History & Heritage
For Over 100 Years
Located on a private, unspoiled lake, campers from around the world, ages 7-16, enjoy a community-oriented environment in which they can learn, grow and develop lifelong friendships. Our warm, nurturing and welcoming environment helps campers to assimilate quickly into the Modin family.
In Pursuit of an Ideal
Building a Sense of Community and Jewish Identity
Since its inception in 1922, Camp Modin has pursued an ideal. This ideal began as a desire to provide children not merely with a recreational experience, but a summer that would contribute meaningfully to a child’s balanced development. The gifted and devoted educators who founded Camp Modin applied the best of what was thought and known about helping young people to grow, and established a nurturing community on a pristine lake in the woods of Maine.
So it is today, that we have brought forward these goals and made them the cornerstones of our philosophy; to know and understand each child individually, build a sense of community, and provide an awareness of Jewish identity.
To provide a safe, warm and nurturing environment in which children can learn, grow and develop lifelong friendships.
Our Founder’s Vision
Camp Modin is the outgrowth of concern by several Jewish educators for the loss of Jewish identity and heritage among the rapidly assimilating children of first generation American Jews. In the winter of 1921 educators Albert and Bertha Schoolman proposed to colleagues Alexander and Julia Dushkin that they join them in establishing a private Jewish summer camp where children of all degrees of belief could learn Jewish values in a free, relaxed atmosphere with their peers. The two couples joined with Isaac and Libbie Berkson, themselves educators, and the following year established Camp Modin as “The Camp with a Jewish Idea”. “Modin” takes its name from “Modi’in” (pronounced mo-de-een) which is the name of the biblical town where the Maccabees—the central characters from the story of Chanukah—resided.
That first summer the group gathered 45 boys on the banks of spring-fed Lake George in Central Maine, about one hour west of Bangor. The following season, Modin was “swamped” with 110 boys. In 1925 on a site across the lake Camp Modin for Girls officially opened. Their experiment succeeded in creating a haven where children could develop their identities as members of a Jewish community, forge lifelong friendships, and escape the threat of polio in the aftermath of World War I.
Wrote Alexander Dushkin, one of Modin’s founders, in his memoirs Living Bridges: “…We followed the usual curriculum of activities in summer camping—sports, games, swimming, boating and canoeing, art & crafts, horseback riding, gardening, dramatics, camp fires, overnight camp trips, and the like. We stressed nature study, the arts, and of course Jewish cultural activity. …The joyous Sabbaths, the Tisha B’Av fast day, the Bar and Bat Mitzvahs—all became occasions for teaching and community living.”
The Experiment Continues
Home to Generations of Modinites
In 1942 the Dushkins and Schoolmans sold their stake in the camp to the Berkson family who continued to run Modin until 1954 when Sam Kadison, their longtime partner, purchased the camp. Upon Sam’s passing in 1979 the mantle was placed upon the shoulders of his niece, Amy Adler and her husband David Adler who owned the camp until David’s passing in 1992. After David’s death his Director, Howard Salzberg, purchased the camp. The Salzberg family’s roots in Modin date back to its inception in 1922. In 1992, seeking a more modern and functional site, Camp Modin acquired a beautiful camp in Belgrade, Maine where the Modin community has continued to thrive.
The Modin community has continued to evolve over the years and today stands as one of the premier Jewish summer camping institutions in the country. In some families, three and even four generations have spent the most important and memorable summers of their lives at Modin. Such longevity stems not only by providing top-notch facilities, quality programming and well-trained staff, but through the continued pursuit of Jewish ideals and the fostering of individuality, community, growth and lifelong friendships.
A Deep Regard for the Individual
Building a Sense of Pride and Accomplishment
How does a camp express its concern for the individual? By tailoring the program to meet the child’s personal needs, not by conveniently forcing him or her into a rigid program schedule. At Modin, we encourage our campers to make choices, take risks and accept new challenges.
Often it is wise to let children establish their strengths first in something they already know and feel comfortable doing. With guidance and nurturing, our children are then encouraged to try new things. As the child progresses and achieves, there is growth: mastering skills surpasses simple recreation. Every moment at Camp is a learning situation: we know that as children learn to swim, to climb, to perform, they also learn to persevere—to accept guidance, to make choices, and, in so doing, discover what makes them unique. This is the heart of individual growth.
Carefully Chosen, Highly Trained Professionals
Our staff play a fundamental role in the Modin community, and are essential to achieving the goals underlying our philosophy. Each summer, we gather a group of dedicated individuals who’s main objective is to make a positive and memorable contribution to the lives of children.
Staff members are professional educators and mature college students who distinguish themselves through individual accomplishment, and by their love and compassion for children. The Modin team returns year after year, many coming up through the ranks as former Modin campers.
Our counselors are carefully chosen, highly trained individuals with a wealth of camping and teaching experience. Our staff are mature—typically university-aged and beyond—making them well suited for dealing with the needs of children and young adults.
Virtually all general counselors and specialty staff live in the cabins with the campers. Thus there is always someone available to supervise, guide and care for the children. Our staff undergo an extensive training program prior to the start of each season and we work closely with them at all times.
Average Campers Per Bunk
Average Counselors Per Bunk
Cabins Per Age Group
Howard & Lisa Salzberg
Howard Salzberg and his wife Lisa are the full-time owners and executive directors of Camp Modin. Howard joined the Modin family in 1981 and spent seven wonderful years as a camper. He returned to Modin as a counselor, head counselor and eventually as the camp’s assistant director. In 1991 Howard became the full time director of Camp Modin and he purchased the camp the following year. Howard’s family was part of the first Modin enrollment class in 1922.
Lisa joined Modin in 1991, where she first met — and later married — Howard. She first joined the Modin community as a counselor, then as a head counselor, assistant director and finally director. Her background is in elementary education and she has taught first, fourth and fifth graders. Lisa and Howard are the proud parents of a boy named Jack, now enjoying his own Modin experience.
In addition to Camp Modin, Howard and Lisa are founding members of the Board of Trustees of the Shefa School—a Jewish community day school in Manhattan that serves children who need a specialized educational environment in order to develop their strengths while addressing their learning challenges.
Samara Lender is the full-time director of Camp Modin. She began her Modin career as a camper in 1999. Samara’s journey at Modin included two years as a counselor followed by three years as the girls’ head counselor.
Upon graduating from university Samara was promoted to assistant director before becoming the full-time director, working directly with Howard & Lisa. Samara is a native of Rockland County, New York and comes from a large family of Modinites, including four of her siblings.
Director of Bunk Life
Ilana grew up in Montreal and now lives in Durham, North Carolina. She attended Modin as a camper and staff member where she met lifelong friends, as well as her husband, Jason. Ilana is the proud parent of Modin campers Jamie and Corey, and Modin dog, Storm.
Ilana works closely with the directors and serves as a key member of the Administrative team who assists with staff hiring, training and mentoring, office administration, communication with parents and most importantly, the development of relationships with the campers to assist them with any needs that may arise throughout the summer and to ensure that they get the most out of their Modin experience.
Learning to Live Together
The Bonds of Friendship
Central to the camp experience is learning how to live together as a member of a group. Children of all ages mature through community awareness, because only in a group do we learn tolerance, compromise and acceptance, the skills integral to achieving personal growth. Within the group, children learn to respect others, to work as a team and to contribute to the whole. Community life affords them unique opportunities to be a part of something truly special.
So how does the group experience differ at Modin from those in the outside world? It is mainly due to the level of intensity. In camp, we live together day in, day out. This immersion cultivates in children the ability to know one another, to share our varied strengths, to offer encouragement, lend support, and gain the experience of living—and taking pride in living—in a group. The strength of the Modin community yields unprecedented opportunities for the establishment of lifelong friendships. The Modin community is intensely loyal and devoted. Long after Camp ends for the summer, we remain close and in touch. Year after year, Modin Campers return to renew these special bonds of friendship.
Our Jewish Heritage
Building a Strong Community
Our mission to build a strong community for our children is not ours alone. It is our Jewish heritage that is the source of the communal values we seek to instill in every child. Specifically, what does this mean at Modin? Ours is a pluralistic, egalitarian community, and our families come for a wide range of Jewish backgrounds, beliefs and levels of observance. Some children attend Jewish Day Schools while others attend secular ones. Some children have a limited Jewish education and others a great deal more. All are welcome at Modin.
The Jewish experience at Modin is woven into all aspects of camp life. Our kitchen and canteen are strictly kosher, and a blessing begins and ends each meal. Many children spend time working with our Judaic director on their Bar/Bat Mitzvah studies. Campers connect to their Jewish heritage through art, music and a variety of Jewish programs. Associating with adults who find profound personal meaning in their own Jewish values further enriches their Jewish experience.
Great emphasis is placed on instilling Jewish ethics and values in our campers. This is accomplished through community service projects (Tikkun Olam), teen mentoring programs and group discussions that stress the importance of responsibility and treating each other with respect. The time we devote at Modin to Jewish awareness and activity is another way of understanding the joys and responsibilities of being a member of a community.
There is a spirit (ruach) felt every day at Modin, but none more so than on Shabbat. Friday afternoon is a particularly moving time at camp when our community comes together to welcome Shabbat through song and prayer. Each week a different group of campers assists our Judaic director in leading services on our beautiful Bima overlooking majestic Salmon Lake. After services our community comes together in our expansive recreation center to enjoy a fantastic Shabbat meal full of food, friendship and freshly baked challahs! As the meal ends the singing begins and the walls reverberate with Jewish music.
Saturday morning Shabbat services are led by our Judaic director and assisted by volunteers from all age groups. The service includes both a traditional Torah service as well as a camp-wide discussion related to the parsha of the week or an appropriately themed topic such as Israel or social justice. The remainder of Shabbat includes a memorable full camp afternoon program, followed by a general swim, evening activity and finally a moving Havdalah service. Shabbat at Modin is truly magical. It provides a sense of comfort, friendship and community—the heart of the Modin experience.
The Natural Beauty of Maine
Breathtaking Wilderness to Explore
Most children live in urban or suburban settings. Despite the availability of lawns and trees, few young people have felt the awe of endless forests or an open night sky. These are the gifts that await us at Modin—a place hidden among majestic mountains and unspoiled landscapes. The Modin setting was chosen with care. Salmon Lake, on which Modin is located, represents the crown jewel of Maine’s pristine Belgrade Lakes chain.
The first journey to Modin inevitably leaves families with a life-long connection to Maine. Thousands of miles of coastline nestle picturesque seaside towns with their charming bed & breakfasts and luxury inns. Maine’s larger, thriving cities host great shopping and unparalleled culinary options with nationally acclaimed restaurants and award-winning chefs. Maine is renown for its outdoor activities. Adventure seekers will enjoy world-class whitewater rafting and hot air ballooning. Others will marvel at the breathtaking scenery while golfing on championship courses or biking down scenic byways. With all that Maine has to offer one finds themselves eager to return year after year. There is a reason they call it “Vacationland.”