What niggun takes you back to those camp days and the sun’s rays?
Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz
Businessman, philanthropist, composer
“Everybody up up up up, everybody up up up up, everybody up up up up up, everybody up up up up up, everybody up up up up up, everybody up up up up up.” That’s what Reb Josh (Rabbi Yehoshua) Silbermintz a”h, head counselor at Camp Munk, would sing every single morning to wake the entire camp. Once you master and memorize the lyrics, the song literally speaks to you. Although his voice was off-key and his rhythm nonexistent, he was such a heilige neshamah that even at the young age of nine, we were able to tell there was something very special about him. He loved and sang the purest niggunim of old. The way he sang directly from his heart made his singing so beautiful, and taught us all how much we can be embraced by song.
Rabbi Simcha Sussman
Educator, member of Shalsheles
Ironically, I must admit that it’s the classic “Ani Maamin” from the train to Treblinka, which was brought to the Modzhitzer Rebbe, that brings up the most summer feelings for me, with the Three Weeks and Tishah B’Av coming right in the middle. The feelings of aveilus and the longing for Mashiach were so much a part of camp during those days. In truth, I think that the Three Weeks and Nine Days can be felt powerfully in the sleepaway camp setting. The contained Jewish environment allowed us to internalize and tangibly feel the changes leading up to Tishah B’Av.
Rabbi Avi Schnall
New Jersey Director for Agudath Israel of America
Whenever I hear the song “Ashreinu Mah Tov Chelkeinu,” it reminds me of the Camp Munk dining room on Shabbos night, when hundreds of campers and staff members would jump to their feet singing this song with all their energy as Rabbi Dovid Trenk a”h would come in to speak to us. Every time I hear this song, the image of Rabbi Trenk jumping and dancing with us is right in front of my eyes.
Singer and composer
“Ki Besimcha Tzeisai’u “— the traditional slow tune — which was always sung as the buses pulled out on the way to camp.
Singer, Director of the Jewish Community Council of Marine Park
I would say my own song “Window in Heaven,” from my album Ohavti, which was composed in memory of my father, who passed away when I was young. The tune, composed by Yitzy Waldner, is beautiful and resonates with so many people. It’s been used for chuppahs and theme songs in seminaries and over 20 camps.
Another one is the Carlebach Havdalah niggun — it was sung every week after Shabbos in Highland Park bungalow colony in Woodbridge for many years, which always left us with the spirit of Shabbos.
Rabbi Moshe Aron Hoffman
Executive Director of Satmar institutions
“Vehaarev Nah,” as sung by MBD [The Double Album], because it reminds me of an older tune for “Vehaarev Nu” that was the first song I was taught as a child in camp Machaneh Rav Tov. Rabbi Weiss taught it to us, and we sang it every day at breakfast, davening that the day’s learning should go well.
Rabbi Yosef Kanofsky
Director of government programs for OU Advocacy
I would say, “The Little Bird Is Calling.” That was the first real camp song that I heard in the mountains at my yeshivah’s summer program, Camp Hadar HaTorah. Also, “It Happened Yom Kippur” [on Tzlil V’Zemer’s Wake Up Yidden together with Camp Gan Yisrael, to the tune of the Shabbos "Tzamah Nafshi”] is an old-time camp classic that moves the heart in a way that only an English camp song can.
Songwriter and lyricist
The songs that I wrote for Camp Fay-Gah bring back wonderful summer memories. I wrote original camp songs, dining room songs, night activity songs, and wake-up songs for Fay-Gah for five years, from 2000 to 2005. The most memorable were probably “Tav Shin Samech” and “Out of This World.”
Rachel “Ruchie” Freier
New York City Criminal Court judge
Different songs remind me of different eras of my summers growing up in our bungalow colony. But the main memories I have are of “Al Naharos Bavel,” which we sang during the Nine Days, and the celebratory concerts on Motzaei Shabbos Nachamu, singing “Nachamu, Nachamu Ami.”
Pirchei’s first star soloist in the 1960s
Summers were always about taking my family on trips to New Hampshire or the mountains and trying to keep the kids entertained in the car. My kids loved Abie Rotenberg’s Marvelous Middos Machine. Our favorite song was “Never Take Your Kids to a Store,” and a tie for second place went to “Who Spilled the Milk on the Kitchen Floor” and “The Jealousy Song.” (“Yanky got a bigger piece of cake than me… Eizehu ashir, hasameiach b’chelko”). Catchy, upbeat, and fun while imparting a nice message and making me feel like a kid again.
Meir Simcha Rubashkin
Son of Sholom Mordechai and activist for his freedom
The Chabad niggun “Tzamah Lecha Nafshi,” the slow version, as recorded at the Rebbe’s farbrengen where it was sung by both the Rebbe and the chassidim, almost like a duet. This song was played in Camp Gan Yisroel every day as part of the “reveille” track in the morning. It’s a niggun that is both contemplative and uplifting and it always set a great tone and put us in the right frame of mind to have an accomplished day filled with both learning/avodah and fun.
Avraham Fried singing “Hear it in the mountain’s echo, in the ocean’s roar,” from the song “Hashem’s the World” on his All the Best album — and originally on Suki and Ding’s Torah.
Last summer my granddaughter and I took the scenic back route up to camp and suddenly this song came up. We sang along as we raced up and down hills. The memories that flooded my mind at that moment were of the joys of breathing in the summer mountain air since I was a baby.
Arranger, Aaron Teitelbaum Productions
The classic version of “Ani Maamin,” written by Yitzy Weisberg and Mutti Parness a”h, which was performed on Pirchei Volume III back in 1968. The melody is slow and warm, with long notes, and some high notes at the end of each part. This is reminiscent of the long, slow, hot days of summer, which are punctuated by a thunderstorm here and there. Also, part of the summer is taken up with the Three Weeks, when we mourn the Churban Beis Hamikdash, but more importantly, focus on the coming Geulah as well. The words of “Ani Maamin” are exactly what this time is all about.
Jewish Family Experience, Cleveland
Growing up, I went to Camp Bnos for nine summers, so for me summer songs always come back to Dina Storch. Her cantatas, written with Shonnie Perr, haunted me in the best and deepest
place in my heart. “There’s a Place in My Mind” made me cry every time I heard it. As a child I tried to hide my tears from the other girls in the “casino” during the Nine Days. Now I know better and cry freely when I hear the powerful and soulful words of Dina Storch.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 773)