SOUTH STERLING, Pa. — Built with locally sourced wood, stone, and other “green” materials, outfitted with reclaimed doors and solar panels, the Eco-Village at Camp JRF here is planned as a living laboratory for sustainable building and environmental consciousness.
On Aug. 9, supporters of the Reconstructionist summer camp gathered for a ceremonial ground breaking, forced by uncooperative weather to celebrate indoors a project that celebrates the out-of-doors.
Once completed, the village will spread out among a few acres in the woods, a bit further away from the main programming space than other parts of camp. Campers entering the ninth and 10th grades will live in round “yurt”-style cabins and gather in social places — which some of the campers helped design — meant to encourage dialogue about Jewish views on peoplehood and respect for the earth.
Actual construction is expected to begin in September and will take about six months to complete. It is scheduled to be ready for campers to move in next June.
Some of the initial ideas for the village, including composting toilets and rainwater irrigation, could not be implemented at least in part due to state regulations. “We are often moving faster than the municipalities around us, but we are doing as much as we can,” said camp director Rabbi Isaac Saposnik. “When we ask questions, it helps to push everyone forward.”
The new section of camp will add 72 beds, which will increase the camp’s capacity by 30 percent. (Current capacity is 200 campers at one time, or 400 over a full summer.)
The projected cost of the village is just over $2 million, and the camp has already raised $1.6 from over 200 individual donors and organizations. The rest will come from financing and an ongoing capital campaign.
Speakers at the event included Jonathan Markowitz, who cochaired the campaign with Archie Gottesman of Summit; Judy Spatz, camp board president; Rabbi Dan Ehrenkrantz, president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College; and two campers. The celebration, attended by 175 campers, 90 staff members, and 15 guests — donors, supporters, and friends — also featured singing and dancing.
Afterward, attendee Rabbi Elliott Tepperman of Bnai Keshet in Montclair said, “It was incredibly moving to be here at the ground breaking for this visionary moment, and I’m quite sure that all the campers present will feel a sense of history with they see the Eco-Village completed next summer.”