Beber Camp Beliebers

The face-cut-out used to promote Beber Camp’s “Bieber” Camp Day in February.

Admit it. Whether you consider yourself a “belieber” or not, the first thing you thought of when you read that this story was about Beber Camp was the mop-topped teenage pop singer from Canada.

Forget that B’Nai B’Rith Beber Camp (its full name) doesn’t have a letter “i” before the “e” in its name and was founded the year Justin Bieber’s mom was born (1976). Bieber fever is so hot right now that anything that rhymes or sounds remotely similar to the pop singer’s last name is bound to raise (or furrow) a few eyebrows.

Joel Bennett, an assistant director at Beber Camp, said it wasn’t until last May while checking out at a local Potbelly’s that he was first asked if the camp had anything to do with Justin Bieber.

“I think our community is more amused than confused, but I can’t say we don’t welcome the attention,” Joel wrote in an e-mail.

A screen shot from the Beber Camp video “Justin Bieber Swallowed By A Gator”

This is obvious if you check out their YouTube page, and look up a video entitled “Justin Bieber Swallowed By A Gator” that was created last summer by campers in one of the camp’s five-day curriculum-based-hobby programs.

“(The video) was created in our song-writing hobby and recorded using Flip cameras and edited with Garage Band and iMovie,” Bennett wrote. “It’s amazing how empowering technology can be with regard to transforming a hand-drawn storyboard into something in YouTube.”

More recently, the camp embraced the pop singer again by honoring Justin’s performance at the Grammy awards as part of its monthly Beber Camp Days in February with face-cut-outs of Bieber for campers to print out and take pictures with at home. Joel said the feedback was “overwhelmingly positive and through the roof!”

“For us, Beber is really about All Summer, All Year, All Life and any excuse we have to have fun and make people smile throughout the year is too good to pass up!” Bennett said.

But as is often the case with pop singers, not everyone agrees that it’s a good idea to fully embrace Justin Bieber. One commenter on Beber Camp’s Facebook wall during the hoopla of “Bieber” Camp Day in February posted “why…just why” and “but….why justin bieber of all people why him.”

One of several posts on Beber Camp’s Facebook wall for “Bieber” Camp Day.

“We know that Justin Bieber is a real popstar for many of our pre-teen and teen campers, as well as our college-age staff, but many of our parents and alumni simply don’t have a connection to the top-40 music scene,” Bennett said.  “I think that our community has taken our Bieber love for what it is — good-natured fun.”

For the uninitiated, Justin Bieber’s ticket to the big time came in large part due to YouTube videos of him singing that spread like wildfire around the web and a Twitter army of fans that continue to drown out all of the haters. A good primer on the subject is an article by James Parker in The Atlantic entitled “Daydream Believer.” For a song staff member Abby Baron thinks best speaks for Beber Camp, check out the video for “Never Say Never.”

Given Bieber’s track record, it’s only appropriate that Beber Camp would be extremely well-versed with its social networking. In fact, if you are involved in a camp and want a good example of camps using it effectively, Beber Camp is a great place to start.

Fortunately for the cashier, when Joel was asked at Potbelly’s last year if the camp had anything to do with Justin Bieber, his response was a lot more pleasant than the character named Michael Bolton in the movie Office Space. But where did the Mukwonago, Wisconsin, camp get its name if it wasn’t from Justin Bieber, as my wife just asked me when I told her the name of the camp I was writing an article about?

AZA founder Sam Beber

Why, Sam Beber of course. Sam helped launch the national Jewish young men’s group known as Aleph Zadik Aleph or AZA in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1923. Beber’s sister camp in Starlight, Pa., is named after Anita Perlman, who started a national girl’s youth group known as B’nai B’rith Girls or BBG. See the connection? Beber Camp was founded the year its namesake died.

But still, having a name that sounds a lot like the pop singer does beg the question that’s been posed by campers on the camp’s Facebook wall. Any chance of getting Bieber to come to Beber camp?

“If you can hook us up with his agent, I would adopt the Bieber haircut in appreciation!,” Bennett said.

Calling Justin Bieber’s agent! I repeat: calling Justin Bieber’s agent!

Matt Ralph

Matt Ralph

I'm the editor of Summer Camp Culture and also blog at Tangzine.com and MatthewRalph.com. I live in the Philadelphia area and went to camps and camp meetings growing up in Ohio, Maryland and New Jersey.

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