9 famous Jews who attended Jewish summer camp
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9 famous Jews who attended Jewish summer camp

Clockwise from top left: Seth Rogen, Matisyahu, Ralph Lauren and Sheryl Sandberg all went to Jewish camp.

Clockwise from top left: Seth Rogen, Matisyahu, Ralph Lauren and Sheryl Sandberg all went to Jewish camp.

Overnight Jewish camp has been credited with doing a lot of good — from fostering Jewish identity to teaching young Jews how to dominate Color War. But is it a proving ground for future stardom? Perhaps. Below, we give you nine of the most famous Jews, cultivated from a long list, who spent their childhood summers at a Jewish camp.

1. Neil Diamond

Neil Diamond singing "Sweet Caroline" during a Boston Red Sox  game at Fenway Park, April 20, 2013. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Neil Diamond singing “Sweet Caroline” during a Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park, April 20, 2013. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Jewish camp was a formative experience for the legendary songwriter, who attended Surprise Lake Camp in Cold Spring, New York.

“I fell in love with folk music at Surprise Lake Camp. It was the songs of Woody Guthrie and the Weavers. I learned them by taking guitar lessons at 15. I started taking piano at 16,” he told The Wall Street Journal last year.

Other famous Jewish alumni of the same camp include Eddie Cantor, Larry King, Gene Simmons, Jerry Stiller, Joseph Heller, Neil Simon and Walter Matthau.

2. Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg speaking on a panel at the Fortune Global Forum at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, California, Nov. 3, 2015. (Kimberly White/Getty Images for Fortune)

Sheryl Sandberg speaking on a panel at the Fortune Global Forum in San Francisco, Nov. 3, 2015. (Kimberly White/Getty Images for Fortune)

The Facebook COO and influential “Lean In” author spent summers at the Union for Reform Judaism’s Camp Coleman in Cleveland, Georgia. She has a blast there, she said in a video last year.

“Camp was really important for me in understanding what it meant to be Jewish, what Jewish values were, why it mattered to have a Jewish identity,” Sandberg said.

3. Ralph Lauren

Ralph Lauren at his fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week 2015 in New York City, Feb. 19, 2015. (Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week)

Ralph Lauren at his fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week 2015 in New York City, Feb. 19, 2015. (Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week)

Before he became a billionaire fashion designer, Ralph Lauren (nee Lifshitz) spent time at Camp Massad in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. His fellow Camp Massad alumni include Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz and political activist Noam Chomsky.

4. Seth Rogen

Seth Rogen attending the premiere of 'The Night Before' in Los Angeles, California, Nov. 18, 2015. (Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

Seth Rogen attending the premiere of ‘The Night Before’ in Los Angeles, Nov. 18, 2015. (Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

The comedic actor and noted marijuana enthusiast, whose parents met on an Israeli kibbutz, enjoyed his time at the Habonim Dror Zionist youth movement’s Camp Miriam in Vancouver so much that he appeared in a promotional video for the Canadian camp in 2009.

“Shalom. Go to Machane [Hebrew for ‘camp’] Miriam because I did,” Rogen said. “And for many other reasons.”

5. Sarah Silverman

Sarah Silverman speaking at the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con. (Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons)

Sarah Silverman speaking at the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con. (Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons)

Silverman may have famously said that summer camp is “the second-worst camp for Jews” — but as the provocative comedian wrote in her memoir, “The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee,” she did attend Jewish camps. However, she wet her bed until she was 15 and called sleepaway camp a “recipe for disaster” for her.

6. Matisyahu

Matisyahu performing in Moscow, Dec. 7, 2014. (Shutterstock)

Matisyahu performing in Moscow, Dec. 7, 2014. (Shutterstock)

The formerly Hasidic reggae rapper went to Kutsher’s Camp Anawana in Monticello, New York, before it closed in the early 1990s. Since then, he has performed at multiple Jewish camps.

“Jewish camp is a comfortable and accepting place for all children to explore their Jewish identity,” Matisyahu said in 2012.

7. The Coen brothers

Ethan Coen, left, and Joel Coen arriving at the premiere "Hail, Caesar!" at Regency Village Theatre in Westwood, California, Feb. 1, 2016. (Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage)

Ethan Coen, left, and Joel Coen arriving at the premiere of “Hail, Caesar!” at the Regency Village Theatre in Westwood, Calif., Feb. 1, 2016. (Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage)

The acclaimed film directors went to Herzl Camp in northwestern Wisconsin, which is noted for hosting several musicians, such as Bob Dylan, Debbie Friedman and the guy who wrote “Funkytown” (Steven Greenberg). In 2014, NPR’s Terry Gross asked the Coens about their camp experience and got a candid response.

“Is this the kind of summer camp where you sing songs with lyrics about how great the camp is, and then there’s team songs with how great the team is?” Gross asked.

“No,” replied one of the Coens. “It was a Zionist summer camp, and you sang Zionist songs in Hebrew.”

8. Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman at Lincoln Center  in New York City on September 19, 2013. (Getty Images)

Natalie Portman at Lincoln Center in New York City on September 19, 2013. (Getty Images)

The Israeli-born Academy Award-winning actress once attended the Usdan Summer Camp for the Arts, which was formed by and now partially funded by UJA-Federation of New York.

9. Ben Bernanke

Ben Bernanke in 2011. (Shirley Li/Flickr Commons)

Ben Bernanke, the former Federal Reserve chairman, in 2011 (Shirley Li/Flickr Commons)

The former Federal Reserve chairman has said his summer at Camp Ramah in Glen Spey, New York — which relocated over time and evolved into today’s Camp Ramah in New England — gave him a chance to practice his Hebrew.

“It was a good experience for me, as there were relatively few Jewish young people in the town (Dillon, South Carolina) where I grew up, and the summer gave me a chance to be immersed in a Jewish, Hebrew-speaking environment (although my modern Hebrew wasn’t that good — I had learned biblical Hebrew from my grandfather),” he said in 2010.

(JTA’s special section on camps, made possible with funding from the Foundation for Jewish Camp, examines trends affecting Jewish overnight camps.)