The country’s longest-running Jewish sleepaway camp, Surprise Lake’s mantra is: Unplug. Connect. Grow.

“Our mission is to create a nurturing camp experience in which young people learn essential life skills by being immersed in nature, developing relationships and exploring Jewish values. Everything we do at camp reflects these goals,” says Camp Director Sheryl Kirschenbaum. “We’re unplugged and strongly believe kids need to be kids…we disconnect to reconnect.”

It’s an approach that has worked since Surprise Lake’s founding in 1902. Today the 360-acre camp for ages 7-16 has a pool and offers water sports and dozens of specialty electives so campers can choose their own summer adventures. Campers can play on brand new tennis courts and an archery range, and Surprise Lake is always incorporating special experiences like balloon animal making, juggling or young scientists. 

“With so many options, campers find lots to love,” Kirschenbaum says. In addition to the traditional blend of summer fun and Judaism, the camp provides a well-rounded program where kids can be kids and disconnect sans phones for the summer. The camp also received a grant to hire additional social workers to work with both campers and staff to address any mental or emotional struggles they may still be dealing with after the challenges of the past two years. 

“With so much to experience and choose from, Surprise Lake is truly a special place—we like to think of it as a home away from home for generations of happy campers,” she says. “Our campers build friendships that last a lifetime, and in a time when the outside world can feel a little crazy and out of control, our camp has become a safe haven for kids.”

382 Lake Surprise Rd., Cold Spring, NY