are in a grassy field with a large vegetable garden and trees in the background.
Eden Village Teen Co-ed Farm Community, courtesy of Eden Village Camp

Eden Village Camp 

Eden Village Camp, located in Putnam Valley, opened in 2010 for campers from ages 7-17. Programs include farming and animal care, wilderness, culinary arts and herbalism, art and music, waterfront and other sports, and are infused with the elements of Jewish learning, ecological health, and social justice.

According to one of its founder's Vivian Lehrer, “this intentional community of people, all creatively engaged, are in deep communication with the land that sustains us. We are learning skills to act kindly, non-violently, and develop empathy for each other and other living beings.  We are rooting a desire to positively impact the world in our ancient tradition which has so much to offer us: wisdom, grounding, and community. We come just as we are. We strive to create an atmosphere in which people feel accepted, feel free to be who they are, to explore, and spread their wings.”

Both Surprise Lake and Eden Village welcome campers from diverse Jewish backgrounds from secular, interfaith, Reform, Reconstructionist, Humanist, Conservative, and Orthodox, among others.

To learn more about these camps visit and


Do you have photos or other memorabilia that relate to BHA’s story? If so, please fill out this quick google form to let us know what you have. We will reach out to you to arrange to scan your photos or collect your artifacts. BHA’s Centennial programs are made possible, in part, with funding from the Sadie Jane Effron Cahn Beacon Hebrew Alliance Endowment of the Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley.

Thu, June 13 2024 7 Sivan 5784