Camp Eton: Friends Regained

About forty years ago, Karen went to a little Jewish summer camp near Rhinebeck New York, called Camp Eton. Her father was the camp Rabbi.

A group of friends from Karen’s bunk called themselves The Three Musketeers. For several summers this little group of girls were the best of friends. At night, they would sit in their bunks and talk until sunrise. As little girls do, they talked of their dreams and their hopes and they solemnly vowed to be the best and most loyal friends forever.

Camp Eton folded. And as it invariably happens, Karen and her little group of Jewish Musketeers lost contact with one another as they went their separate ways. Over the years, Karen often spoke of her idyllic summers and the wonderful girlfriends she made. “I wonder what happened to them?” she has mused out loud on more than one occasion.

A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail from a Seraphic Secret reader. The author wondered if my wife was the former Karen Singer and if she once attended Camp Eton. Yes, I wrote back, that is my wife. I showed Karen the e-mail and when she saw the name of the person who wrote it, Joyce Motechin, Karen gasped, for this woman was one of the Musketeers back in Camp Eton. And why, we wondered, was Joyce (nee Siegel) reading Seraphic Secret? Our worst fears were confirmed when Karen learned that Joyce’s daughter Deena died five years ago. In Joyce’s descriptions of her beloved daughter Deena, we feel that we are hearing a description of Ariel. For Deena was a pious, spiritual young woman with a talent for imparting Torah; humbly and steadfastly she inspired and uplifted friends and students. She literally danced into everyone’s hearts. She loved life, yet suffered horribly. Deena suffered without feeling the need to complain; she did not rage at Hashem, did not surrender to despair or hopelessness. In our cultural life, the word courage has been used so often that its true meaning has been lost and devalued. But for Deena, the word eloquently fits.

Ariel never married and this carries its own distinct sorrow. But Deena was married, for just a few short months, and though we can say: Oh, she knew the joys of marriage, there is an unbearable poignancy in losing one’s life in the first blush of married life. As Joyce so eloquently writes: I’ve been reading your journal at Seraphic Secret and am in awe of the many incidents you tell regarding Ariel z”l and the way he faced his horrendous ordeal. Yes, I do see parallels in our children. This is where emunah, the belief and faith that we were steeped in throughout our lives, kicks in. I truly believe that Ariel and Deena are doing HaShem’s work—who knows maybe even together.

Karen reads and rereads Joyce’s e-mails, and we too marvel at the similarities Joyce brings to our attention.

“I can still remember Joyce’s birthday,” says Karen, “we were that close.”

It is eerie that Joyce and Karen have found each other after so many years. It is strange, and of course unbearably sad that these two childhood friends have reestablished contact, not to remember summers past, of camp and color war, and the icy chill of the lake, but to speak of beloved children who have entered the world of timelessness, the world of remembrance. What they have now binds them tighter than the warp of a carpet.

Karen and Joyce were the best of childhood friends. Now, when Karen writes to Joyce, her feelings come in a flood; it seems to be the continuation of one long conversation; a narrative that was never interrupted; a loving dialogue that has been flourishing for over forty years. Karen and Joyce speak of children who are no longer flesh but spirit; these two beautiful women are once again Musketeers, best friends sitting up in their bunks, talking until the rising of the sun. The loyalty and love they vowed to each other so long ago has been honored.

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25 Comments

  1. iwander
    Posted March 27, 2014 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    I was a child of the sixties as well, having been at Eton from 1963-1970. I am still part of a loyal group of friends for whom those Summers were defining. We cannot be together without having the memories pour forth. We often wonder if reconnecting is possible. I deeply regret the circumstances under which we meet again. There are no words…..

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    • Motownmom
      Posted April 22, 2014 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

      My brother and I (Robert and Susan Zwengler) were there the summers of 69, 70 and 71. The summers we spent there were the best we ever had. So good in fact that I made sure to find my three children a Jewish camp and they were “sleep away” campers and staff for 12 years each. I got to live vicariously through them for 12 more years of Color War, arts and crafts projects, “raids”…..If anyone reads this and remembers us please get in touch.

      my email is tickerasue@gmail.com

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  2. Barry Proner
    Posted February 13, 2014 at 1:26 am | Permalink

    I was a camper there around 1955 – ’57 and later a junior counsellor and counsellor in the early ‘sixties. I remember it well. I was reminded of it in reading about Sid Caesar’s death. His son Ricky was one of my “campers” in about 1961.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  3. Posted September 8, 2013 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    I went to Camp Eton from 1951-1956 and, though the physical facility did not compare favorably with other camps, I loved every minute of being there.  A few years ago I went by the camp on the way to visit friends in Kingston and was surprised how small it seemed.  The property had been sold to a couple who lived in ‘Eton Hall’ and were renovating the building.  It is no bigger than a good sized house.  The pool is still in the front yard.  Many of the bunks have been removed (by storm, wind or just rotting).  The rec hall and attached buildings are still there (arts and crafts, photography, Happy House), but are not even opened as they are full of bats.  The benches in front of the rec hall are gone as are the ball fields.  Walking further up the hill, the mess hall has been completely renovated.  There was a new housing development being built across the road and I think the mess hall was purchased by the builder to be some sort of social hall for the new home owners.
    Jack and Sarah Aboff are no longer alive.  They would be in their mid 90’s by now. 
    my summers at camp were wonderful and I vividly remember waiting for the camp reunion in the winter and then the start of the new season.  If anyone was at camp when I was there I would love to hear from them.
    Judy Epstein Rothbard

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  4. maralee sirota
    Posted June 11, 2011 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    I think i found Wallerstein in Elizabeth NJ
    try calling 908 355 1377
    Number listed in white pages
    Maralee Sirota
    mgarfieldb1@gmail.com

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  5. Arlene Greenwald
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    Wallerstein, I would be interested in having those pitures. I know who the Goldbergs were as I attended camp when they did. You said to email you, but you didn't provide an email address.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  6. WALLERSTEIN
    Posted April 6, 2011 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    Hello Anyone
    I have many pictures that my neighbor was throwing out (took them for the frames) Then I decided that maybe someone would like them. I am in Elizabeth NJ this person must have been a camp counselor I think they were the Goldbergs The pictures say 1952, 1959 and some single pictures
    It does say Camp Eton 1958 Inters. I am not sure this is your camp if it sounds familiar please email me and I will scan them or send them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

    • captainjack
      Posted January 25, 2014 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

      I have read the article and the posts.  I am a Goldberg and along with my two older brothers (I am 65) went to Camp Eton along with my three girl cousins during  the mid fifties to mid sixties.  Are you able to scan and send pictures?
      Jack Goldberg

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    • mjajd1694
      Posted March 15, 2014 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

      I think I am the 3rd musketeer. I was friends with Joyce and Karen. We bunked together and get together at shabbosim at the Seigels  and the  Singers. Every year I looked forward to staying at the Seigels with Karen on Simchat Torah. Karen or Joyce, please write to me.
       

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  7. maralee heller sirot
    Posted February 23, 2011 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    the camp was located between red hook and reinbeck ny
    i was a camper there during the summers of
    1960 to 1965
    Maralee Heller Sirota

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  8. Sheila Greenberg
    Posted February 10, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    I went to Camp Eton from 62-64 with my two sisters Sandy and Fran. I loved it there. I would love to know where the camp was located. I know it does not exist anymore but would love to go up there to visit and reminise.
    Sheila Greenberg May

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  9. Harry Barnett
    Posted September 19, 2010 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

    I'm so surprised this topic came up. My brother, George and i were campers from 1964-1966. I very much remember Rebbe Singer, Color War, The Aboffs, the ballfields, the lake, the stream where Jackie Halpern and I used to catch frogs, Leah Magnus's arts & crafts. I have many fond memories of Camp Eton. I hope life has been kind to all. I'm retired and living in Arizona. My email is HDBarnett84@post.harvard.edu.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  10. Bobby Greenberg
    Posted April 16, 2010 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    I am Jack & Sarah's oldest nephew from her brother Phil. I went to Eton from 1950 until my last year as a waiter in 1960. I remember Debby Satran & her brother, Karen Landman, Marilyn Sladowsky, Charlie Tarlowe, Baila Weinstein, Happy House, the ball fields, the coke machine, Birthday Ball, Boy / Girl Sing, and my grandfather Pops Greenberg. I Loved every minute of it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. maralee heller sirot
    Posted June 9, 2009 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Message to all who have responded to this site:
    Remember Camp Reunions. Well, lets have one!!!!
    any ideas.. where does everyone live.
    I live in Forest Hills Queens New York
    Thank you
    maralee heller sirota

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  12. Ronnie Ackerman
    Posted June 9, 2009 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Can't believe I found this site. I went to Camp Eton in 1964. It was the best year of my life. Debby Edelstein was my "girlfriend". We used to walk hand in hand down the camp road at night. I often wonder what happened to Debby.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  13. maralee heller sirot
    Posted May 18, 2009 at 5:24 am | Permalink

    hi
    I am so glad you found this site.
    I went to Camp Eton from 1960 to 1965. My last summer was on the top floor at Happy House.
    Had many found memories of Camp Eton.
    I heard that Camp Eton closed in the early 70's.
    That is all I know.
    Maralee Heller Sirota
    Camp eton 1960 to 1965
    e mail mgarfieldb@hotmail.com

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  14. Posted May 15, 2009 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    Wow, I can't believe I came across this site. I went to Camp Eton from 1950 to 1958. Does anyone know if Jack & Sara are still alive & if so where they are? Those years were honestly the best of my life. I often think of Sara & Jack & their 3 children & the great summers I spent with them. The bunk I was in in the last few years there was Happy House. Do any of you remember that? What year did Camp Eton close? I would love to find some of my friends that I met there. It was great finding you. It brought back a lot of memories.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. maralee sirota
    Posted May 2, 2009 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    hi to all former campers of camp eton
    yes i have many great memories of Camp Eton
    was a camper there from 1960 to 1965
    who can forget color war, sing, saturday night socials..
    would love to share those memories.
    they were the best years of my life.
    please write
    maralee (heller) sirota
    mgarfiedb@hotmail.com

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  16. stan ziperson
    Posted May 2, 2009 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    stan zip ziperson
    I was a camper at eton 64 & 65. most of the campers were from elizabeth. but a few of us were from the jersy shore
    i remember a girl named debbie edelson or edelstein. and a boy named little davey
    i am still down the shore
    DerbyTclwn@aol.com

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  17. scott zohn
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 3:04 am | Permalink

    Karen,thank you for answering my note. I was from Belleville nj about 5 miles north of Elizabeth.I now live in Florida and i am 53 years old{wow}.Do you know if camp eton is still active and do you have any pics? my email address is slz41655@live.com thank you again,this bought back many wonderful memories

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  18. Posted January 4, 2009 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Scott, we overlapped at Eton, since I was there from 61-66. I don't know if you were younger or older than me. The camp was so small that everyone usually knew the whole population. Jack was really scary, and Color War intense. Are you from Elizabeth?

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    • mjajd1694
      Posted March 16, 2014 at 12:18 am | Permalink

      Karen, it’s Janet Hellman Fleischer. Do you remember me?you, Joyce and I spent Shabbosim together at your house and Joyce’s house. Every simchat torah we went to the Seigels so we could be near 770. Do you remember me? Jack and Sara were my mother’s first cousins.  

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  19. scott zohn
    Posted January 4, 2009 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    trying to find friends from camp eton. i remember jack and sara abboff and attended camp from 1963 to 1969. best years of my life. do remember rabbi singer and sadie hawkins day, color war,and dining room up on the hill.

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  20. Posted March 13, 2006 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

    Maralee:
    Karen and i thank you so much for your kind and generous note.

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  21. MARALEE HELLER
    Posted March 13, 2006 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Dear Karen and family
    My heart goes out to you all. I cannot imagine what you feel. I only wish the best to you all from this day on.
    Maralee Heller
    camper at Eton
    Summers 60 to 65

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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