Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain

081514_insidescoop-bookBy Daniel J. Siegel, M.D.
Penguin Group, 336 pages.

Parents of teens know that their behavior is sometimes baffling. In his New York Times best-selling book “Brainstorm,” neuro-psychiatrist Daniel J. Siegel explains there is method to the madness. Drawing upon the newest findings in neurobiology, Siegel helps readers understand what is happening in their children’s growing brains between the ages of 12 and 24.

In doing so, Siegel helps frustrated parents gain insight and appreciation for their children and for adolescence as a remarkable period of human development. Siegel hypothesizes that knowledge and understanding will lead to more harmony and improved relationships between parents and teens.

Community Colleges: Worth a Second Look

As executive director of public relations and marketing for Howard County Community College, Elizabeth S. Homan is well aware that many parents and students view community college education as a last resort.

“We know parents tell their kids, ‘If you don’t get your grades up, you’ll end up at community college’” she says.

Sandra Kurtinitis, president of CCBC, says that teachers at the two-year college are there because they love teaching and believe in the mission of community colleges.

Sandra Kurtinitis, president of CCBC, says that teachers at the two-year college are there because they love teaching and believe in the mission of community colleges.

“There is a lingering belief that community colleges are where you go when you can’t get in anywhere else,” admits Sandra Kurtinitis, president of the Community College of Baltimore County which has campuses in Catonsville, Dundalk and Essex, and extension centers in Essex, Hunt Valley, Randallstown and Owings Mills. Arguably, Jewish parents, “the people of the book” may be even more likely than others to view community college education in a negative light.

Homan says she understands why two year colleges are sometimes seen as last resorts.

“The four year model is so predominant. That’s all [parents] know,” she explains. What they may not know, she adds, is that doing well at a community college before applying to a four-year college or university often makes it possible for students to gain admission to prestigious four-year institutions that would have rejected them had they applied directly from high school.

Another thing parents may overlook is the tremendous savings community colleges offer even in comparison to four-year state universities.

“The cost differential is extraordinary,” says Kurtinitis. “Students can attend community college for $3,000 a year.”

At Maryland’s four year state universities, annual tuition is more than $9,000 a year, plus room and board, while tuition, room and board at private four-year institutions can cost upwards of $60,000 annually.

Those who make assumptions about community college students may be surprised to find that there isn’t really a typical profile for students who attend two-year post-secondary institutions. As it turns out, community college students are a diverse group, with a variety of goals, motivations, ages, religions, ethnicities and socio-economic statuses.

That being said, the average CCBC freshman is 27 years old; only 11 percent of students come straight from high school. Forty-two percent are minorities, and Kurtinitis says there is a large community of Russian students at the college.

Many CCBC students are the first in their families to graduate from college, 60 percent are women and many of them are seeking careers in nursing or allied health professions. “If you want a healthcare career, CCBC is a good place to start,” says Kurtinitis.

Stepping-stone

 Aaron Brager is currently studying for a master’s degree in mental health counseling.

Aaron Brager is currently studying for a master’s degree in mental health counseling.

After he graduated from Owings Mills High School in 2000, Aaron Brager wasn’t eager to go on to college.

“I really wanted to take time off from school,” Brager, 32, recalls. His parents, however, saw things differently. They insisted that he attend college.

“I did apply to some four-year colleges but I really didn’t feel ready to go. I didn’t feel I had the skills I needed and I was horribly undisciplined,” he says. “Being at Catonsville allowed me to transition from high school to college. I guess there’s a reason why they call community college the 13th grade.”

Talmudical Academy graduate Yosef Palanker of Pikesville spent two years in Israel before returning home to apply to college. Like Brager, Palanker felt unprepared to attend a four year institution.

“My high school focused more on Jewish studies, and I felt there were some gaps in my learning,” Palanker explains. “I thought community college would fill in those gaps.” Since arriving at CCBC, Palanker has taken remedial classes that he says have given him a great foundation for college-level study.

Like 65 percent of CCBC students, he has held part-time jobs while attending the school, so completing college is taking him longer than the two-year associate degree might have taken otherwise. But Palanker has taken full advantage of his time at the college.

Get Real Get Married

050914_insider_insidescoop-bookBy Aleeza Ben Shalom, Soft cover, 131 pages: self-published

In her new how-to guide, Aleeza Ben Shalom, who calls herself the “Marriage Minded Mentor,” provides advice and an action plan that will enable Jews looking for marriage to “get over their hurdles and under the chuppah.” The book helps readers to evaluate what they want in a marriage partner and also encourages them to take an honest look at themselves to determine what they may be doing – unwittingly — to discourage appropriate marriage partners. Ben Shalom offers exercises, checklists and more, and she promises that with her advice, singles can be engaged within a year.

Five Facts about Being Married

050914_insider_insidescoop-health• A 2014 study by researchers from New York University’s Langone Medical Center that looked at more than 3.5 million men and women found that married people have a significantly decreased risk of heart disease.

• Ohio State University psychology researcher Brad Bushman and his team studied 107 married couples for three weeks and found that low blood sugar made spouses more likely to be angry at one another.

• According to a 2013 study at Bowling Green University, the U.S. marriage rate is now only 31.1 or 31 per 1,000 unmarried women. That is the lowest rate in more than 100 years. In comparison, in 1920 the marriage rate was 92.3.

• The same study found that the average age of first marriages for American women is now the oldest it has been in over a century at 27 years old.

• A 2013 study by the National Marriage Project found the greatest number of people ages 20-28 who consider themselves highly satisfied with their lives are married. The report also says that most women in the study who described themselves as “very happy” got married between the ages of 24 and 26.

The Art of the Best-Man Speech

Co-best men Mark Karafin (left) and Marc Shapiro give their speeches at the wedding of longtime friend Mike Ewing in March 2012. (provided)

Co-best men Mark Karafin (left) and Marc Shapiro give their speeches at the wedding of longtime friend Mike Ewing in March 2012.
(provided)

The best man can’t just rattle off a few jokes, say something sentimental and call it a day. A great speech has the best man playing part stand-up comedian, part best friend, part couple historian and part master of ceremonies.

I called several of my friends to reflect on their best-man speeches and drew on my own experiences, as best man at my brother’s wedding and one of two best men at my childhood friend Mike Ewing’s wedding.

“It’s hard to do because you don’t want to make it too long and you don’t want to make it too short and you don’t want to screw up,” says Ryan Fried, who gave his best-man speech in 2012 at his friend Scott Davis’ wedding in Chicago. “So, there’s a certain pressure.”

And you have to make people laugh. But achieving that perfect balance of embarrassing the groom, and possibly the bride if you know her well enough, and touching the wedding guests’ hearts with sentiments is tough. And when you have years, decades or sometimes a lifetime of stories to tell, the inclination is to dig deep for the most hilarious and embarrassing stories.

“There’s a line, and you should cross it, but you should do it gracefully and tastefully,” says Mark Karafin, my childhood best friend and my co-best man at Mike Ewing’s wedding. “You are supposed to embarrass them, but you’re not supposed to throw them under a bus.”

At my brother’s wedding, that meant saying that he was an inspiration to men everywhere, because if a regular guy like him can land a beauty like his wife, the possibilities are endless. I followed one of my quips with, “but today is not the day for making fun of Randy, that’s every other day of the year.”

My friend Aaron Walker, who was best man at his brother’s wedding in 2009, poked fun by saying things such as, “Who knew you’d graduate college to become a stay-at-home dad?” and by referring to his wife’s profession as “pediatric gynecology” instead of pediatric oncology. But he was careful to achieve that balance of telling jokes and sentimental stories.

“I kind of did one after another,” he says. “You have a serious moment and then you have a moment when you poke fun or say something inappropriate.”

The preparation time varies, and speeches generally were about two minutes. Walker excitedly started working on his speech about a month before the wedding; some start a few weeks out, others in the days leading up to the wedding. It was a two-week process for Fried.

“I wrote in all in longhand, which is something I rarely do. Something about writing in longhand makes it more personal for me,” he says. “I read through it a whole bunch of times the day of [the wedding], and I felt like it wasn’t as personal as it could have been, and so I added a last paragraph that kind of tied it together.”

At the end of the day, if the couple laughs and likes the speech, the best man can rest assured he did his job.

I called Randy to ask him what he thought of the speech I gave for him in 2007. He thought I did a good job getting across the humor and the heartwarming sentiments.

“You could have had a lot more fun with it and could have been a lot more obscene with it too, which really surprised me,” he says with a laugh. “The amount of maturity and restraint you managed to use was very surprising.”

Perhaps I didn’t embarrass him enough.

Four Little Words

On March 31, Opening Day for the 2014 Major League Baseball season, a website called swimmingly.com provided lovers who might be considering proposing to their significant others with some news they could use.

Swimmingly.com published the rates for scoreboard marriage proposals for all 30 major league teams. Sadly, the Orioles don’t offer the service. But say your fiancee is a Yankees fan. Assuming you don’t see that as reason enough to dump her, you can pay $100 to propose before everyone at Yankee Stadium as well as those watching the game at home or on their iPads.

Just what makes for a great proposal? We asked Sarah Pease, a proposal (yes, you read right) and wedding planner in New York City. Pease, who owns Brilliant Event Planning, says today’s couples need her help with proposal planning because they aren’t satisfied with run-of-the-mill marriage proposals.

“Men are more involved in wedding planning, and since there’s so much focus on the bride at the wedding, grooms see the proposal as their time to shine,” Pease says.

“With the advent of social media and viral YouTube videos, the bar for popping the question has gotten much higher,” says Pease. “These days, if you tell someone you got engaged over dinner in a nice restaurant, they say, ‘Oh, that’s nice.’ Guys want other guys to say, ‘Wow, I can’t top that!’”

Pease talks about a recent prospective groom who used her services to plan a particularly elaborate proposal.

“We set up a scavenger hunt all around the city, and at the end, the woman was taken to what she thought was a pop-up champagne bar to meet the guy. When she was brought in, she had to figure out a crypto text with clues like those in “The Da Vinci Code.” After that, she clicked play, and a video played on a huge screen in front of her. All her friends and family were in the video giving her their blessings. Then the room got dark, and a wall opened where the man was waiting. The floor was illuminated with thousands of candles, and there were flowers that had been flown in from all over the world. The woman really liked elephants so there were little elephants with tags on them. On each tag, he wrote one reason why he loved her.”

Pease says the groom probably spent about $20,000 on the proposal and that didn’t include her fee or the cost of the engagement ring. Pease’s fees start at $1,195, she says. “It varies. A flash mob in Times Square is going to be more than a roof-top dinner proposal.”

The Schleifers’ marriage  proposal was like something out of a Disney movie. (Frayda Breitowitz)

The Schleifers’ marriage proposal was like something out of a Disney movie.
(Frayda Breitowitz)

Yitzy Schleifer of Pikesville didn’t hire a proposal planner when he was ready to ask high school sweetheart Lauren Schuster to tie the knot. The couple have known each other since they were in the 10th grade together at Yeshivat Rambam. Baltimore natives, the Schleifers started dating that year and have been together ever since. So Yitzy was well aware of his future wife’s “obsession” with all things Disney. When it came time for him to propose, it was clear that nothing short of a fairytale proposal would cut it.

It was three years ago during Purim that Yitzy proposed. “Purim that year was Saturday night and Sunday, and we got engaged that Saturday night,” says Lauren. “He is very political, so he told me there was a [Purim] event for college students and young adults at the governor’s mansion, and we had to go. He got us Jasmine and Aladdin costumes, and we got all dressed up and drove to Annapolis,” she recalls. When the couple arrived at the mansion, however, there was nothing going on. “He said, ‘We must have the wrong address.’ Next thing we know, a horse and buggy shows up and Yitzy asked the driver if she can take us to some address. He had a whole script worked out for her. After a while she pulled into a driveway and said, ‘I have to turn the horse around, so can you please get out of the carriage for a moment? I didn’t understand why we had to get out for her to turn the horse, but we did anyway.”

Yitzy motioned for Lauren to join him behind some trees where he had set up candles, flowers and champagne flutes. “A song from Disney’s “Aladdin” was playing, and he sang it to me with his own words. My ring was inside a genie’s bottle,” she says.

After the proposal, the couple drove back to Baltimore, where they were thrown a surprise engagement party at Lauren’s parents’ house. “It was all a total surprise,” says Lauren. The couple now have a 4-month-old baby girl, Maxi.

Sharon and Eric Rubin got engaged on the shoulder of the PA Turnpike (David Stuck)

Sharon and Eric Rubin got engaged on the shoulder of the PA Turnpike
(David Stuck)

Eric Rubin’s proposal to his wife Sharon came as a surprise to both of them.

“We were on our way back from visiting Eric’s parents in Upstate N.Y., and we stopped off in Riverdale to visit his grandfather. His grandfather kept referring to me as Eric’s fiancee, but we weren’t engaged. Driving back to Philadelphia [where Eric then resided and was doing his residency] we were having interesting conversations about ‘what if?’ and the future,” Sharon recalls.

“I never had any idea we would get married. I mean, I saw us being together but never really knew how we would get to the marrying part. He was driving my car, and we were on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Suddenly, he pulls off to the side of the road and turns on the hazards. Then he gets out and walks around to my side of the car, opens the door and gets down on one knee. ‘Sharon, will you marry me?’ he asked. He had to ask four times because I didn’t believe it. I had a cold and had taken cold medicine so I thought maybe that was what was wrong with me.’”

Eric said, ‘I have to get you a ring. You’ll believe it when I get you a ring.”

Sharon got her ring, and they have been married almost 20 years. They have three children, Jenny, 17, Alex, 13, and Sam, 11. Sharon believes that her husband’s proposal was a lot like their lives together have been. “We’re deeply committed to one another; we’re attune to each other and can finish each other’s sentences, but it’s not routine,” she says. “We’re not in a rut; it still feels like it was yesterday that he proposed. We’re still spontaneous.”

Lauren Schleifer says that she would have been happy to say ‘Yes’ no matter how her husband proposed. Still, the fact that he went out of his way to plan a proposal that really reflected her fairytale fantasies meant a great deal. “I don’t think you can predict what a marriage will be like based on the proposal,” she says. “I think it’s more about what the relationship was like before the proposal that is important. He made the Disney proposal because he wanted to do something he knew I would love. It was totally loving, and it’s been that way all along.”

Want to hire a proposal planner? Visit brillianteventplanning.com.

sellin@jewishtimes.com

Go with the Flow

Jon Toub and Lila Miller visited a mikvah. Brianna Forster Photography)

Jon Toub and Lila Miller visited a mikvah.
(Brianna Forster Photography)

A few days before their wedding in January, Lila Miller and Jonathan Toub went to Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, D.C., and, in separate ceremonies, immersed themselves in the synagogue’s mikvah, or ritual bath.

“It was a nice pause before the wedding, says Miller, 27, a program associate for the Schusterman Foundation.

Immersion in the “living waters” of the mikvah before a wedding is a time-honored tradition for the bride- and groom-to-be, says Naomi Malka, director of the Adas Israel mikvah, which opened in 1989.

“Any time someone is marking a milestone in their life and changing life status,” is an opportune moment to visit the mikvah, she says.

For Miller and Toub, who don’t consider themselves particularly observant, their visit to the mikvah was among the traditional elements they nevertheless included in their wedding celebration.

“There’s something about doing traditions that have been done for thousands of years,” says Miller. Adds Toub, 29, a technology consultant, “It was a nice way to connect to generations before us.”

When the couple arrived at the synagogue for their appointment, they were greeted by Malka, who walked them through the steps leading to the immersion.

“There were different cleansing rituals,” she point out.

Before using the mikvah, one removes all jewelry, cuts finger and toe nails and washes thoroughly, so nothing comes between the mikvah water and the body.

Miller took her turn first.

She used a ceremony prepared by Mayyim Hayyim, a Boston-area mikvah. It included a meditation for each immersion.

One such meditation just before entering the water includes the words: “I am now prepared to leave behind that which I no longer choose, to become one with another life, to become a creator of new possibilities, to become a partner in sharing the joys of life, to teach and to learn the lessons of married life.”

There are two blessings upon immersing in the water: One thanks God for the commandment of immersion, the other, the Shehecheyanu blessing, expresses gratitude for reaching that moment in time.

“There are people who dip three times,” explains Malka. Miller and Toub were among them. “Some do it seven times. Seven is an important number in a wedding” such as the seven blessings given to the couple. And at a mikvah, there are seven steps that lead into the water.

The mikvah resembles nothing more than a tiny swimming pool. Alone by the water symbolizing birth, life and change, Miller was left to her own thoughts.

“It created a really nice space, spiritually and physically,” she says.

“The thing that struck me most about it is how very separate it seemed,” says Ari Houser, a policy analyst for AARP, who used the Adas Israel mikvah before his wedding in 2012. “I was very much by myself.”

His wife, Deborah Srabstein, remembers what a contrast her mikvah experience was from the other activities surrounding her wedding.

“The rest of my wedding was with other people,” says Srabstein, education director for Oseh Shalom congregation. “This was one moment that was totally private. This was very personal.”

Couples often make separate appointments for the mikvah, says Malka. Some bring a friend or relative of the same gender to act as a witness, something Miller, Toub, Houser and Srabstein did not do.

“Sometimes brides will bring Mom and friends and make a little party,” adds Malka. “They’ll tell stories, like at a shower.”

“One of the things that appealed to me is that it marked a rebirth in a sense,” says Toub. “I’m starting a new life with somebody new. It was a concrete activity to mark the separation between who I was individually and who I’m going to be as a life partner.”

As meaningful as their dip into tradition was, Miller and Toub are still a Washington couple. So how did they follow up their mikvah experience?

Says Miller, “We went back to work.”

For information on the Adas Israel Synagogue (Conservative) mikvah, go to adasisrael.ork/mikvah or contact mikvah@adasisrael.org or 202-841-8776.

Baltimore-Area Mikvot
There are several Orthodox mikvaot in the Baltimore area. They include:

Mei Menachem Community Mikvah
(for women by appointment only)
6701 Old Pimlico Road, 410-415-5113

Beth El Mikvah
(for men or women by appointment only)
8101 Park Heights Ave., 410-484-0411,
bethelbalto.com/mikvah

Shearith Israel Mikvah
(for men)
5835 Park Heights Ave., 410-466-3060

Mikvah of Baltimore, Inc.
(for women)
3207 Clarks Lane, 410-764-1448

dholzel@washingtonjewishweek.com

Kinderkool: Good looks for the little ones


Created with flickr slideshow.

Kids — they look great no matter what they put on! Even so, parents and grandparents can’t help but kvell when they see their little ones dressed to the nines.

Spring weddings, graduations and b’nai mitzvah parties mean the younger set will be needing some fashionable new duds. No worries! Finding the perfect outfits for your favorite flower girl or ring bearer should be a cinch thanks to Wee Chic of Greenspring Station’s new spring collection.

P.S. When it comes to keeping those lovely clothes clean and ironed and getting those adorable kiddies dressed and out of the house in time for the simchah, you’re on your own.

Dara Alperstein, 8, wears Mayoral Petal dress, $50 and sequins bow, $6.

Andrew Slavov, 7, wears EGG dress shirt, $44 and classic pant by Toobydoo, $50, Mayoral belt, $16, bowtie by Tadpole & Lily, $30.

Alyssa Alperstein, 10, wears Mayoral vegan leather metallic Cutout Dress, $78, J Erickson chain leather headband, $28, and Aztec beaded bracelet, $14.

All from Wee Chic of Green Spring Station, weechic.com

How Jewish Geography Can Lead to a Great Jewish Wedding

simone_ellin_squareOne of my favorite Jewish geography stories involves my wedding. At the time of my engagement about 20 years ago, my then fiance and I were living in Brooklyn Heights. Growing up in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y., I had always imagined my wedding at a historic mansion in one of the Hudson River towns about 10 minutes from the home where my mother still lives. The one I dreamed of was once owned by a famous author and is known for its views of the Hudson River and fabulous catering.

But there was a problem: It was super expensive. My parents had some money saved but not quite enough to cover the cost of a wedding at the venue. Thanks to Jewish geography, and Pikesville-New York connections, things turned out picture perfect.

Naturally, my wonderful mother-in-law, Carole Ellin, a lifelong Baltimorean who knows absolutely everyone, knew the owner/caterer’s machatonim. In other words, the owner/caterer’s son was married to a woman from Baltimore who is the daughter of one of my mother-in-law’s friends!

When they ran into each other at exercise class, Carole told her friend about the problem. A few days later, the phone rang at our apartment in Brooklyn. It was someone from the mansion. “How much can you afford,” she asked. I told her the amount my parents had allotted for the wedding. “You’ll get married here,” said the woman on the other end. Problem solved! I had my dream wedding and all because of my well-connected mother-in-law and the wonder of Jewish geography. Incidentally, since the owner/caterer’s machatonim were in attendance, the caterer and her staff made sure that every minute of our special day was even more fabulous than usual.

This year’s iNSIDER wedding edition is full of stories such as this one. We asked people to share their unusual tales about marriage proposals, bridesmaids’ dresses, best-man speeches and more. We hope you enjoy it all.

Simone Ellin
iNSIDER Editor

Marriages Made in the Mountains

First kisses, midnight swims at the lake, meaningful looks across the dining hall, tears at the end of the summer.

Camp romances can be intense. For some couples, campfire sparks fly long after the season ends. The bonds between summer campers are so strong, in fact, that it isn’t unusual to find couples whose camp romances lead to marriage. As more and more research emerges about the impact of Jewish summer camping and its power to create Jewish adults who raise Jewish families, Jewish leaders are banking on Jewish summer camp experiences as deterrents to growing assimilation.

Camp experiences are so central to Jewish identity building that some even choose to hold their weddings on the hallowed grounds where they spent childhood summers. Others find clever ways of incorporating camp memories into their nuptials. As a matter of fact, camp-themed weddings have become downright trendy!

Alison Petok and fiance Dan  Slipakoff held their aufruf  at Camp Harlam, where  they met many years ago.  (provided)

Alison Petok and fiance Dan Slipakoff held their aufruf at Camp Harlam, where they met many years ago.
(provided)

Alison Petok and Dan Slipakoff, both 29, attended Camp Harlam in Kunkletown, Pa., in the 1990s. “We met when we were 12, but the romance started about 10 years later,” says Petok, who grew up in Mount Washington. “Dan likes to say he had a crush on me when we were 12, and it took me 10 years to catch on.”

Slipakoff stayed on at the camp as a counselor, and several summers later Petok returned as a unit supervisor. “There’s a level of freedom to be who you are at camp,” says Slipakoff. “You’ve seen each other at your most energetic and best, and also at your most rundown and vulnerable. It really helps with the relationship.”

Petok agrees: “Sometimes things happen, and I’ll think, ‘We’re able to get through this because we met in camp.’”

Petok and Slipakoff considered having their wedding at Camp Harlam, but because of logistical conflicts they weren’t able to. They did have their aufruf there during morning Shabbat services.

“We have a chapel in the woods, and it’s definitely one of my favorite places,” says Slipakoff.

“Every summer the Israeli scouts (schlechim) teach the kids cheers,” says Petok. “There’s one really silly one called ‘Ja Moose.’ It’s a call-and-response thing, and all the kids at Camp Harlam know it. They used that song, but wrote special words for us and they did the cheer at the aufruf.”

Although their wedding was held at the Fairmont Park Conservatory in Philadelphia, the couple brought many elements of camp to their wedding. Even their ketubah included imagery from Camp Harlam. “Our ketubah has the chapel on the hill and lots of Jewish stars. The artist who made it went to camp with us,” says Slipakoff.

“So many of our friends from camp were there,” adds Petok. “We had a Havdallah service, and Havdallah is really a special time at camp. So during the service we had all our friends from camp stand up with candles under the chuppah with us. We wanted to bring as much of camp into the ceremony as possible.”

David Green and Debbie Fink married at Camp Saginaw, where they both went to summer camp as children.  (Jewellea Photography)

David Green and Debbie Fink married at Camp Saginaw, where they both went to summer camp as children.
(Jewellea Photography)

Pikesville native Debbie Fink, 40 and her husband, David Green, 43, of Philadelphia, both summer-camp enthusiasts, met at a Camp Saginaw reunion in 2008. While Fink and Green didn’t know each other as campers, they both attended Camp Saginaw during the same summers. In fact, Green is among the campers pictured in Fink’s old camp photos. Green’s camp experience didn’t only influence his choice in partners, he also started a business based on a camp tradition.

“My husband runs mystery tours,” says Fink. “He got the idea from camp because they used to put us on buses and not tell us where we were going. It was a surprise. Now he does tours like that in L.A.”

“There was no other place we wanted to get married,” says Fink. Although the couple already lived in L.A. at the time of their wedding, most of their friends and families were based in the mid-Atlantic region. Camp Saginaw, located in Chester, Pa., was a convenient destination for most of the guests. Of the 150 attendees, about 100 stayed in camp bunks, says Fink.

“On Friday night, we had a barbeque and campfire, and during the days we had camp activities like arts and crafts, swimming and softball. Everybody loved being at camp,” she says. “The ceremony was held in the dell, an outdoor space at camp, and we had the reception in a big barn.”

Fink and Green were married by his rabbi. The reception was cocktail attire, but the rest of the weekend was casual. Although they worried about the weather, the whole weekend was picture perfect.

Malka and Mike Alweis of Teaneck, N.J., met when they were staff members at Camp Stone, an Orthodox camp in Western Pennsylvania that Malka, 23, a Baltimore native, attended as a young teen. Although he worked at Camp Stone, Mike, 22, grew up attending Camp Moshava in Street, Md. Both of the Alweises loved camp, and the idea of having their wedding at Camp Stone started out as a joke, says Malka. Yet, the more she explored the options, the more she began thinking seriously about having the wedding at camp.

“It was really stressful [looking at places], and I hated the idea of spending a ton of money for something that would only last for five hours,” Malka says. “When we spoke to the camp director about the possibility of having our wedding at Camp Stone, he was so excited. “We’ve never had a wedding at camp before,’ he says. ‘We can do it,’ He helped us with everything.

“It was really important to me that we have everything outdoors,” she adds. “I refused to believe it would rain.”

Luckily, Mother Nature cooperated. Instead of a one-night celebration the Alweises’ guests arrived at camp in time for the wedding ceremony on Thursday evening and stayed at camp through Sunday. On Friday, recalls Malka, a lot of the wedding guests went sightseeing at nearby Niagara Falls or visited the Amish community. On Shabbat, guests had all of their meals together, and there were speeches, dancing and camp tours.

The wedding took place beside the lake, and the bride and groom arrived at the ceremony in a horse and buggy driven by one of the camp’s Amish neighbors. “There was a bridge we had to cross to get to the [handmade] chuppah,” says Malka. “We used Pinterest for a lot of our ideas. My father is a painter and my mother is very crafty, so they helped with the decorations. My father spray painted tree branches silver and gold, and my mother created leaf-shaped place settings and Chinese lanterns.”

Jessica and Mike Petkov, directors of Camp Saginaw, are “very open to working with the bride and groom to do anything from a barbeque to a black-tie event,” says Jessica. “Some people just want the place and bring in their own people, but our chef can do [upscale] food. We can help to organize color wars, scavenger hunts, arts and crafts, go-carts, whatever. Typically, people stay in the cabins. Bunks sleep 8 to 14 people, but there are also some private cabins.”

As is the case with most summer camps, weddings take place during the off-season, in the fall and spring.

“People really embrace the camp theme,” says Jessica. “We’ve seen s’more-making kits as favors, and some people do camp T-shirts. One couple had a canoe full of drinks. People come up with amazing ideas.”

For diehard campers, camp or camp-themed weddings are an opportunity to share a place they love with the people they love.

“We are both products of camp,” says Slipakoff, who’s completing his Master of Social Work and plans to enter rabbinical school in the fall. His wife, Alison, who also has an M.S.W., is an oncology social worker. “It’s had an important role in our lives and careers. We hold the values [we learned in camp] dearly.”

sellin@jewishtimes.com