SIJCC CAMP IS IN THE FAMILY
What’s good for the mother is good for the daughter. And what’s good for the daughter is good for the daughter’s daughters.
So goes the story of three generations of Staten Island JCC Campers: Bryn Biren, her daughter, Brooke, and Brooke’s daughters, Genevieve, who will be in Shalom, and Genevieve’s little sister, Freda, who starts K’Ton Ton this year as a 4-year-old — the same age her grandma was when she started Camp, and Harry Truman was president.
“There is nothing like JCC Camp . . . It’s like no other place,” said Grandma Bryn, describing the unforgettable songs she learned and lasting friendships she made during 20 summers at Staten Island JCC Camp.“It gets into your blood.”
At the time Bryn went to camp -- first at the JCC North Shore site, and then on the land where the Bernikow building now sits -- Staten Island was still an open, bucolic expanse. Still, spending summers at Camp taught her to honor nature and the world around her, said Bryn, laughing as she recalled how her late brother, Jeff Wolinitz, brought frogs home from camp and kept them in their backyard in a homemade pen before releasing them into the wilds of Martling Pond.
Back then, as now, Campers were a diverse tapestry of kids from all backgrounds. Even so, Bryn’s years as a camper strengthened her pride in her heritage and her connection to Jewish values — something that stayed with her to this day, in her role as President of Temple Israel Reform Congregation.
“Since I was one of the few Jewish kids in my class, Camp was really important to me, and I also got to share something from my tradition with friends at Camp who weren’t Jewish,” said Bryn’s daughter, Brooke Lopez.
“You looked forward every year to summer and Camp. I see people from Camp now, and they’re sending their kids to JCC Camp too.”
Brooke was a preschooler when she started Camp, and like all the little kids, looked to her counselors with starry-eyed admiration. Every year she returned, growing from a child to an adolescent. In what Bryn remembers as a flash, all of a sudden, her daughter Brooke was a teen counselor on the cusp of college, shepherding her own crew of campers through the Camp she loves.
“If I hadn’t gone to Camp, I might not have known how much I liked to teach kids,” said Brooke, a city school teacher and drama specialist. She also credits JCC Camp for her trajectory into theater. “It was so much fun putting on shows, I think that’s what inspired me. I still remember the awesome trips. The Challah on Fridays. The ice cream …”
Looking at her daughters, she mused,”Who knows where Camp will take them.”
Genevieve responded with one certainty; “It will take us Bowling, to Water Parks and on lots of trips.”