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Camp Jened - Real Camping for the Handicapped
Caption: Camp Jened’s brochure advertised its facilities and location to potential campers from around the country and Canada.
Detailed image description: Brochure cover features an idyllic campground photo with an inset of a “Rip Van Winkle” sleeping next to a tree. Text reads, “Camp Jened: Children’s Camp, Adult Camp, Speech Program; Real Camping for the handicapped; Speech, Hearing, Orthopedic; Nestled in Legendary Rip Van Winkle Land of the Beautiful Northern Cathskills in Greene County, Hunter, N.Y.
Camp Jened was located in the northern Catskills, on over 250 acres (which is about ⅓ the size of Central Park, or as big as 250 football fields) with 22 buildings near the town of Hunter, New York. The camp’s founders designed it to welcome disabled children and adults, who did not often have access to summer camps and outdoor recreation. Camp Jened was the first camp of its kind for disabled youth in New York and first opened in July 1953. It ran until August of 1977, and then reopened in 1980.1
The camp’s facilities and its geographic location were featured on a brochure that was mailed around the country and to Canada to recruit campers. The brochure was also mailed out across the country and left at doctors clinics and places servicing disabled youth in New York. Other campers also heard about Jened via word of mouth, as former campers and their families appreciated the feeling of inclusion they experienced at the camp.2
At Camp Jened, campers made a lean-to for a pet lamb, performed in theatrical plays, and held “Olympic style” competitions with accessible sports. Some of the staff at Camp Jened were disabled people themselves, and all staff were specially trained in supporting disabled people. There were also tennis courts at the camp and organized swim time periods everyday in the afternoon. The child campers were given a lot of responsibility at the camp, and would sometimes camp out under the stars together. Many reported that time outside was their favorite part.3
Jackie and Jeff Rubenstein, interviewed by Jasmine Leiser, April 19, 2023, via Zoom; Denise Sherer Jacobson, interviewed by Jasmine Leiser, April 4, 2023, via Zoom; “Camp Jened To Continue Treatments,” New York Herald Tribune, April 30, 1953, Collection of Honora Rubenstein. ↩︎
Jackie and Jeff Rubenstein, interviewed by Leiser; “Camp Jened To Continue Treatments,” New York Herald Tribune; Jacobson, interviewed by Leiser; Jim LeBrecht, interviewed by Dr. Jessica Murray and Jasmine Leiser, April 28, 2023, via Zoom. ↩︎
Jacie and Jeff Rubenstein, interviewed by Leiser;; “Camp Jened—Real Camping for the Handicapped Brochure,” c. mid-1950s, Collection of Honora Rubenstein; “Disabled Kids, Adults Attend Upstate Camp,” Sunday News New York’s Picture Newspaper, May 1, 1955, Collection of Honora Rubenstein; Camp Jened Staff Roster of Counselors and Therapists, Collection of Honora Rubenstein; Reunion Remarks, from the Collection of Honora Rubenstein; LeBrecht, interviewed by Murray and Leiser. ↩︎
Date: Mid-1950s - early 1960s
Creator: Papers of Honora Rubenstein
Source: Papers of Honora Rubenstein
Copyright: Under copyright. Used with permission of the family of Honora and Murray Rubenstein.
How to cite: “Camp Jened - Real Camping for the Handicapped,” Camp Jened, in New York City Civil Rights History Project, Accessed: [Month Day, Year], https://nyccivilrightshistory.org/gallery/real-camping-for-handicapped.
- Why was Camp Jened created? What problems did the camp founders want to solve by creating a camp for people, particularly young people, with disabilities?
- What does the brochure tell you about the environment of Camp Jened? What do you notice about the landscape, and the buildings? What symbols or images do you see? How do you think people with different life experiences might respond to this brochure?
- What do you think the brochure’s authors mean by the phrase “real camping for the handicapped”?
- Does this pamphlet on Camp Jened illustrate joy? Do you see any connections between Camp Jened and political struggle, such as for disability rights?