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Guide to the Camp Kinderland Records TAM.439

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
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10th Floor
New York, NY 10012
(212) 998-2630
tamiment.wagner@nyu.edu


Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Collection processed by Alexander Bloom and Michael Beebe, 2009.

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on January 11, 2018
Finding aid is in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

 Series VIII added by Heather Mulliner. Glass Plate Negatives described by Nicole Greenhouse. Record updated by Rachel Searcy to reflect 2017 accretion. 20132014 , January 2018

Historical Note

Camp Kinderland was founded on Sylvan Lake in Hopewell Junction, NY in 1923 by members of The Workmen’s Circle who worked in the organization’s New York City Schools. The camp’s founders sought to create a summer youth camp that would not only provide a recreational escape for the children of working people from the tenements of New York City, but also encourage and foster a commitment to socially progressive activism and the embracing of a rich Jewish secular tradition. Responding to a growing demand from parents of campers and other visitors, many of whom had already taken to sleeping on dining-hall floors, Kinderland would quickly establish an adult wing, Camp Lakeland.

Both the youth and adult camps provide summer recreation opportunities found at most camps. Recreational activities include swimming, hiking, camping and outdoor sports, as well as cultural activities such as music, drama, dance and the arts. The camp’s culture is both officially and informally grounded in the Jewish tradition of progressive activism, with its core values of peace, social justice, activism, civil rights, Yiddishkeit, and friendship.

From less than one hundred campers in its first year, Camp Kinderland grew quickly, and by 1933 close to 500 children filled over thirty bungalows and tent groupings. In 1930, the leftist wing of the Workmen’s Circle, along with Camp Kinderland, split off to form the International Worker’s Order (IWO). The Camp was formally sponsored by the Jewish People’s Fraternal Order of the IWO. Although New York State declared the IWO a “Communist-allied” organization in 1954 and revoked its charter, Camp Kinderland was able to continue by incorporating independently. Kinderland did come under scrutiny from the FBI as a Communist-affiliated organization, and its manager, David Greene, was called to testify before the House Committee on Unamerican Activites in 1955.

In 1971, after years of increasing county taxes and declining numbers of campers, the board and directors sold the Camp’s property in Hopewell Junction and relocated to a rented property in Fitchville, Connecticut. After five years of renting sites for the Camp in Connecticut, Pennsylvania and New York, Kinderland purchased property in 1976 in Tolland, Massachusetts. In the same year camp was re-incorporated by the state of NY, with offices at 1 Union Square in Manhattan. Among the prominent participants in the Camp's cultural program have been Paul Robeson and Pete Seeger, and notable alumni include Chesa Boudin, Jules Dassin, Max Kellerman, Spencer Ackerman and Marisa Tomei.