First-time Parents & Camper Guide

My son had never been to sleep away camp. He went for the full 4 weeks. It made a HUGE impact on his independence and confidence, love of making new friends, and an immediate, stronger connection to his temple at home.

Welcome to URJ Camp Newman!

Whether you have just registered your child – or are still considering camp – we’d like to personally welcome you to our Camp Newman family and community. For friendships, adventure and the joy of Judaism, there is no better place than Camp Newman! At summer camp, your child will get to choose from many enriching activities, have an unforgettable Shabbat experience and start making Jewish friends that could very well last a lifetime.

We have created this guide to help you and your child prepare – and to start getting excited – about their upcoming camp adventure. If you don’t see your question addressed below, please visit our more comprehensive Summer F.A.Q. or please feel free to contact our Marketing Director, Alaina Yoakum, and she’ll track down the answer for you!

Thank you for giving our children a place that makes them feel so proud to be Jewish!

Welcome from Our Camp Director, Rabbi Allie Fischman!

Read Rabbi Allie's Message to You

Dear Camper Parent,

As I left my summer home at Camp Newman last year, I glanced over my shoulder towards our sukkat shalom, shelter of peace, and smiled. The grapes that drape camp’s sukkah had waited till the final day to begin ripening. It was fitting symbolism that our summer was complete, that we had nourished our camp community, and that future generations would carry forth the joys of Judaism.

You Can Come Home Again

When we ask our campers and staff why they love Camp, one of the prevailing sentiments is that “camp is home.” It is a home they create with their peer community, their first chavura. They return summer after summer – and all through the year – because they are “coming home again.” The idea of home transcends the physical space, even though campers report the sweet chills they encounter as they enter camp’s gates and gaze up to the Star of David. The idea of home is how it makes one feel inside: warmth, love, ruach (spirit), joy, unconditional acceptance, embracing of each individual for whom they are; for being able to be themselves.

Our Stories

Imagine sitting in the middle of camp and just listening. The sounds of laughter, music and singing abound. If you listen more carefully, especially during informal moments – at meals, in the cabin, bed time, walking to and fro, and friends sitting under a tree – one can hear myriad stories. Children open up at camp and tell their stories. They create their stories and pass on their stories. All kinds of stories are told – about growth, conflict, joy, redemption, happiness, sadness, dreams, successes, shortcomings, yearnings, aspirations. So much of camp’s richness comes from children being able to tell, listen and embrace their stories and their friends’ stories.

Passing The Torch

At Camp, the notion of L’dor V’dor, from generation to generation, is ubiquitous. Young children grow up at camp, passing the traditions to those younger. Eventually, they become staff and pass the Torch to the next generation. Many return as faculty, with their own families, perpetuating the chain. In Midrash Rabba, Songs of Songs 1:4, God tells the Jewish people that they will not receive the Torah without reliable guarantors, those who will care and pass along the Torah for generations onward. The Jewish people suggest several groups, parents, grandparents, prophets, shephards – none of them are acceptable to God – only when children are presented as the guarantors does God hand over the Torah to the Jewish people. The Child In Us All- “By The Breath of Children God Sustains the World,” Talmud at camp, the essence of childhood is celebrated, bringing out the child and the best in us all, from the tiny babies to the senior faculty. We all come together to share the magical moments and miracles of Jewish community living.

Rabbi Allie Fischman

Camp Director, URJ Camp Newman

First Things First … Watch Our Video!

Our video gives you a glimpse into the best of camp – the fun, friendships, adventure, activities and joy of Jewish life. We encourage you to watch it with your child – especially if your child is not certain yet if they wish to attend camp. The excitement is often catching!

I Don’t Know If I Can Afford Camp…

Did you know there are grants and discounts available to help you cover the cost of camp? And first-time campers can get up to $1,000 off camp fees! Contact our Registrar Kim Press for details and to help you apply: or call 415-991-0259. You can also see what’s available here.


Camp has helped me discover my Jewish identity and what it means to be Jewish.


Get a Taste of Camp … During Camp

**NEW** 2-Night Session During Camp for 2nd-4th Graders! Click for info

Experience the energy, magic, and excitement of camp during a 2-night session! Campers enjoy a 2-night taste of camp – and families invited to join them for Shabbat evening festivities! It’s the perfect introductory session for kids who haven’t yet been to overnight camp. Make new friends, enjoy a magical Shabbat as a family & build independence.

Get a Taste of Camp … Before Camp

Here are 3 ways to experience camp, before camp!

  1. Date TBDFamily Fun Festival and Open House with PJ Library – experience a taste of camp in one small bite-sized day and tour our facilities at Cal Maritime.
  2. February 2019: Is My Child Ready for Camp? – join or listen to a free webinar for first-time camper parents! We will send out the registration details closer to the date.
  3. All Year: Visit Camp on the Road – Meet one of our camp directors, get all your questions answered, and get some free camp swag at a synagogue, JCC or camp fair near you! See when we’ll be in your hood here.

My favorite part of camp is making friendships that will last a lifetime.

How Can I Tell If My Child Is Ready?

New beginnings can often feel both exhilarating and a bit scary. As your child’s first extended time away from home, you want to be sure that you’re sending them to a space that will embrace them and take care of them in the same way that you would. That’s why at Camp Newman we go all out to create a space where first-time campers feel safe to dip their toe into the camp experience – or to jump right in when they’re ready!

Here are some questions you may want to consider as you are deciding if your child is ready for camp:

  • Have they been to an overnight at a friend’s house or a slumber party? How did they do?
  • Can they perform routine tasks – like brushing their teeth and hair in the morning – on their own?
  • Does your child like choosing their own items from a buffet?
  • Does your child ever mention the idea of going away to camp?

Start talking about camp with your child – and see what they say! You will know better than anyone when your child is ready for camp.

Will my child make friends?

At camp, we build friendship-making and community-building into our activities from the second your camper arrives! At check-in, campers receive name tags designed to match their cabin group’s name and theme. They are then led to a space where they play getting-to-know-you games with each camper as they arrive until all session members are there. Then, campers are led to their rooms, where they discover that their doors are decorated with posters displaying their group’s theme, their name and all of their fellow campers’ names. Each night, cabin groups gather to do a closing activity (hashkeivah) and counselors build community through group activities, ice breakers, and team-building games throughout the session.

It is my home away from home and a place where I can be my best self.

Where Will My Children Sleep?

Campers live in single-gendered halls in one of three dormitories with one roommate along with in-residence counselors (Check out this cute kid-led tour of the bunks!) – just like many of our URJ Specialty Camps, including 6 Points Sports and Sci-Tech West in Los Angeles. Within each hall, campers are clustered into cabin groups based on age and session. Counselors’ rooms are interspersed among their campers’ rooms with high staff to camper ratios. Counselors are in residence to supervise, mentor, and engage their campers throughout the day, while in their tzrifim (cabins) or at activities.

shabbat best of 41I love being at camp … surrounded by nature, my friends, and people who have similar loves.

Can My Child’s Friend Join Them?

Yes! In fact, many first-time campers come to camp with a friend … or two or three! When you enroll your child, there will be an area where you can enter the name of the friend your child would like to be in the same bunk with.

We do our very best to honor all requests made, and will honor at least one mutually-matching bunk request.

Who Will Be Watching Over My Child?

campers best of 85Our staff share a strong passion for mentoring youth and for modeling the values of friendships, community, and Judaism. These caring, dedicated, and specially-trained individuals include Israelis, college students, rabbinical students, Jewish educators, clergy, camp alumni, doctors, nurses and social workers.

When asked to describe the most important thought that staff should carry in their minds 24 hours a day, we share the following: Imagine that every child’s parents are watching over your shoulder as you care for, nurture, and inspire their most precious gift in life.

Because of camp, my kids think it’s COOL to be Jewish!

Sing Along with Us!

Music is a big part of camp. Everywhere you go, you can hear the sounds of children singing. To hear some of our favorite hits from the summer, visit our Camp Music page (password is “music”).

Prepare & Pack in Partnership with Your Child

To get an idea of what you’ll need, visit our Parent Resources page for our latest Packing List. Some other items your first-time camper might find fun and useful:

  • Clothing or accessories in your camper’s unit color see here for reference.
  • Fun socks for “Fun Sock Fridays”
  • Silly clothing, such fun hats, costumes, onesies, tutus, you get the idea…
  • A deck of cards or other fun games to play with bunkmates.
  • Clothing or accessories for Yom Sport (a day of friendly, fun & zany competition from sports like Frisbee and soccer to art & music activities) in red, green, blue and yellow. If you don’t have, don’t worry! We always have extra items and face paint!

Coping With Homesickness

Before Camp

As you pack, discuss anxieties, expectations and hopes together. Discuss the activities that will happen at camp. Watch the video again. The more your child knows about camp, the better they will adjust. Express how proud you are, as a parent, of your child embarking on their camp journey. Never tell your child that they “can come home” or they “can call home” if they are having a difficult time – this will only make it more difficult for them to adjust.

The only “cure” for homesickness is time, coupled with the support of counselors and encouraging letters from home. Our counselors are there to help comfort and encourage your child. They are sensitive, well-trained and, in most cases, were campers once themselves and draw on their own experiences. They also know where to turn for help. Each session, the camp has a faculty of at least eight Rabbis, Jewish educators and a team of on-site counselors and mental health professionals (our Nefesh team) on site, as well as senior staff members who are always available to help guide the camper to success.

A good article to read: Help Your Child Combat the Homesick Blues During Sleep-away Camp

When Your Child Is at Camp

Send many positive (and “how proud we are of you”) letters to your child. Have letters waiting for them when they arrive. Say how much you are looking forward to hearing about what they experienced at camp. Discuss the excitement of camp, not what they are missing at home. If they’re not letter writers themselves, send them easy to fill out (“your favorite activity at camp is: _____,” “your new friend’s name is: ____”, etc) self-addressed stamped letters to send you with a report. Address all mail to: Camper’s Name, Camp Newman – Session Name, 1 Morrow Cove, Vallejo, CA 94590. And don’t forget to include your return address!

Make sure to visit our How to Keep in Touch page for lots more resources and tips for staying in touch with your camper.

What If My Family Is Interfaith?

At Camp Newman, we welcome all children regardless if one or both parents are Jewish. To read more about how we strive to create a welcoming environment for all, click here!

Shhh…Your First-Timer Gets a Welcome Gift!

Once you have enrolled your camper, be on the lookout some time in May for a special “Welcome to Camp” package to arrive in your mailbox! Our Camp Directors send all of our first-time campers a special gift along with a CD of popular camp music so your camper can begin learning some of our favorite songs and melodies, if they like.

What Can I Do to Support My Child?

The most important covenant we possess at camp is with you, the parents. The trust that is fostered between you and the camp helps create a successful partnership. Read our 7 Ways to Get Your Camper Ready for Camp (below) for ways you can partner with us to make sure your child’s summer is the best ever:

Countdown to Camp

Got More Questions? We Have Answers!

As first-time parents, we know you have questions – and we have answers! To read our extensive F.A.Q. for both first- and long-time parents, click here.