If you went to Jewish sleep away camp within the past 14 years, chances are you’ve seen David Wain and Michael Showalter’s “Wet Hot American Summer” on the bus ride of a long trip, as part of a rainy day bunk activity, or really, as many times as possible, whenever possible.
For “camp people,” the raunchy 2001 film about the last day of summer camp 1981 at fictional Camp Firewood is almost as holy as the Torah itself. The difference being that this time, Moses is a horny 16-year old camp counselor named Victor Kulak who has a Jewfro and wears Birkenstocks and cutoffs.
It has the authenticity (and absurdity) that can only come out of the minds of two real-life former Jew campers (Wain went to Camp Modin in Maine and Showalter went to camp Mohawk in the Berkshires); and it has the humor that can only be delivered by the funniest counselors on this side of the lake, including Amy Poheler, Paul Rudd and Bradley Cooper.
To the delight of thousands of former campers who are now forced to spend their precious summers stuck in a cubicle, camp is back in session. This time, it’s in the form of a Netflix prequel entitled, “Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp.” And in the new installment in the cult classic comes new Jewish references. Here are some of our favorites:
A visitor from overseas: Played by “Wet Hot” creator David Wain, the new soccer coach Yaron is a devil-sticks master who perfectly encapsulates the heartthrob Israeli shaliach that exists at many a sleepaway. As a greeting, he informs campers that, “In Israel, we have a saying, ‘ha’im tirzeh lirkod aiti’ it means, ‘will you dance with me,’ and that is how I feel about all of you.”
A classic rival: The “anonymously evil” campers from rival Camp Tigerclaw are finally given faces-and they’re WASP-y. In fact, their layers of bright polyester Polos work to highlight Camp Firewood’s Hebrew roots. Camp Firewood sweetheart Katie is torn between the two by her boyfriend (Josh Charles) who asks, “Do you want to hang out with the future leaders of the world, or a bunch of sunburned Jews?”
A surprising present: Donna (Lake Bell), returns from a semester in Israel with gifts for seemingly everyone at camp, shofars. Though Donna describes a shofar by saying “it symbolizes many different things, strength joy, love,” other campers can’t wait till the High Holidays to use theirs and instead have a “shofar dick sword fight.”
An unlikely comparison: Like a familiar Hebrew word, Yaron and Donna describe a tongue in someone’s mouth as meaning three things, hello, goodbye and peace. Yaron then goes on to explain that a threesome “is the true meaning of kibbutz, of community, of kehilah.”