Owned and operated by Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles, Camp Bob Waldorf on the Max Straus Campus is a unique resource for youth from the greater Los Angeles area. Covering 112 beautifully rugged acres of the Verdugo Hills area just outside Glendale, the nonprofit camp is dedicated to enriching the lives of LA’s underserved young people by providing them with the tools and support system they need to grow and thrive throughout their school years, and beyond.
Long operated as a nonsectarian camp (under its former name of Camp Max Straus), Camp Bob Waldorf launched a series of kibbutz programs in 2013 to provide Jewish children and youth with a special camp experience driven by Jewish values. Built upon the core pillars of community (kehillah), inclusion (keshet), identity (atzmi), and respect (kavod), the kibbutz programs foster growth and development in an environment that is fun, safe, and nurturing. Furthermore, as a reflection of Kibbutz Bob Waldorf’s deep commitment to making its programs accessible to the families who need them most, the camp offers a variety of financial assistance options, which are supported in part by generous donors and community partners.
Some of the programs that participants can explore include the following:
Kibbutz Bob Waldorf
The camp’s flagship offering, Kibbutz Bob Waldorf is a residential, pluralistic Jewish summer camp for young people between the ages of 9 and 15. During the 12-day sessions, campers live in a cabin with several other peers and two to three counselors, and immerse themselves in a wide range of typical summer camp activities, including sports, arts and crafts, ranch activities like horseback riding, and camp games and challenges. The goals of Kibbutz Bob Waldorf are to help participants discover new skills and interests, make new friends and lasting memories, and learn to be responsible and thoughtful members of their community.
Campers aged 14 and 15 who are looking to deepen their camp experience have the option of participating in Teen Camp, which runs at the same time as the Kibbutz Bob Waldorf summer sessions geared towards younger campers. Teen Camp combines the fun and friendship of summer camp with a greater focus on tikkun olam, or social action. In addition to typical camp activities, Teen Camp participants pursue specialized programming and community service opportunities, which help them develop valuable leadership skills and experience.
Tikkun olam is also at the heart of Kibbutz Tzedek, a short, wintertime experiential program that introduces teens to the importance of community service and philanthropy. Over the course of a weekend, teens volunteer with local community organizations, meet inspiring guest speakers, and build lasting relationships with other young people as committed as they are to making the world a better place. At the close of the program, participants collectively decide how to allocate tzedakah funds (tzedakah commonly signifies a charitable obligation) to organizations that have meaningfully impacted them.
Counselors are at the heart of any memorable summer camp experience, and Kibbutz Bob Waldorf is no exception. These dedicated teens ensure that the young people in their care have all the support they need during their time at camp—whether this involves a helping hand to get up on horseback for the first time or some friendly encouragement to go strike up a conversation with a new friend. Supervised by Kibbutz Bob Waldorf’s Director of Teen Programs, the Counselor-in-Training (CIT) program gets would-be counselors ready for their new responsibilities. CITs do not have to be Jewish to attend this program, but they must be open and accepting of the camp’s pluralistic and multifaith atmosphere, which prioritizes respect among campers regardless of their religious beliefs.
For participants who can’t wait till next summer for their next camp experience, winter Kibbutz retreats are a great way to maintain a sense of continuity with Kibbutz Bob Waldorf’s summer programs. Offered twice in the winter, these weekend retreats let participants reconnect with friends they made the previous summer while taking part in favorite camp activities like archery, nature outings, sports, and cooking. Friday evenings are dedicated to a fun and engaging Shabbat that focuses on community, song, and dance. Winter retreats are also a helpful way to give prospective campers, who might not be quite sure about attending summer camp, an introductory taste of what Kibbutz Bob Waldorf life is all about.
Designed for young people aged 14 to 17, the unique Witherbee Wilderness Camp brings together returning campers from the Kibbutz and nonsectarian summer camp programs for an incredible 10-day adventure. Offered in partnership with Outward Bound California, Witherbee Wilderness takes participants on a five- or seven-day backpacking trip through some of California’s most beautiful landscapes, such as Yosemite National Park or Big Basin Redwoods State Park, combined with relaxing time at the Max Straus Campus before and after the trip.