When I wrote my memoir Commies: A Journey Through the Old Left, the New Left and the Leftover Left, I had a chapter that I titled “Commie Camp,” about my years as both a camper and counselor in the now-defunct Camp Woodland in Phoenicia, New York. I wrote about how instead of Olympics, they had a “World Youth Festival,” modeled after the Soviet bloc’s festivals; of the dedication to the culture and politics of left-wing folk music; and of how counselors even used the camp’s premises to try and recruit older campers into the Communist Party’s youth movement.
I assumed that in the 21st century, those days of Red summer camps had come to an end. Alas, that is not the case. Evidently Gabe Zimmerman, the director of community outreach for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) who died standing by her side in the Tucson shootings, was a proud counselor in 2001 at one of these remaining camps, Camp Kinderland in Eastern Massachusetts.
According to an report in the weekly Jewish newspaper The Forward, the camp “is an idiosyncratic sort of place, a living relic of American Jewry’s red diaper past.” To say the least! After all, it had its beginnings in 1923, when Jewish Communists created it. For years its camp grounds were in Hopewell Junction, New York. Set on a large lake, the opposite side made up the camp grounds of the competing Jewish social-democratic camp, Kinder Ring, run by the Workmen’s Circle, a moderate fraternal organization of so-called “right-wing socialists,” who set up shop in 1927.