Summer camp has traditionally been for youth. But one former Boston camper and Jewish travel marketer found a way to bridge the gap between summer camp and Birthright Israel trips for today’s millennials.
The new twist on Jewish camp for young adults is coming to Georgia. And unlike the traditional camp experience for youth, there are major benefits to attending post drinking age. For starters, there’s no lights out and alcohol isn’t confiscated. In fact, an open bar is part of the lineup of camp offerings, in addition to beloved standards such as color war, a ropes course and informal Shabbat experiences.
“There aren’t many opportunities to go back to camp when you’re in your 20s and 30s,” said Carine Warsawski, founder of Trybal Gatherings. She runs all-inclusive extended weekend getaways at Jewish summer camps for this age group. “Trybal is recapturing the feel and taste of a rich, intentional and transformational experience.”
Registration began last week for Trybal’s first camp in the Southeast at URJ Camp Coleman in Cleveland, Ga. The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta teamed up
with OneTable for a Silent Disco Shabbat March 6 to promote the SXSE (South by Southeast) camp. The camp reported that 35 people attended the event at the Atlanta Brewing Co.
Federation is offering subsidies for early registration through the end of the month. The cost of the four-day, three-night gathering includes meals, lodging, a bar mitzvah-themed party, and more than 70 classic and out-of-the-box camp activities.
Eric Robbins, Federation CEO and president, said Trybal is not like other next gen gatherings. “This is not a singles’ weekend. It’s young people wanting to be with other young people. It takes them back to their camp days or gets them away from life’s everyday” routines and technology, he said. “It’s unique in that it’s not for the alumni of a specific camp. What we have here, what makes it unique, is that we really believe the next gen wants to meet … and have fun.”
He said the camp also aligns with the Federation’s mission of building community and Jewish identity. “When it’s multiple days, Thursday through Sunday, they are building significant relationships. They are building community, and that’s what we care about – building identity.”
The majority of Trybal participants are between ages 25 and 36, although the experiences are open to young adults 21 and up, said Warsawski, who is 35. She began Trybal Gatherings in 2017 by piloting on the coasts, in the Berkshires (which are between Boston and New York) and Los Angeles before expanding to Chicago. SXSE is the fourth camp location.
“Atlanta is one of the regions where we conducted our original market research. It has an incredible economy and lots of opportunities for young adults to seek new ways to get involved,” she said.
“When we evaluate the landscape of opportunity, we consider the larger ideas marketplace that participants decide on other immersive experiences. We see young adults investing time and resources in these [other activities] in pursuit of connection. They spend their disposable income on festivals, concerts and weekend getaways. We want to provide a buzz-worthy, meaningful experience that also offers a sense of Jewish connection.”
Trybal is a “come as you are,” non-denominational Jewish camp that, unlike many others, is not shomer Shabbat, she said. “We aim to be a portal of connection to further Jewish experiences.”
In a survey of 37,000 Birthright alumni in 2016, Warsawski found that young adults want to stay connected and participate in all-inclusive three to five-day experiences within a three-hour radius of home. Another outcome of studies of Jewish millennials and the power of “immersive” Jewish experiences was that young adults are “looking for connections socially, Jewishly and, in many cases, romantically,” Warsawski said.
Of the latter, she said, “It’s not something that’s at the front line of our marketing, but there’s an assumption that people are coming here to meet their ‘people.’ Dating apps can only take you so far.”
She explained that those who come to Trybal fall into four categories:
FOMOs: Fear of Missing Outs who never went to camp and want to try it;
Nostalgic: Former campers seeking to recapture the experience of their youth;
Do-overs: Those who didn’t have a great experience at camp or didn’t “land in a Jewish place;”
Tag-alongs: Friends of friends and interfaith couples.
Before Trybal, Warsawski was marketing director for a company that ran global Jewish travel programs for youth and young adults, such as URJ’s youth Israel programs. So she already had a connection with URJ camps when she approached Camp Coleman to hold Trybal weekend there, said Camp Director Bobby Harris. He first encountered Trybal Gatherings while visiting a URJ sister camp in the Northeast that was hosting it.
“The URJ sees it as a major priority to engage or reengage people in their 20s and 30s, and Trybal is one strategy to reach them. Many members of this generation look back at their youth and view their camp experience as the most joyous time in their lives,” he said.
“A lot of 20s and 30s ask me about the possibility of holding retreats and reunions at camp. It’s definitely something people are yearning for, the comfort of connecting with others and belonging to a community. And there is a whole group who never had a camp experience.
“I think it’s really important that they have a place to go and to connect and introduce them to other opportunities within the Jewish community,” Harris said.
Warsawski said her goal for a first year in a new location is about 100 people. “We cap camps at 150 people though, and usually have a waitlist. We already have 90 signed up for the Berkshires.”
In terms of the relationship with Federation, camps and other Jewish organizations in this space, “we want to be an entry point to their programs and community,” she said. “We want to make camp a lifelong opportunity for engagement.”
Federation is helping to promote and recruit for Trybal and is offering $250 subsidies until March 31, bringing the total cost to $275, “which really sweetens the deal for locals!” Warsawski said. Registration is regularly $599 and up. ì For more information go to www.trybalgatherings.com.