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April 3, 2014

Camp Hamachane emerges from Camp Gabriels

Camp Hamachane will develop into summer getaway for Jewish boys

BRIGHTON — Camp Gabriels is in line to become Camp Hamachane, a summer experience for Orthodox Jewish boys.

Camp Director Rabbi Eli Hersch presented the redevelopment vision to local residents and officials here on Tuesday evening.

The former minimum-security prison was shuttered by the State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision some six years ago.

Hersch and financier Adam Fine, both members of an Orthodox Jewish community just north of New York City, purchased the 92-acre parcel with its numerous dormitories and support buildings.

As a nonprofit summer camp, the site will likely not return to the tax rolls. But final tax status — amid any future plans for use in the spring, winter and fall — has not been determined by attorneys.

Hersch and Fine’s offer of $166,000 was the second-highest bid at public auction last October.

SEVERAL LOCATIONS

Hersch began the discussion, talking affably about his family and his work.

He and his wife, Lieba, have seven children.

“I’m not a pulpit rabbi,” he said, introducing daughter Bryna, who had traveled to the meeting with him.

Rather, he teaches Jewish children.

Eight years ago, Hersch said, he started a Jewish Orthodox summer camp for boys. The camp has moved through several locations, from Maine to New Hampshire to Connecticut, drawing campers from four huge Orthodox Jewish communities in the greater New York City area and from Montreal.

The Hebrew word Hamachane (Ha-ma’-kha-nay) means “the camp,” Hersch said.

And in a humorous manner, he admitted Camp Hamachane translates to “Camp the Camp.” His wit drew laughter from an audience of about 50 locals who attended the session at the Paul Smith’s Visitor Interpretive Center.

MORE RELAXED ATMOSPHERE

Camp Hamachane will offer Jewish boys ages 10 through 18 a chance to learn about their religion and culture in a more relaxed atmosphere, Hersch explained.

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