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Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Camp Boiberik and Omega Institute, Rhinebeck, New York

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The world-renowned Omega Institute just outside of Rhinebeck, New York, occupies many of the same buildings and is situated on the site of the previous Camp Boiberik. The event which started Camp Boiberik is when Favyl Holmshtok took a group of Sholem Aleichem Folk Shul students out to the country for a few weeks in 1919. Only ten children participated and conditions were rought, neverless, the harmony and cooperation of the children and their general happiness caused them to adopt the name Boiberik. The same experiment was repeated in 1922 with 50 kids and parents thought it was so successful, that they set out to create a permanent home.

A camp was bought one week before camp officially started in 1923. In subsequent years the Sholem Alecheim Fol Institute spent thousands to improve the camp and "make it a model camp with which every Progressive could be proud". Improvements included a dining room to seat 250 children, an auditorium for 300, artesian wells and a reservoir.

A guest side to the camp was established separate from the children's side in 1925. This allowed adult guest who wanted to visit to do so without interfering with the children's programs.




The camp was named after the fictional city of Boiberik in the stories of Sholem Aleichem, a city that was located near another fictional called Anatevka which the Fiddler on the Roof story is based on. Camp Boiberik was a secural yiddish camp oriented mostly for youth. Among the many traditions of the camp was Felka Yon Tev or Festival of the Nations, which was a celebration of world peace and solidarity at the end of each season. This was started many years before the start of World War II. Over time emphasis on Yiddish diminished and the program took on the format of a more traditional summer camp.

The camp was purchased in 1982 to house the Omega Institute. Omega had started in 1977 when Pir Vilayat Khan and members of the Abode community in New LEbanon, New York, envisioned a school for holisitic studies. Omega incorporated as a non-profit and the faculty was organized. An initial fifteen workshops on "service to others through self development" were held in 1978 at the Hoosick Boarding School. The next year the faculty expanded to include spiritual leader Ram Dass, physicist Karl Pribram, and natural foods expert Ann Wigmore.

Omega moved to the Darrow School in a restored Shaker community in 1980. Over 100 workshops were offered including an Arts Week with Paul Winter, David Darling, and Ellen Burstyn. Omega moved to Bennington College in Vermont in 1981 and in 1982 purchased Camp Boiberik. In the inaugural years at Boiberik over 3,000 participants attended eight weeks of programs. In 1983 200 people joined Ram Dass and Paul Gorman for a week of "Helping Out: Service, Social Action and Spiritual Growth. A Family Week was introduced in 1984 and the season expanded to 12 weeks. The massage center and sauna were also built this year.

Subsequent years saw notable personalities such as Bobby McFerrin and Philip Glass join Omega's faculty. Upon the celebration of their 10th birthday in 1987, acclaimed artist Frederick Franck is recorded as saying "Omega is a civilized island in our culture. The atmosphere is just enough of a mixture of high seriousness with sufficient silliness added to make it a convincingly human island."

A five year campus renovation campaign started in 1989 with expansion of the Lake Theater and Main Hall. In 1997, the institute celebrated its 20th anniversary with the opening of the new Sanctuary building and more than $1 million in campus-wide housing upgrades. Two years later the Hermitage and Yearning Pond were completed in 1999. These were followed by the Ram Daas library, completed in 2001.

A reunion for Camp Boiberik occurred on April 24-26, 1998. In this the early history of the camp and site met present-day activities.