Practical app-lications for dog owners and Los Angeles drivers

Apps entertain, make life easier, provide a way for us to stay up to date on current events and much more. Some are vital, others less so, but the best are the ones that strike that balance between simplicity and innovation and leave us asking, “How did I ever get by without this?”

Given that there have always been Jews on the forefront of intellectual activity (just look at the list of Jewish Nobel Prize winners), it wasn’t too difficult to find apps for smartphones and tablets that were created by Jews. Here are a pair with local ties. 

Yelp for Dog People

Jon Kolker, a University of Southern California (USC) graduate and co-creator of Where My Dogs At (, describes his app simply as “a community for dog owners.”

Whether you’re looking for the perfect park for you and your canine companion or a brewery where your pooch can chill with you on the patio, this free app aims to be your reference guide. And if everything goes right, you might meet some like-minded folks along the way.

Where My Dogs At provides listings for nearby dog parks, pet stores, veterinarians and local dog-friendly businesses — including restaurants, coffee shops and hotels. But more than that, the app offers a Facebook-like social platform for dog owners and -lovers in which users create personal profiles, post photos and instant message each other.

It’s like “Yelp for dog lovers,” Kolker said.

Animal lingo abounds. Instead of “checking in” at locations, users “mark their territory.” And rather than receiving reviews based on a star-rating system, businesses and sites receive “paws.” Where My Dogs At users rated Melrose Avenue’s Urth Caffé an average five-out-of-five paws, for example, because dogs are allowed on the eatery’s patio.

The app has approximately 15,000 users, according to Kolker, and currently is in its beta version. A full version is set to be released this fall.

The app’s origin dates back a few years. Curious about places in the city that he and Eddie, his black cocker spaniel, could enjoy together, Kolker, 28, began researching. After he created a list of places, his friend Gareth Wilson suggested that they input the data into an app, which launched last December. 

“We’ve since expanded and have data for places across the country at this point,” said Kolker, CEO of BetterPet Inc. Wilson is president and creative director.

Kolker and Wilson, both of whom attend Sinai Temple, among other synagogues, attended USC’s Annenberg Program on Online Communities, where they received $10,000 to begin work on the app. The Baltimore natives graduated from the USC graduate program in 2012.

Because a significant part of the app is the experience of shmoozing, its creators insist it’s for everyone, not just pet owners.

“Not all of our users are dog owners; there are a lot of people who just love animals,” Kolker said. “They’re welcome as well, of course.”

— Ryan Torok, Staff Writer

Parking, the Final Frontier

After several hours of driving, sitting and patiently listening to your GPS, you’ve finally arrived at your desired location. 

But where to park?

That’s where ParkMe comes in.

Founded by Sam Friedman and Alex Israel, both graduates of Crossroads School in Santa Monica, ParkMe ( is a free app that helps drivers find the nearest and least expensive parking spot.  

“We help our users find the closest, cheapest parking available by displaying real-time data, including rates, hours of operation, payment types and more,” said Israel of West Los Angeles.

ParkMe displays its information on a GPS map and enables users to control whether they want a cheaper or closer parking spot. Additional features included a rate calculator, in-app route guidance and a timer.

According to Friedman, a Santa Monica native, parking causes 30 to 50 percent of traffic congestion in L.A.’s urban centers. ParkMe’s aim is to reduce this congestion.

When a driver takes a ticket at a parking garage or pays a city meter with a credit card (in participating cities), that information is sent directly to ParkMe’s database, which consists of more than 25,000 worldwide locations in more than 500 cities — Los Angeles among them — 19 countries and three continents.

In order to increase accuracy, ParkMe also deploys a field team of researchers to scour U.S. cities for updates or changes regarding rates, hours of operation and total capacity.  

On top of the existing app, the company licenses its database to third-party GPS devices and has plans to work directly with car manufacturers, Friedman said.

“Parking is actually the last piece, as we call it, to the navigation puzzle,” he said. 

And, for Israel, “[ParkMe] solves the everyday hassle and frustration of parking.”

Only, as the app warns you in its terms of service, be sure you’re pulled over when you use it.

— Jay Firestone, Web and Multimedia Editor

Google buys Israel’s Waze to protect mobile maps lead

Google Inc bought Israeli mapping startup Waze on Tuesday for an undisclosed sum, acquiring an online real-time mapping service to safeguard its own lead in one of the most crucial aspects of smartphone usage.

A source close to the matter told Reuters on Monday that the Internet search leader was putting the finishing touches on a deal to take over the company for $1.3 billion. Google said in a Tuesday blog post that it had closed the deal and now planned on using Waze's service to enhance its own Maps product, but did not say how much it paid.

Maps and navigation services have become vital for technology companies as consumers adopt smartphones and other mobile devices. Waze uses satellite signals from members' smartphones to generate maps and traffic data, which it then shares with other users, offering real-time traffic info.

Waze's product development team will remain in Israel and operate separately for now, Google said. Eventually, its service will enhance the U.S. company's Maps app, while the core Waze product itself will benefit from integrating Google-search capabilities.

“Imagine if you could see real-time traffic updates from friends and fellow travelers ahead of you, calling out 'fender bender…totally stuck in left lane! and showing faster routes that others are taking,” Google Geo Vice President Brian McClendon wrote in his blogpost.

Four-year-old Waze, which has 47 million users, has raised $67 million in funding to date from firms including: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Blue Run Ventures and semiconductor company Qualcomm Inc. Facebook Inc was, at one point, an interested buyer, according to media reports.

Reporting by Edwin Chan; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Leslie Gevirtz

Coming to a seder near you: A haggadah on your iPad

This Passover, Jews can still reliably be called “the people of the book.”

If sales of newly published versions of the haggadah are any indication, on the first night of Passover, when it comes time to tell the story of the Exodus, most people sitting at seder tables will be holding in their hands a text that consists of printed words and images on paper.

Next year, though, it’s anyone’s guess, and it seems inevitable that electronic readers and tablet computers will become a big part of at least some future seders, and anyone with an iPad can experience that future today.

A purpose-built iPad app, titled, simply, “The Haggadah” (Melcher Media) was released on March 28, and another iPad-friendly haggadah, an e-book version of the new ink-on-paper title “Sharing the Journey: The Haggadah for the Contemporary Family” (CCAR Press), has been submitted to Apple’s iBookstore for approval, for a release, the makers hope, before seder time.

The creators of “The Haggadah” app anticipate that people won’t only use the new application to follow their own seder, but also that the app itself could become a site for actual sharing — of recipes, photos, stories and, of course, questions.

[Related: Download the Jewish Journal on your mobile device]

“As far as I know, this is the first haggadah app with this kind of interactivity,” said David Kraemer, a professor of Talmud and Rabbinics at the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), who translated the haggadah’s text into English and wrote most of the app’s additional text. There are features familiar to any reader of Passover books — an introduction to Passover and a history of the haggadah — and Kraemer also wrote dozens of comments sprinkled throughout the text, each one accessible with the tap of a finger.

Search any online marketplace for e-books and you’ll find a few haggadot (the plural of haggadah), each with its own tone, quality and price. Craig Buck, a TV writer who created the 15-page “Ina Gada Haggadah” for his family’s 20-minute seder back in the 1990s, doesn’t think anyone has purchased the Kindle version yet, although hundreds have downloaded versions available each year (in PDF format) on his Web site.

PDFs can be read on many tablet readers, and DIYSeder, an online resource that allows users to customize a haggadah’s text (What word would you prefer to substitute for “God”?) and commentary (Is your seder table full of politicos? Children? Non-Jews?) has apps for iPad- and Android-equipped devices that will allow their haggadot to be read there.

Another haggadah in the Kindle store — “The Union Haggadah,” first published in 1923 by the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) — displays both a menorah and a dreidel on the cover, a clear indication that the seller mixed up Chanukah, probably the best-known Jewish holiday, with the most widely celebrated one, Passover.

“The copyright expired, so it’s technically in the public domain,” Rabbi Dan Medwin, publishing technology manager for the CCAR, said. “We don’t know who took that text and made it an e-book. There’s even an iPhone app.”

That shoddy repackaging of a 90-year-old text (retail price $3.99) is nothing like the e-book version of “Sharing the Journey” that Medwin created for the CCAR Press.

E-books, Medwin said, are becoming more flexible. Thanks to the advent of iBooks Author, software released by Apple in January of this year that allows publishers to incorporate various kinds of media into their e-books, Medwin was able to include a number of special features; for example, he embedded more than a dozen recordings of Passover songs directly into the text of “Sharing the Journey.”

All of the text from the paper version of the book is in the e-book version as well. The illustrations by Mark Podwal are included in the e-book, too; Medwin added tap-activated captions to one illustration of a seder plate.

But if “Sharing the Journey” feels like a powered-up book with a soundtrack included, “The Haggadah” app — which was paid for in large part through more than $25,000 of donations solicited through the crowd-funding Web site Kickstarter — is something else entirely.

“The way people use apps is much more tactile and exploratory than the way they use a book,” said David Brown, one of the developers who worked on the app at Melcher Media, a New York-based book producer that has been creating apps since 2011, including the award-winning app version of Al Gore’s book, “Our Choice.”

“What people want is interactivity and surprise and layers of information in a way that a static page can’t deliver,” Brown said.

Just how layered is the app? Look past the fancy spinning seder plate in the “Preparing for the Seder” section, and consider the other illustrations, all of which come from haggadot that are centuries old.

While the main haggadah text in the app might use only a detail from a particular page — say, a single, ornately inscribed word from the Washington Haggadah, which dates back to 1478 and is held in the Library of Congress — a finger-tap on a magnifying glass icon nearby takes the reader to a new screen. There, the full page where the detail is from is displayed, and with a few pinches and swipes, any part of the reproduced page — crinkles, faded sections, even what look like wine stains — can be viewed.

Most of the illustrations come from the holdings of JTS’ library, where Kraemer is director; some illustrations are accompanied by audio commentary from Sharon Liberman Mintz, the library’s curator of Jewish art.

If the illuminated manuscripts reproduced in “The Haggadah” look as though they might have taken years to create, the app itself was put together far more quickly. Rabbi Irwin Kula, president of Clal, the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, contributed his own audio commentary, which he recorded in a single one-hour session, a little more than a month before the app’s release.

And the running time of his observations was even shorter.

“The challenge was, OK, say something in one minute about ‘Dayenu,’ or say something in one minute about the Four Questions or the four sons,” Kula said, naming a few of the better-known parts of the haggadah. “Say something in one minute that is accessible and usable and relevant — that gets the job done, which is to help create meaning in people’s lives.”

Kraemer said he won’t use the app at his seder — he doesn’t use electricity on the holiday, and prefers to use a “basic traditional haggadah” anyway, to allow for more interaction between the people around the table.

Kula, who hadn’t yet seen the full app but had heard the edited versions of his commentaries, was very happy with the result and is looking forward to using it at his family’s second seder, which has always been more free in its format. In previous years, Kula said, the young adults at the table have incorporated media of all types, everything from recorded songs to YouTube videos.

In 2012, it seems, flexibility and interactivity are the words to live by when creating seders, and in that spirit, Amichai Lau-Lavie, the founding director of Storahtelling, contributed to “The Haggadah” app an alternative order of events of his own design.

Lau-Lavie began creating “The Sayder” six years ago, and the basic model — four rounds, each one focusing on one question and accompanied by one glass of wine — was established early. Since then, the format has changed; what was an “on-the-fly” innovation morphed first into a one-page paper handout, then a Web site ( and now, an app.

“I don’t think the haggadah was ever meant to be read cover-to-cover, as is,” said Lau-Lavie, who is now studying to become a rabbi at the Jewish Theological Seminary. “The Sayder,” he said, has a uniquely spelled name for a reason: “We really wanted people to read less and say more,” Lau-Lavie said.

This year — in light of the harsh conditions under which the workers who make Apple electronics are known to endure, and particularly since there’ll be at least one iPad at his seder table — Lau-Lavie is hoping to get people to talk about consumption and the conditions of workers.

To that end, Lau-Lavie is asking people to put an apple on their seder plates this year.

“Are we the Pharaoh or are we the Moses?” Lau-Lavie asked, modeling the kind of inquiry he hopes to inspire. “How can we do more to spread freedom around the world?”

New app teaches about Zionism

A new mobile app provides a database of information about Zionism and Israel.

The free “Zionation” app for iPhone and Android devices, developed by the World Zionist Organization’s Department for Diaspora Activities, includes a Zionist calendar that marks and provides background information on significant dates in the history of Zionism and the State of Israel.

The app, which supports Hebrew, English and Spanish, also notifies users about conferences and events occurring in their communities or around the world.

Gusti Yehoshua-Braverman, the co-chair of the Department for Diaspora Activities, said the app is designed to resonate with a younger Jewish generation.

“We believe that now more than ever, given the alienation among large segments of the Jewish community from the State of Israel, that it is our duty to encourage the younger generation to create their own Zionist Jewish identity based on knowledge and familiarity with major figures and historical events, values and achievements,” he said in a statement.

Staying empathetic is a challenge during the race for college

I believe myself to be a compassionate person. I say this, of course, with an immense amount of supporting evidence. You know in Westerns, when the cowboys battle it out on the frontier, riding their horses? Well, when a man gets shot and both he and his horse tumble to the ground, I panic for the safety of the horse (I don’t wish the cowboy dead or anything, but he’s fighting of his own volition). The point is, I find myself inherently empathetic.

But there is a new tension between my inherent self, and my impacted self. I am referring to what is simply known as the college process.

My junior year just ended, and instead of experiencing an expected euphoric sense of relief, my summer seems to have been only interim between school sessions. I’ve been picking colleges to apply to and interning so much that even I’m starting to resent the idea of volunteering.

Meeting with private advisers and going to college fairs have provoked in me a desire to go far away and make a fortune in chocolate or something else that doesn’t need a degree. But it is in these panics that I’ve had these revelations: I realized that I have become so consumed by my own college process that I have forgotten about those kids who have absolutely no idea what they should be doing, not because they are apathetic or disinterested, not because they wouldn’t go the extra mile if they had the opportunity, but because they don’t have the opportunity.

Because school-hired college counselors are often overburdened, poorer students aren’t informed about the very basics of getting accepted into a university. Countless numbers of students simply print and fill out an application, not knowing they should have been on yearbook, or worked at a soup kitchen or taken two opposite subjects for the SAT subject tests.

What this ignites in me, these unfair expectations that so many are unaware of, is a new drive to succeed in my own college process. If I can get where I need to be, I can change the very process that got me there (my inherent self). But then again, can I afford to sympathize with other peers (my impacted self)?

In order to be decently competitive among the surplus of determined students — especially this year, when more college applications then ever before will be filed — I cannot think about others. It’s as if to function at all adequately in preparation for college, I must be ruthless, desensitized and immune to any kind of empathy I’m tempted to embrace.

Even if college is a place of unity and togetherness, it has turned high school into a vast arena of self-concern and self-involvement.

It’s even infiltrating my personal life. I go to a friend’s house, I lie on her bed and we take turns venting about why we won’t get accepted into where we’d like, but I listen only so I can be listened to; now the empathy that was once abundant isn’t even active for my friends. Then the next night, I go to MILK, and over sundaes — a perhaps most underrated distraction from all the academic turmoil of the times — I again reflect on newly received report cards that completely alter dreams and expectations. One day’s mail drastically shifts previously planned goals. But that’s just the way it works.

From day to day, from each score to the next score, I mold and bend to be practical and realistic as I try to avoid dimming any dreams that have been long lit by fantasies and college brochures. So even in the brief moments where I guilt-trip myself — because when I look at it relatively, I have it good — it doesn’t take long for me to jump back into the “but what about me?” boat. After all, everyone is competition.

It’s something strange to look down at a standardized answer sheet, and see you, what you have become over the last 17 years, as nothing more than little penciled-in bubbles. It’s something strange to be constantly scanned like a barcode when you’re trying to depart on what should be the most human and growing experience that is life.

Yet, I will not stray from the college process. I will not dismiss what I am beginning to so wholeheartedly resent, because even as I trek through this systematic and mechanical pilgrimage to the glowing beacon that is a university, I am learning something. I am learning what I can handle. I am learning my priorities and my limits and my self-expectations, and how I have trouble dealing with them all, but indeed, I do deal. And I think what I will take most from this process (aside from an acceptance letter), is the vow to never be so self-involved again.

So, here I come young steed, soon my empathy will again be yours for the taking.

Laura Donney this week became a senior at Hamilton High School.

Speak Up!

Tribe, a page by and for teens, appears the first issue of every month in The Jewish Journal. Ninth- to 12th-graders are invited to submit first-person columns, feature articles or news stories of up to 800 words. Deadline for the September issue is Aug. 15; deadline for the October issue is Sept. 15. Send submissions to

Parents Don’t Kid About Day Schools

After extensive research, campus tours, a detailed application and an interview, Aidan Buckner was recently accepted into the school of his choice. While his parents may have done the legwork, it is Aidan who will enter kindergarten at the Ronald and Trana Labowe Family Day School at Adat Ari El in Valley Village this fall. The 5 1/2-year-old seems unfazed by the upcoming transition, but for his parents, the news marks the end of a long journey.

“We put Aidan on the wait list at Adat Ari El and Valley Beth Shalom when we moved [to Sherman Oaks] when he was 1 1¼2,” remembers Denise Buckner, Aidan’s mom. Since that time, Buckner has gone to numerous day school open houses over the years, sat in on classes and spent countless hours making school-related phone calls.

“I [visited the schools] every year because I felt every year I learned more about who my son was and what kind of person he was,” Buckner said.

Like many Jewish parents in the Southland, Buckner knew she wanted her child to attend Jewish day school, but the process of selecting a school and getting in proved nerve-wracking at times.

With the shaky reputation of local public schools around Los Angeles, many families look to day schools for a solid education. While Jewish schools are eager to accommodate young students, class size limits can make the process feel cutthroat.

Samara Fabrick, a licensed clinical social worker on the Westside, remembers the competitive vibe she felt last year when looking at schools for her 6-year-old son Zachary.

“I kept having to remind myself that we’re not talking about Columbia. We’re not talking about Tufts. This is kindergarten,” said Fabrick, whose son now attends the Geri and Richard Brawerman Elementary School of Wilshire Boulevard Temple.

While her son was accepted to both schools where the family applied, Fabrick’s worries were not completely unfounded, as many schools cannot take every applicant.

“We have only 40 spaces [for kindergarten] and this year we had over 80 applications,” said Maxine Keith, the assistant head of school and director of admissions at Whilshire Boulevard’s Brawerman Elementary.

In addition, since siblings of current students and children from Wilshire’s preschool have priority, it is clear that not everyone is a shoo-in.

Psychologist Lisa Lainer recalls the stress of waiting to see if her daughter, Sophie, now 6, got accepted to Sinai Akiba Academy at Sinai Temple last year. Even through Sophie attended Sinai’s preschool, more preschoolers than there were available spots in the day school kindergarten program that year.

“In part, we felt confident that she’d get in, but then there’s there anxiety of ‘What if I’m wrong?'” Lainer said.

For the Reform and Conservative day schools in Los Angeles, applications are usually due in December and the admissions decision letters usually go out in March. For the Orthodox day schools, admissions are on a rolling basis and most students enter in preschool rather than kindergarten. At Maimonides Academy about 80 percent to 90 percent of the students come through the early childhood program. “We sometimes tell parents to make sure they get in on the preschool level because the classes are jampacked and may be closed by the time pre-one rolls around,” principal Rabbi Karmi Gross said.

Even though many day schools continue to fill up quickly, there is actually a decline in the number of Jewish children in the United States. According to the National Jewish Population Survey 2000-2001, only 20 percent of the U.S. Jewish population is 18 and younger, a number that has decreased in the last 10 years. As a result, the number of kindergartners in Los Angeles Jewish day schools has decreased over the last few years, as well.

While getting in can be anxiety-provoking, parents seem to feel the stress is worth it in the end.

“I’m exceedingly happy,” Fabrick said. “We made a great choice and Zach is getting a great education.”

Buckner is excited for Aidan to start kindergarten in September.

“I’m hoping that going to a values-based school is going to change who my son is for the better,” she said.

Community Briefs

Gaming Commission Postpones MoskowitzVote

The California Gambling Control Commission again has postponed a vote on Dr. Irving Moskowitz’s permanent license request for his Hawaiian Gardens Casino card club, which peace activists decry as a funding tool for West Bank settlers.

“There has been more significant opposition to this than there has been to any other application,” said commission chief counsel Peter Melnicoe, who wants California Department of Justice gambling investigators to double-check Moskowitz’s application, whose casino-style card club now operates with a temporary, provisional license. “We plan to ask the Division of Gambling Control to clarify certain points.”

Unlike the commission’s Dec. 18 and Jan. 9 hearings in downtown Los Angeles, the Moskowitz application did not dominate the Feb. 26 hearing, with the application postponed in routine fashion and no outcry from opponents or supporters. The application is not on the commission’s two March meeting agendas.

A long activist battle has been waged against Moskowitz, a retired Long Beach doctor whose rise as a Bingo impresario radically changed tiny, poor Hawaiian Gardens in southeast Los Angeles County. Though he enjoys Hawaiian Gardens and Jewish community support, the activists’ main gripe is that Moskowitz uses part of his gambling proceeds to buy East Jerusalem land for Jewish settlers.

“We want to take a methodological approach to evaluating the complaints and the charges that have been made,” Melnicoe told The Journal. “We’re going to try to expedite this as much as we can, but at the same time we want to give consideration to the merits of the application.” — David Finnigan, Contributing Writer

LAPD Members Visit Israel

Leaders in the Los Angeles Police Department, such as John Miller, commander of the Critical Incident Management Bureau; Joe Polisar, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police; and William Gore, special assistant to the Department of Justice in Southern California, traveled to Israel in February as participants in the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs’ (JINSA) Law Enforcement Exchange Program (LEEP).

The law enforcement officials joined 14 of the most senior police chiefs, sheriffs and state police commanders in Israel to intensively study counterterrorism techniques. They were briefed on bomb disposal, the increasing sophistication of domestic terrorists, the mindset of suicide bombers and how to secure large venues, such as shopping malls and concert halls, without disrupting the enjoyment of the public.

The LEEP program is designed to establish cooperation between U.S. and Israeli law enforcement personnel and to give the U.S. law enforcement community access to the lessons learned by the Israelis in the interdiction of and response to all forms of terrorism.

The Israeli National Police hosted the JINSA group in cooperation with the Israel Security Agency and the Israel Defense Forces.

“Nothing can replicate American officials seeing these types of programs firsthand, and the systems that are put in place to deal with them,” said Steven Pomerantz, a member of JINSA’s board of advisers. — Gaby Wenig, Staff Writer

Ramah’s Policy in Black and White

In the latest effort to define its religious boundaries, the Conservative movement has directed its summer camping system to notify parents that prospective campers must be Jewish according to halacha, or Jewish law, to be accepted.

The notification, included in this year’s application, marks the first such written statement of policy in the 53-year history of the Camp Ramah system, said its national director, Rabbi Sheldon Dorph. Rabbi Dorph said the move is merely a reaffirmation of the system’s long-standing unwritten policy. He said Ramah officials decided it was necessary to put the policy in writing now because of the sea changes in American Jewry, including increases in intermarriage and the Reform movement’s 1983 adoption of patrilineal descent — accepting a child whose mother is not Jewish. Orthodox and Conservative rabbis require the mother to be Jewish.

“When Ramah was established in 1947, there was no question, kids had to be Jewish, and there’s been no question all these years,” Rabbi Dorph said. “However, because of changes in the Jewish community and because of patrilineal descent in Reform … we felt parents needed to understand clearly that there were religious standards for Ramah.”

The Ramah notification comes at a time when the Conservative movement has been issuing much stricter guidelines for its leaders.

In recent months, the congregational arm of the movement has banned intermarried couples from serving as professionals and Hebrew school teachers, and is pressing synagogues to adopt standards of religious observance for its officers.

Ramah, comprised of seven sleepaway and four day camps, with an enrollment of about 6,000 campers, operates under the auspices of the Jewish Theological Seminary. About 90 percent of Ramah campers belong to the Conservative movement, while 7 percent are Orthodox and the rest from Reform, Reconstructionist or unaffiliated families.

Rabbi Dorph said the move was made as well to reassure Conservative parents that their kids are mingling with like-minded Jewish kids.

“Let’s face it, at Ramah we make a lot of shidduchim [matches],” he said.

Rabbi Dorph said each camp will be able to formulate its own version of the statement. The one he provided, called “Statement on Religious Qualifications for Children,” says that “Ramah camps admit only halachically Jewish children and educational staff. This requires that the applicant either was born to an halachically Jewish woman or has been converted to Judaism according to halacha.”

Ramah’s application process has always required that the camper’s congregational rabbi and Jewish educator sign off. Ramah also requires that campers be enrolled in religious study programs: six hours a week for preteens, four hours a week for teens.

Reform leaders said the Conservative movement has the right to set its own policy, and didn’t believe many children would be affected.

Rabbi Allen Smith, director of the Reform movement’s Youth Division, said the policy clearly excludes patrilineal Jews.

But whether Ramah would ban candidates converted by Reform rabbis was unclear, said Rabbi Smith, who directs the movement’s 13 camps with 10,000 campers. Many Reform conversions are not performed according to strict Jewish law, he noted.

“The only impact is it would say to members of Reform congregations that … we don’t belong in Ramah,” Rabbi Smith said, adding that Reform camps also require rabbis attest to the Jewishness of a camper.

Rabbi Ramie Arian, executive director of the Foundation for Jewish Camping, said he was surprised by the Ramah notice, but not that Ramah is affirming its requirements.

“There’s pressure on many institutions to sharpen their boundaries,” said Rabbi Arian, who runs the 2-year-old foundation designed to strengthen Jewish camping nationwide. “It would surprise me if very many people are affected by articulating a policy this way.”

He said there are enough Jewish camps of different philosophies to meet the need.

But not everyone embraced the new policy.

“Our board hasn’t even looked at it yet,” said Brian Greene, director of Camp Ramah in California. “We want to look at the wording and consider the implications.”

But perhaps more important, he noted that it was too late for consideration this year anyway. “We already filled our enrollment months ago,” Greene said.