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Summer camp in California gives Jewish children of color a haven to be different together

PETALUMA, Calif. (AP) — One camper, from Oakland, California, has a white Jewish mother and a father who is Black and Muslim. Another was adopted in Uganda by a white Jewish woman; they now live in Montana.

Like many of the young people who shared challenges and adventures with them this summer, they grew up often feeling like outliers — and then found a near-magical comfort zone at Camp Be’chol Lashon in the rolling hills of California’s Marin County. Its founders say it’s the only sleepaway summer camp specifically serving Jewish children of color, creating a safe space for candid conversations on race and identity.

Isaac Harrison, the 10-year-old from Oakland, went to a traditional Jewish summer camp last year and said he was bullied by some campers for being Black.

Ella Damaser, 22, of Cleveland, a counselor at Camp Be'chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, wears a necklace that symbolizes "life" in Hebrew, and the Hebrew Shema prayer, on top of her bathing suit, Friday, July 28, 2023, while attending the camp in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. Damaser was raised Jewish and is a recent graduate of Howard University, a historically Black college. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)Ella Damaser, 22, of Cleveland, a counselor at Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, wears a necklace that symbolizes “life” in Hebrew, and the Hebrew Shema prayer, on top of her bathing suit. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)Satya Sheftel-Gomes, 22, of San Francisco, back right, leads campers including Abelli Daija James, 15, of San Diego, back left, through choreography for a friendly dance competition during Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Saturday, July 29, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. “Early on when I had less connections it really felt like I was one in a million,” says Sheftel-Gomes, “and camp has always been such a special place where there’s such an intersection of identities.” (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)Satya Sheftel-Gomes, 22, of San Francisco, back right, leads campers including Abelli Daija James, 15, of San Diego, back left, through choreography for a friendly dance competition during Camp Be’chol Lashon. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

“There were no kids of color there,” he said, “Some kids kept saying that you can’t be both Black and Jewish. They said that you can’t be two things. They were just being really mean, but here no one’s mean like that.”

Isaac’s mother, Jennifer Harrison, was relieved to find Camp Be’chol Lashon.

“If camp this summer didn’t work out, we were going to be done with Jewish camps,” she said. “My child was suffering.”

Over the past 14 years the camp has offered children like Isaac a haven where they don’t have to explain their identity or downplay a part of who they are. It functions as an extended family for campers who are often the only Jewish child of color in their hometown or treated more as a curiosity than a full-fledged member of Jewish or Black communities.

Most Black Americans identify as Christian. Several of the campers recalled uncomfortable encounters with Christians trying to proselytize them.

“If it’s just Black people and you say that you’re Jewish, they just don’t get it,” says Baileigh Davis, 11, of Houston, who is the third generation of Black Jews in her family.

Charlotte Washington, 8, of East Lansing, Mich., right, and her new best friend, Alejandrina Chapman, 9, run together accompanied by their ever present art supplies during Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Thursday, July 27, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. Unlike the other Jewish campers, Charlotte's parents found this camp after she told her father, who is an atheist, that she was interested in converting to Judaism. She now attends a synagogue and will take Bat Mitzvah classes. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Charlotte Washington, 8, of East Lansing, Mich., right, and her new best friend, Alejandrina Chapman, 9, run together accompanied by their ever present art supplies. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The U.S. Jewish population remains overwhelmingly homogenous in its racial makeup, with 92% of adults identifying as white, according to a 2020 Pew Research Center survey. But there are signs the nation’s Jews are becoming more diverse, especially among younger generations. Compared to 8% of all Jewish adults, 15% of those ages 18 to 29 identified with a nonwhite category.

At the camp, each morning begins with a lesson on global Jewry. For example, there’s Pirate Day, when campers learn about Jews who were expelled to the Caribbean during the Spanish inquisition and found livelihoods as pirates.

Some of the campers have Jamaican heritage, including Josiah Spencer, 15, grandson of the Be’chol Lashon organization’s founder, Diane Tobin, and son of Sarah Weinberg, the camp director.

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“It’s like a family and having been here makes people more comfortable when they’re not here,” said Josiah, who attends a Jewish day school in San Francisco.

When the camp opens, each child gets a booklet called Passport to Peoplehood, with questions about their nationality, ethnicity and favorite foods. Asked if another language besides English is spoken at home, hands shot up — answers included Spanish, Zulu, Swahili and Bulgarian.

Although most campers this summer were from northern California, other home states included Texas, Montana and New Jersey; one came from South Africa.

Judah, 10, of Vermont, center, and Kallie House, 12, of Sugar Land, Texas, right, react after the prayer over the challah bread is recited during Shabbat at Camp Be'chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. Standing behind them is Josiah Spencer, 15, who is the son of the camp's director. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Judah, 10, of Vermont, center, and Kallie House, 12, of Sugar Land, Texas, right, react after the prayer over the challah bread is recited during Shabbat. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

“We were looking for a place where (Isaac) could celebrate both of his identities,” said Rashad Harrison, Isaac’s father. “There are very few African American spaces where Judaism is embraced.”

At the end of one busy day, campers gathered in the art room, surrounded by projects like the mezuzahs and menorahs they had made at camp. That night’s game was “Jewpardy,” with questions reflecting the diversity of Jews, including Black Jewish musicians such as Drake.

After evening s’mores, in the flickering light of a campfire, 8-year-old Abey Levine belted out a rendition of, “When I Was Your Man” by Bruno Mars. Cheering campers hoisted him atop their shoulders. Abey, short for Abraham, is white and Jewish from New Orleans; he attended camp with his brother Major, 10, who is Black and Jewish.

“We searched all over the country for Jewish camps that had diversity,” says their mother, Vanessa Levine.

Later that night the group gathered in a circle by the firepit, arms around one another, swaying as their voices rose together in a Hebrew prayer, asking God to watch over them.

Judah, 10, of Vermont, places an arrow toward India on a map, as the kids learn about the Jewish people who live in India, while attending Camp Be’chol Lashon, a Jewish sleepaway camp for children of color, Thursday, July 27, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. Lessons included learning about the Jewish people who live in Ethiopia, Uganda, India, and the Caribbean, all heritages represented among campers this week. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)Judah, 10, of Vermont, places an arrow toward India on a map, as the kids learn about the Jewish people who live in India. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)Campers look through magazines including Essence as they make a collage art project while attending Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Thursday, July 27, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. Art projects encompass aspects of world cultures and incorporate Jewish elements. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)Campers look through magazines including Essence as they make a collage art project. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)Camp counselors who have been attending this camp since they were also children, Ella Damaser, 22, of Cleveland, left, Satya Sheftel-Gomes, 22, of San Francisco, center, and Claude Lewis, 23, of Cleveland, relax near the lake at Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for young Jews of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. “The camp serves as an anchor, a safe space,” says Lewis, “I feel like this is a great place for multiple reasons, because one, yes, it's a very rare collection of Black Jews. But it's also a collection of minorities. It’s a safe place for people to explore who they are.” (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Camp counselors who have been attending this camp since they were also children, Ella Damaser, 22, of Cleveland, left, Satya Sheftel-Gomes, 22, of San Francisco, center, and Claude Lewis, 23, of Cleveland, relax near the lake. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

On several days, the 60 campers ages 7 to 18 crossed a wooden drawbridge, passed grassy hillsides and reached a lake that many of them leapt into. Some tried to catch fish with homemade poles.

On Saturday mornings, the campers got to sleep in, then wore white outfits to a Shabbat service, where Sarah Weinberg led them through prayers and stressed the importance of taking care of one another.

“It feels like we are all together — we are different but the same at the same time,” said camper Okech Odola, 13, who lives in New Jersey. Odola’s father is Ethiopian, and at camp, a half dozen campers who were adoptees from Ethiopia met for the first time.

“It’s important to me to stay in contact with my Ethiopian culture,” said Ruby Beerman, 14, of Marin County. “It’s been really good to meet other people that have similar stories.”

Camp sports director Cellie Davis, 39, left, of Houston, and counselor Satya Sheftel-Gomes, 22, of San Francisco, right, undo the two-strand-twists from the locs in the hair of 17-year-old junior counselor Jordan Gardner, of Novato, Calif., as campers enjoy the lake at Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Camp sports director Cellie Davis, 39, left, of Houston, and counselor Satya Sheftel-Gomes, 22, of San Francisco, right, undo the two-strand-twists from the locs in the hair of 17-year-old junior counselor Jordan Gardner as campers enjoy the lake. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

“When I was younger, I felt so alienated and so alone. I get told every day that you’re different, you don’t belong here, because I’m part of so many different minorities,” she said. “And here is kind of a place where everybody belongs to a lot of those minorities. … Not everybody is the same here, but we’re all different together.”

Satya Sheftel-Gomes, 22, has been coming to the camp since she was 11. Now a counselor, she says the curriculum focuses on Jews of color.

“Every day we go across the map and show all the places Jewish people have lived,” she said. “We don’t do that in other Jewish institutions.”

“My grandmother is well known in the San Francisco Jewish community. My grandfather is Black and so is my dad,” Sheftel-Gomes said. “That’s part of why camp is so important, to give me the language to identify what I was experiencing without knowing why.”

“Early on when I had less connections, it really felt like I was one in a million,” she added, “Now I know that’s not the case.”

In California, a summer sleepaway camp serves as a haven for Jewish children of color. These campers have the shared experience of often being seen as outliers. But at Camp Be’chol Lashon, they celebrate their differences together. (Aug. 11) (AP Video: Jacquelyn Martin)

Be’chol Lashon, which means “in every language” in Hebrew, views its mission as honoring the global nature of the Jewish people.

“There are Jews in Africa, Jews in Iraq, Jewish people in China and India,” said Weinberg. “It’s only in the U.S., where a majority of Jewish people are of Eastern European descent, that Jewish equaled white.”

Apiyo Bocast, an 11-year-old wearing turquoise beads in her hair, was adopted in Uganda and lives with her mother in Bozeman, Montana. She has been exhilarated by camp, including a morning lesson about a  community in Uganda which has practiced Judaism for more than 100 years.

Baileigh Davis, 11, of Houston, left, and Apiyo Bocast, 11, of Bozeman, Montana, laugh while swimming in the lake during Camp Be'chol Lashon, a Jewish sleepaway camp for children of color, Thursday, July 27, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. Davis is the third generation of Black Jews in her family, while Bocast was adopted in Uganda by a Jewish woman. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Baileigh Davis, 11, of Houston, left, and Apiyo Bocast, 11, of Bozeman, Montana, laugh while swimming in the lake. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

“It makes me feel more welcome into the world,” said Apiyo.

Many of the campers identify as mixed race. Aesa Masliyah, 16, of Oakland, represents multiple heritages; his grandparents were Iraqi, Israeli, Ashkenazi, Jamaican and Dominican.

“There’s not one type of Jew, every Jew doesn’t look the same, and there’s not just one way to practice Judaism,” said Jonah Tobin, 25, of San Francisco, counselor and son of founder Diane Tobin. She was inspired to found Be’chol Lashon, the organization behind the camp, after adopting Jonah into her family of six.

The camp incorporates aspects of Jewish practice such as lighting candles for Shabbat and Havdalah, the ceremony to close out the Sabbath day. That ceremony also marked the end of the two-week camp session.

Dressed up for "Pirate Day," Eli, 12, of Phoenix, Ariz., left, and Sasha Wernick, 11, of Brooklyn, catch and release fish during Camp Be'chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)1 of 15 | 

Dressed up for “Pirate Day,” Eli, 12, of Phoenix, Ariz., left, and Sasha Wernick, 11, of Brooklyn, catch and release fish during Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Read MoreZohara Grossman-Naples, 15, of Philomath, Oregon, center, hugs younger campers as they roast s'mores during a fire pit at Camp Be'chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)2 of 15 | 

Zohara Grossman-Naples, 15, of Philomath, Oregon, center, hugs younger campers as they roast s’mores during a fire pit at Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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Read MoreRuby Beerman, 14, center, of Marin County, Calif., who is one of several Ethiopian adoptees attending camp, gestures over her heart while talking with friends at Camp Be'chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Saturday, July 29, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. "I get told every day that you're different, you don't belong here, because I'm part of so many different minorities," she said. "And here is kind of a place where everybody belongs to a lot of those minorities. Not everybody is the same here, but we're all different together." (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)3 of 15 | 

Ruby Beerman, 14, center, of Marin County, Calif., who is one of several Ethiopian adoptees attending camp, gestures over her heart while talking with friends at Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Saturday, July 29, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. “I get told every day that you’re different, you don’t belong here, because I’m part of so many different minorities,” she said. “And here is kind of a place where everybody belongs to a lot of those minorities. Not everybody is the same here, but we’re all different together.” (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Read MoreA Havdalah candle is lit as campers sing in a circle at the end of the second week of Camp Be'chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Saturday, July 29, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)4 of 15 | 

A Havdalah candle is lit as campers sing in a circle at the end of the second week of Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Saturday, July 29, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Read MoreCounselors Satya Sheftel-Gomes, 22, of San Francisco, left, and Kenya Edelhart, 21, of Simi Valley, Calif., who have attended the camp since they were 11 and 6 respectively, joke with Kallie House, 12, of Sugar Land, Texas, on the way to a camper talent show during Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. “As a small child, I was constantly in Ashkenazi Jewish conversations without any conversation about my being Black,” says Sheftel-Gomes, speaking of Jewish people of Eastern European descent, “It was this is my granddaughter, as such she belongs here. I would have to figure out my difference on my own. That’s part of why camp is so important, to give me the language to identify what I was experiencing without knowing why. I learned what it was for me to be Black at Camp Be’chol Lashon.” (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)5 of 15 | 

Counselors Satya Sheftel-Gomes, 22, of San Francisco, left, and Kenya Edelhart, 21, of Simi Valley, Calif., who have attended the camp since they were 11 and 6 respectively, joke with Kallie House, 12, of Sugar Land, Texas, on the way to a camper talent show during Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. “As a small child, I was constantly in Ashkenazi Jewish conversations without any conversation about my being Black,” says Sheftel-Gomes, speaking of Jewish people of Eastern European descent, “It was this is my granddaughter, as such she belongs here. I would have to figure out my difference on my own. That’s part of why camp is so important, to give me the language to identify what I was experiencing without knowing why. I learned what it was for me to be Black at Camp Be’chol Lashon.” (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Read MoreEli, 12, of Phoenix, Ariz., plays "gaga," an Israeli game popular at U.S. Jewish summer camps, while attending Camp Be'chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)6 of 15 | 

Eli, 12, of Phoenix, Ariz., plays “gaga,” an Israeli game popular at U.S. Jewish summer camps, while attending Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Read MoreDressed in white for Shabbat, Aesa Masliyah, 16, of Oakland, Calif, left, attends Shabbat services during Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Saturday, July 29, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. Many of the children who attend camp identify as mixed race. Masliyah’s grandparents’ heritage includes Iraq, Israel, the U.S., Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)7 of 15 | 

Dressed in white for Shabbat, Aesa Masliyah, 16, of Oakland, Calif, left, attends Shabbat services during Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Saturday, July 29, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. Many of the children who attend camp identify as mixed race. Masliyah’s grandparents’ heritage includes Iraq, Israel, the U.S., Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Read MoreCampers sing the Hebrew Hashkiveinu prayer to say goodnight during Camp Be'chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)8 of 15 | 

Campers sing the Hebrew Hashkiveinu prayer to say goodnight during Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Read MoreClay mezuzahs are among the art project made by campers during Camp Be'chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)9 of 15 | 

Clay mezuzahs are among the art project made by campers during Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Read MoreIsaac Harrison, 10, of Oakland, Calif., is embraced by his new friends, including Naftali Torres, 10, also of Oakland, left, and Mkale Friedman, 10, of Philadelphia, as Isaac prepares to leave Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Saturday, July 29, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., his first experience at the camp held at Walker Creek Ranch. He went to a traditional Jewish summer camp last year and said he was bullied by some campers for being Black. “They were just being really mean, but here no one’s mean like that,” said Harrison. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)10 of 15 | 

Isaac Harrison, 10, of Oakland, Calif., is embraced by his new friends, including Naftali Torres, 10, also of Oakland, left, and Mkale Friedman, 10, of Philadelphia, as Isaac prepares to leave Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Saturday, July 29, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., his first experience at the camp held at Walker Creek Ranch. He went to a traditional Jewish summer camp last year and said he was bullied by some campers for being Black. “They were just being really mean, but here no one’s mean like that,” said Harrison. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Read MoreCampers work on art projects in front of tapestries of illustrated Bible scenes made in Ethiopia, during Camp Be'chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. Several of the campers are Ethiopian adoptees meeting for the first time at camp. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)11 of 15 | 

Campers work on art projects in front of tapestries of illustrated Bible scenes made in Ethiopia, during Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. Several of the campers are Ethiopian adoptees meeting for the first time at camp. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Read MoreWearing bandanas for "Pirate Day," Major Smith, 10, right, looks to Sasha Wernick, 11, of Brooklyn, as they dress up celebrating the Jewish people of the Caribbean during Camp Be'chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)12 of 15 | 

Wearing bandanas for “Pirate Day,” Major Smith, 10, right, looks to Sasha Wernick, 11, of Brooklyn, as they dress up celebrating the Jewish people of the Caribbean during Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Read MoreRuby Beerman, 14, center, of Marin County, Calif., chats with fellow campers who are also Ethiopian adoptees, while attending Camp Be'chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. "I get told every day that you're different, you don't belong here, because I'm part of so many different minorities," she said. "And here is kind of a place where everybody belongs to a lot of those minorities. Not everybody is the same here, but we're all different together." (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)13 of 15 | 

Ruby Beerman, 14, center, of Marin County, Calif., chats with fellow campers who are also Ethiopian adoptees, while attending Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. “I get told every day that you’re different, you don’t belong here, because I’m part of so many different minorities,” she said. “And here is kind of a place where everybody belongs to a lot of those minorities. Not everybody is the same here, but we’re all different together.” (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Read MoreLiv Jenkins, 10, of San Carlos, Calif., seated at center, and other campers practice their singing before a talent show while climbing a large tree at Camp Be'chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)14 of 15 | 

Liv Jenkins, 10, of San Carlos, Calif., seated at center, and other campers practice their singing before a talent show while climbing a large tree at Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Read MoreSurrounded by campers who will have their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs this year, camp director Sarah Weinberg speaks about this week's Torah portion during Camp Be'chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Saturday, July 29, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)15 of 15 | 

Surrounded by campers who will have their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs this year, camp director Sarah Weinberg speaks about this week’s Torah portion during Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Saturday, July 29, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Read MoreDressed up for "Pirate Day," Eli, 12, of Phoenix, Ariz., left, and Sasha Wernick, 11, of Brooklyn, catch and release fish during Camp Be'chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)1 of 15 | 

Dressed up for “Pirate Day,” Eli, 12, of Phoenix, Ariz., left, and Sasha Wernick, 11, of Brooklyn, catch and release fish during Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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Dressed up for “Pirate Day,” Eli, 12, of Phoenix, Ariz., left, and Sasha Wernick, 11, of Brooklyn, catch and release fish during Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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Read MoreZohara Grossman-Naples, 15, of Philomath, Oregon, center, hugs younger campers as they roast s'mores during a fire pit at Camp Be'chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)2 of 15 | 

Zohara Grossman-Naples, 15, of Philomath, Oregon, center, hugs younger campers as they roast s’mores during a fire pit at Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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Zohara Grossman-Naples, 15, of Philomath, Oregon, center, hugs younger campers as they roast s’mores during a fire pit at Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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Read MoreRuby Beerman, 14, center, of Marin County, Calif., who is one of several Ethiopian adoptees attending camp, gestures over her heart while talking with friends at Camp Be'chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Saturday, July 29, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. "I get told every day that you're different, you don't belong here, because I'm part of so many different minorities," she said. "And here is kind of a place where everybody belongs to a lot of those minorities. Not everybody is the same here, but we're all different together." (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)3 of 15 | 

Ruby Beerman, 14, center, of Marin County, Calif., who is one of several Ethiopian adoptees attending camp, gestures over her heart while talking with friends at Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Saturday, July 29, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. “I get told every day that you’re different, you don’t belong here, because I’m part of so many different minorities,” she said. “And here is kind of a place where everybody belongs to a lot of those minorities. Not everybody is the same here, but we’re all different together.” (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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Ruby Beerman, 14, center, of Marin County, Calif., who is one of several Ethiopian adoptees attending camp, gestures over her heart while talking with friends at Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Saturday, July 29, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. “I get told every day that you’re different, you don’t belong here, because I’m part of so many different minorities,” she said. “And here is kind of a place where everybody belongs to a lot of those minorities. Not everybody is the same here, but we’re all different together.” (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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Read MoreA Havdalah candle is lit as campers sing in a circle at the end of the second week of Camp Be'chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Saturday, July 29, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)4 of 15 | 

A Havdalah candle is lit as campers sing in a circle at the end of the second week of Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Saturday, July 29, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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A Havdalah candle is lit as campers sing in a circle at the end of the second week of Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Saturday, July 29, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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Read MoreCounselors Satya Sheftel-Gomes, 22, of San Francisco, left, and Kenya Edelhart, 21, of Simi Valley, Calif., who have attended the camp since they were 11 and 6 respectively, joke with Kallie House, 12, of Sugar Land, Texas, on the way to a camper talent show during Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. “As a small child, I was constantly in Ashkenazi Jewish conversations without any conversation about my being Black,” says Sheftel-Gomes, speaking of Jewish people of Eastern European descent, “It was this is my granddaughter, as such she belongs here. I would have to figure out my difference on my own. That’s part of why camp is so important, to give me the language to identify what I was experiencing without knowing why. I learned what it was for me to be Black at Camp Be’chol Lashon.” (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)5 of 15 | 

Counselors Satya Sheftel-Gomes, 22, of San Francisco, left, and Kenya Edelhart, 21, of Simi Valley, Calif., who have attended the camp since they were 11 and 6 respectively, joke with Kallie House, 12, of Sugar Land, Texas, on the way to a camper talent show during Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. “As a small child, I was constantly in Ashkenazi Jewish conversations without any conversation about my being Black,” says Sheftel-Gomes, speaking of Jewish people of Eastern European descent, “It was this is my granddaughter, as such she belongs here. I would have to figure out my difference on my own. That’s part of why camp is so important, to give me the language to identify what I was experiencing without knowing why. I learned what it was for me to be Black at Camp Be’chol Lashon.” (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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Counselors Satya Sheftel-Gomes, 22, of San Francisco, left, and Kenya Edelhart, 21, of Simi Valley, Calif., who have attended the camp since they were 11 and 6 respectively, joke with Kallie House, 12, of Sugar Land, Texas, on the way to a camper talent show during Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. “As a small child, I was constantly in Ashkenazi Jewish conversations without any conversation about my being Black,” says Sheftel-Gomes, speaking of Jewish people of Eastern European descent, “It was this is my granddaughter, as such she belongs here. I would have to figure out my difference on my own. That’s part of why camp is so important, to give me the language to identify what I was experiencing without knowing why. I learned what it was for me to be Black at Camp Be’chol Lashon.” (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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Read MoreEli, 12, of Phoenix, Ariz., plays "gaga," an Israeli game popular at U.S. Jewish summer camps, while attending Camp Be'chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)6 of 15 | 

Eli, 12, of Phoenix, Ariz., plays “gaga,” an Israeli game popular at U.S. Jewish summer camps, while attending Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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Eli, 12, of Phoenix, Ariz., plays “gaga,” an Israeli game popular at U.S. Jewish summer camps, while attending Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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Read MoreDressed in white for Shabbat, Aesa Masliyah, 16, of Oakland, Calif, left, attends Shabbat services during Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Saturday, July 29, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. Many of the children who attend camp identify as mixed race. Masliyah’s grandparents’ heritage includes Iraq, Israel, the U.S., Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)7 of 15 | 

Dressed in white for Shabbat, Aesa Masliyah, 16, of Oakland, Calif, left, attends Shabbat services during Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Saturday, July 29, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. Many of the children who attend camp identify as mixed race. Masliyah’s grandparents’ heritage includes Iraq, Israel, the U.S., Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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Dressed in white for Shabbat, Aesa Masliyah, 16, of Oakland, Calif, left, attends Shabbat services during Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Saturday, July 29, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. Many of the children who attend camp identify as mixed race. Masliyah’s grandparents’ heritage includes Iraq, Israel, the U.S., Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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Read MoreCampers sing the Hebrew Hashkiveinu prayer to say goodnight during Camp Be'chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)8 of 15 | 

Campers sing the Hebrew Hashkiveinu prayer to say goodnight during Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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Campers sing the Hebrew Hashkiveinu prayer to say goodnight during Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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Read MoreClay mezuzahs are among the art project made by campers during Camp Be'chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)9 of 15 | 

Clay mezuzahs are among the art project made by campers during Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Read More9 of 15

Clay mezuzahs are among the art project made by campers during Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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Read MoreIsaac Harrison, 10, of Oakland, Calif., is embraced by his new friends, including Naftali Torres, 10, also of Oakland, left, and Mkale Friedman, 10, of Philadelphia, as Isaac prepares to leave Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Saturday, July 29, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., his first experience at the camp held at Walker Creek Ranch. He went to a traditional Jewish summer camp last year and said he was bullied by some campers for being Black. “They were just being really mean, but here no one’s mean like that,” said Harrison. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)10 of 15 | 

Isaac Harrison, 10, of Oakland, Calif., is embraced by his new friends, including Naftali Torres, 10, also of Oakland, left, and Mkale Friedman, 10, of Philadelphia, as Isaac prepares to leave Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Saturday, July 29, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., his first experience at the camp held at Walker Creek Ranch. He went to a traditional Jewish summer camp last year and said he was bullied by some campers for being Black. “They were just being really mean, but here no one’s mean like that,” said Harrison. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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Isaac Harrison, 10, of Oakland, Calif., is embraced by his new friends, including Naftali Torres, 10, also of Oakland, left, and Mkale Friedman, 10, of Philadelphia, as Isaac prepares to leave Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Saturday, July 29, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., his first experience at the camp held at Walker Creek Ranch. He went to a traditional Jewish summer camp last year and said he was bullied by some campers for being Black. “They were just being really mean, but here no one’s mean like that,” said Harrison. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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Read MoreCampers work on art projects in front of tapestries of illustrated Bible scenes made in Ethiopia, during Camp Be'chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. Several of the campers are Ethiopian adoptees meeting for the first time at camp. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)11 of 15 | 

Campers work on art projects in front of tapestries of illustrated Bible scenes made in Ethiopia, during Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. Several of the campers are Ethiopian adoptees meeting for the first time at camp. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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Campers work on art projects in front of tapestries of illustrated Bible scenes made in Ethiopia, during Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. Several of the campers are Ethiopian adoptees meeting for the first time at camp. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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Read MoreWearing bandanas for "Pirate Day," Major Smith, 10, right, looks to Sasha Wernick, 11, of Brooklyn, as they dress up celebrating the Jewish people of the Caribbean during Camp Be'chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)12 of 15 | 

Wearing bandanas for “Pirate Day,” Major Smith, 10, right, looks to Sasha Wernick, 11, of Brooklyn, as they dress up celebrating the Jewish people of the Caribbean during Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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Wearing bandanas for “Pirate Day,” Major Smith, 10, right, looks to Sasha Wernick, 11, of Brooklyn, as they dress up celebrating the Jewish people of the Caribbean during Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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Read MoreRuby Beerman, 14, center, of Marin County, Calif., chats with fellow campers who are also Ethiopian adoptees, while attending Camp Be'chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. "I get told every day that you're different, you don't belong here, because I'm part of so many different minorities," she said. "And here is kind of a place where everybody belongs to a lot of those minorities. Not everybody is the same here, but we're all different together." (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)13 of 15 | 

Ruby Beerman, 14, center, of Marin County, Calif., chats with fellow campers who are also Ethiopian adoptees, while attending Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. “I get told every day that you’re different, you don’t belong here, because I’m part of so many different minorities,” she said. “And here is kind of a place where everybody belongs to a lot of those minorities. Not everybody is the same here, but we’re all different together.” (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Read More13 of 15

Ruby Beerman, 14, center, of Marin County, Calif., chats with fellow campers who are also Ethiopian adoptees, while attending Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. “I get told every day that you’re different, you don’t belong here, because I’m part of so many different minorities,” she said. “And here is kind of a place where everybody belongs to a lot of those minorities. Not everybody is the same here, but we’re all different together.” (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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Read MoreLiv Jenkins, 10, of San Carlos, Calif., seated at center, and other campers practice their singing before a talent show while climbing a large tree at Camp Be'chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)14 of 15 | 

Liv Jenkins, 10, of San Carlos, Calif., seated at center, and other campers practice their singing before a talent show while climbing a large tree at Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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Liv Jenkins, 10, of San Carlos, Calif., seated at center, and other campers practice their singing before a talent show while climbing a large tree at Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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Read MoreSurrounded by campers who will have their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs this year, camp director Sarah Weinberg speaks about this week's Torah portion during Camp Be'chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Saturday, July 29, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)15 of 15 | 

Surrounded by campers who will have their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs this year, camp director Sarah Weinberg speaks about this week’s Torah portion during Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Saturday, July 29, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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Surrounded by campers who will have their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs this year, camp director Sarah Weinberg speaks about this week’s Torah portion during Camp Be’chol Lashon, a sleepaway camp for Jewish children of color, Saturday, July 29, 2023, in Petaluma, Calif., at Walker Creek Ranch. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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Shortly before sunset the group gathered around a pole with words of peace written in multiple languages including Hebrew, English, and Spanish. Campers embraced as the Havdalah candle was lit, hugging their new friends tight. Most planned on returning next summer.

For Isaac Harrison and his family, the camp has offered a new hope for the future.

“You send your baby somewhere and hope. And the fact that here there was so much representation, it means everything,” said Jennifer Harrison, mother of the child who was once told he couldn’t be two things. “Now he can go through life knowing how much of his experience, and the way he is, and who he is, is also out there.”

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Associated Press religion coverage receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content.